The 68 things we can't wait to see in this year's tournament

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Syracuse and Jim Boeheim have had a good year with off-court story lines of negative impact. (US Presswire)

Of course we cannot wait to get this thing started in earnest on Thursday, but the tournament does indeed start tomorrow. So we've gotta get going. Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish, Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander give us their list of the things they can't wait to see in this year's NCAA tournament.

1. The Orange. Syracuse is coming off its first loss with Fab Melo in the lineup. Jim Boeheim's team will be fine against UNC-Asheville, but with the abundance of television timeouts, the 'Cuse won't enjoy the same advantage with its depth it has all year long. -- Jeff Goodman

2. Memphis vs. Michigan State needs to happen just as much as UConn vs. Kentucky. -- Matt Norlander

3. The Mayor back in the NCAA tournament -- this time as a coach. -- Gary Parrish

4. John Henson's health: Henson is expected to return for the NCAA tournament, but he'll need to be fully healthy and effective for the Tar Heels after missing most of the ACC tournament with a wrist injury. -- Jeff Borzello

5.The advantage of St. Louis: If the seeds hold, North Carolina would play Kansas in the regional final -- in St. Louis, which is only a few hours from the Jayhawks' campus. How much of an edge would that give Kansas? -- JB

6. Iona's dangerous. VCU wasn't considered this scary last year, and it got into the First Four. If it can get past BYU, Marquette should be worried. -- MN

7. Father-son combos: The Midwest region has two father-son duos leading their respective universities. Detroit is coached by Ray McCallum and led by Ray McCallum Jr., while Creighton counters with Greg McDermott and Doug McDermott. -- JB

8. How about the possibility of Kentucky, Duke, Indiana and UNLV all being in Atlanta? Those are four tradition-rich programs. -- GP

9. West-on-West crime in the South -- specifically UNLV and Colorado in the Round of 64. -- GP

10. Jamaal Franklin's fingers: The Mountain West Player of the Year seemed to give the middle finger to a referee in the conference title game after being whistled for a foul. He should probably keep the reactions to a minimum. -- JB

11. The Spelling Bee known as the first-round matchup between Vanderbilt and Harvard. I just don't know who the Crimson will be able to handle Festus Ezeli down low and the athleticism of Jeffery Taylor.-- JG

12. Can Florida State continue to put points on the board -- or was it North Carolina's defense that made the 'Noles look so adept on the offensive end? Leonard Hamilton's team faces St. Bonaventure in the first round. -- JG

13. North Carolina State's close calls: The Wolfpack came close to beating both Duke and North Carolina during the season, but couldn't
Thomas Robinson: absolute man.(US Presswire)
break through against any top-25 opponents. Can they break through against San Diego State? -- JB

14. I'm looking forward to the NCAA hopefully realizing its generic, same-floor look for every site is cosmetically sterile, and that this is the last year we have to see home courts ruined with black-and-blue-themed courts. -- MN

15. Belmont breaking through for an upset: My biggest upset pick of the bracket. Belmont has the size to match Georgetown, and the Bruins are experienced and deep enough to pull out a win. -- JB

16. Eight of the top 20 teams from KenPom.com are in the West. This region is stacked and guaranteed to have at least four lower-seeded teams beat higher-seeded ones, whether that's the Round of 64, 32, Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. -- MN

17. Michigan vs. Ohio: It's not Michigan vs. Ohio State, but it was a pretty smooth move by the committee to pair the two states against each other. Watching D.J. Cooper and Trey Burke battle is a must-see anyway. -- JB

18. Does Portland become this year's Denver? Last year I got Gonzaga over St. John's, Morehead State over Louisville and Richmond over Vanderbilt in the Mile High City. Long Beach State, New Mexico State, VCU and Davidson are all on the prowl. I'm saying two of those get Ws. -- MN

19. Pat Knight's rants: Lamar is 6-0 since Knight ripped his seniors publicly and called out their lack of leadership (among other things). Does he have any more tricks up his sleeve? -- JB

20. The Gaels get BYU Tuesday in the first-round game that genuinely gets me excited. This team can reach the Sweet 16 because of its offense. The committee clearly went with the eye test in some cases (like this one) and not others (South Florida). Gaels are a ball to watch. They've been given a chance; let's see if they capitalize like VCU did when it was a First Four team. -- MN

21. The end of Robbie Hummel: Of course Goodman is going to be devastated about the end of an era, but Hummel's farewell tour through the college basketball has been tremendous. Will he win one more game? -- JB

22. Scoreboards in Creighton vs. UNC: If Creighton can get by Alabama in the first round, the Bluejays will face North Carolina. Both teams love to put up points, and both teams have struggled on defense at times. It could get fun. -- JB

23. Blackbirds can fly. They won't be losing to Michigan State by 20, I'll tell you that. This 1 vs. 16 has a shot at being good and competitive well into the second half. -- MN

24. West Virginia's home court advantage. The Mountaineers are a 10-seed, yet will play down the road in Pittsburgh against a Gonzaga team coming from across the country. It'll also be interesting to watch how the 'Zags freshmen duo of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell performs in this situation.-- JG

25. South Florida: Many people don't think the Bulls had the resume to get into the NCAA tournament, and even more people think they play an ugly brand of basketball. Stan Heath doesn't care what people think, though. Can USF muck its way to a win or two? -- JB

26. Stephen Holt: The Saint Mary's guard has missed the last five games with an injured right knee, but he was in uniform and warmed up the past couple of games. If he returns, the Gaels will get a tremendous boost as Holt is third on the team in scoring. -- JB

27. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Frank Haith narrative plays out. -- MN
Point guards: Kendall Marshall, Tyshawn Taylor, Trey Burke, Matthew Dellavedova, D.J. Cooper, Kerron Johnson -- that's just a sampling of the top-notch floor generals in the Midwest region. -- JB

28. Jorge Gutierrez: One of the nation's toughest players will look to end his career on a high note -- and he's not going to want to go out easily. Expect more diving after loose balls and scrappy play in general from Gutierrez this week. -- JB

He doesn't have Steph Curry anymore, but Bob McKillop's Davidson team can again have March success.(US Presswire)
29. As a No. 3 seed in 2010, the Hoyas were dominated by Ohio in the first round, and then lost to VCU in the round of 64 last season as a No. 6 seed. Will they avoid another upset?-- JB

30. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons trying to zip up the Irish. -- GP

31. If you'd told me before the season started Missouri would be five seeds higher than Florida in a Round of 32 game, I'd have asked who took over around Christmas for Frank Haith. -- MN

32. Coach K vs. his old assistant (Mike Brey) in the Round of 32 provided the Irish don't get zipped up. -- GP

33. Shaka coaching in the Dance again ... and perhaps at VCU for the last time. -- GP

34. The West is loaded with talent. Seriously, go check the bracket again. I don't know who's winning, but I do know every game has a star in it. -- MN

35. South Dakota State's Nate Wolters becoming the unknown white dude everybody loves. -- GP

36. Brad Tinsley. Vandy's point guard has been the primary issue, along with Ezeli's health, as to why the Commodores have struggled this season. Tinsley should be fine against Harvard, and he could shoot over the Wisconsin D, too.-- JG

37. Anthony Davis blocking 56 shots against a No. 16 seed. -- GP

38. Murray State, you've played well enough and deserve a Sweet 16 bid. -- MN

39. Cody Zeller and his fundamentals. -- GP

40. Post battle between UNC and Kansas: It can be argued that three of the five best big men in the country will be on display if Kansas and North Carolina meet in the Elite Eight, in Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Thomas Robinson. And that doesn't even count Jeff Withey. -- JB

41. The close game out of nowhere in one of the late-night windows. I love when we get to midnight and are still far from bedtime. -- MN

42. Tyshawn Taylor: Over the last couple of months, Taylor has played as well as any point guard in the country. It's often said that Kansas goes as Taylor goes; will he continue to put on a show in the NCAA tournament? -- JB

43. UK fans filling Louisville's home arena. -- GP

44.Gregg Marshall and Tom Crean trying to out-pace each other in a possible Round of 32 game. -- GP

45. Will the Round of 32 give us Anthony Davis vs. Andre Drummond? -- GP
Austin Rivers, you've had your moments, but never one as big as now. (US Presswire)

46. Sully - Ohio State's big manJared Sullinger is a load for anyone to handle one-on-one. How will Loyola and either Gonzaga or West Virginia opt to defend the big man? He'll likely see plenty of double-teams, which means guys like William Buford, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft will need to make plays. -- JG

47. Gonzaga's Mark Few, one of the most laid-back coaches in the business, goes up against Bob Huggins -- who just isn't, well, reserved. Two contrasting coaching styles. Another footnote: Will Huggins don his credential around his neck this NCAA tourney? -- JG

48. Jimmy Patsos' news conference. Trust me, it'll be highly entertaining. The Loyola (Md.) coach is an ex-bartender who once coached his team from the stands.-- JG

49. Eli Holman vs. Thomas Robinson: Holman called out Robinson on Sunday night, saying, "I can handle Robinson. He has to handle me." If there was any chance Robinson was going to overlook Detroit, that went out the window. -- JB

50. The Frank Martin Glare. There's just nothing like it in college hoops. Kansas State's coach is as fiery as it gets -- especially when one of his players doesn't execute.-- JG

51. I want to see the First Four provide two really good games this year. We aren't going to get a repeat of VCU's run from last season, but at the very least can we get one game each night that's in doubt with a minute to go? -- MN

52. Marquette is the three seed I've seen the most variance on. Figured people would be higher on this team than Florida State, but that's not been the case. -- MN

53. Which Perry Jones will show up for Baylor? -- GP

54. The Canadians. There's no shortage in the East region from Kris Joseph (Syracuse) to Myck Kabongo (Texas) to Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure) and Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga).-- JG

55. John Jenkins vs. the Syracuse 2-3 zone - The round of 32 could bring us a matchup of arguably the nation's top shooter against the dreaded 'Cuse zone -- which is susceptible to perimeter shots.-- JG

56. J'Covan Brown's temper -- Texas' top player has a history with picking up technical fouls. He'd better come to play on the court if the Longhorns are to beat Cincinnati -- and he'll also need to keep his composure.-- JG

57. I've never been to Portland or Phoenix. Here's to hoping the weather is nearly as good as the games. I'll be sure to dodge any conversation with dudes in skinny jeans while in Portland -- MN

58. Southern Miss was rewarded with a No. 9 seed despite a resume that may suggest otherwise. Will Larry Eustachy's program, in the field for the first time since 1981, show it was worthy of a bid? -- JG

59. Austin Rivers and his swagger. -- GP

60. We've got 67 games. All I ask for is two true buzzer-beaters. -- MN

61. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and his intensity. -- GP

62. This may be Bo Ryan's least talented group in Madison since he arrived a little more than a decade ago. Jordan Taylor has endured a sub-par campaign by his own admission. However, his team has won enough to earn a No. 4 seed. Can the senior point guard and Preseason All-American pick it up when it matters most? -- JG

63. How quickly does your bracket go into flames? I'll be done by Friday morning -- if I'm lucky. -- MN

64. Temple's trio: The Owls have one of the best perimeter groups in the country in Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez. All three are interchangeable, with the ability to handle the ball, facilitate offense and score. -- JB

65. Rick Majerus and his Saint Louis Billikens have been completely overlooked. We normally get an 8/9 game that gets heavy on one side and tips to the other. Just take note. -- MN

66. There were some that thought Cincinnati big man Yancy Gates should have been tossed off the team after he send Xavier's Kenny Frease to the floor with a vicious right-hand in the fight with the Musketeers earlier in the season. Gates is playing his best basketball right now -- and so are Mick Cronin's Bearcats. -- JG

67. The players we don't know yet but soon will. -- MN

68. The games we never saw coming. -- MN
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