It's now the beginning of March and it is the most exciting time of the year: March Madness.
The major conference tournaments are underway and the NCAA tournament is about to begin. Everybody will be filling out brackets, from the die-hard sports fan who has memorized the careers stats of everyone in the "Fab 5," to the novice who makes their picks based on how funny-looking the team's mascot is. The process of filling out a bracket will continue to be fun, regardless of how many opening (now technically "first") round games the NCAA adds simply for the purpose of increasing television revenue.
Everybody will try to pick this year's "Cinderella" team. This year's George Mason or Butler could come from anywhere.
For starters, everybody is talking about the Murray State Racers. Murray State was the last undefeated team in Division I this season, and is ranked 11th in the AP poll with a 30-1 record. Their 156th toughest schedule will, however, prevent them from being a top seed when the brackets are announced. Outside of nonconference wins over Memphis in December and Saint Mary's three weeks ago, they didn't even play a team the casual fan would recognize.
Kentucky and Syracuse are the only other one-loss teams in the country and are ranked one and two in the polls, respectively. Both appear to be near locks for No. 1-seeds come tourney time.
Kentucky finished 16-0 in the Southeastern Conference and their only loss of the season came on a last-second shot at the buzzer to a very good Indiana team. The Wildcats are led by star freshman Anthony Davis, who leads the team with 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and a remarkable 4.7 blocks per game. For the first time in recent years, coach John Calipari has combined a great freshman class of Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague with returning sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones.
Syracuse also has only one loss – on the road against a very good team in Notre Dame. They were 17-1 in the always-challenging Big East conference.
Unlike the top heavy Wildcats, the Orange could be the deepest team in the country, with 10 players averaging over 10 minutes per game. Coach Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone has stymied opposing offenses all season, as the Orange are allowing just over 60 points per game.
Offensively Syracuse is shooting 47 percent from the field. Senior Kris Joseph leads the team with 14.1 points per game and sophomore Fab Melo is finally making an impact on both ends of the floor.
With what these two teams have done throughout the season, it would not be surprising to see them both in the Final Four and possibly going against each other in the title game.
But there are still a few other teams to watch out for. Michigan State faced the toughest schedule in the country and still finished 24-7. They have the skill, experience and coaching to make a run to New Orleans for the Final Four.
Then there's Duke and North Carolina, who each defeated Michigan State early in the season. Each team won on the road this year in college basketball's best rivalry. The Tar Heels are hot at the right time, too. Take away Duke's Austin Rivers last-second shot and North Carolina hasn't lost since getting demolished at Florida State in the middle of January. Their dominating win over Duke at Cameron Indoor last week got the attention of every other top team in the country.