Arguably the most compelling and dramatic four weeks of basketball is underway as the aptly named March Madness NCAA basketball spectacle is underway. Conference tournaments will be the first step in college basketball programs’ ambitions to reach the Final Four and ultimately win the championship.
The Division I men’s season will culminate at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on Monday, April 4, with the two semifinal games played on Saturday, April 2. With seven of the top 10 ranked teams in the AP poll losing last weekend, the first time in the history of the poll that has occurred, the results sent a clear message that the tournament is wide open with no clear favorite.
Some of the power programs such as Gonzaga and Baylor, who met in last year’s championship game with Baylor walking away with the title, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas are all well stocked and primed for a Final Four run—there is a multitude of teams that could be celebrating on the podium at the Superdome on the season’s closing night.
One of the most compelling storylines is this will be the conclusion of the illustrious coaching career of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who announced last June he would be retiring after this season. Widely known as Coach K, at 75-years-old, he is the all-time winningest basketball coach in Division I with 1.123 victories and five NCAA championships. Duke, currently ranked No. 4 at 26-4, is led by 6-foot-10 freshman forward Paolo Banchero, a projected top three pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
Madison Square Garden is preparing for the Big East Tournament which begins next Wednesday and ends on Saturday, March 12. St. John’s went into its game versus Xavier last night in seventh place in the conference with a record of 15-13 overall and 7-10 in Big East games. The Red Storm will play their final regular season game at Marquette this Saturday.
Iona may have the best chance of the local teams to make it to the NCAA’s field of 68. The Gaels, under the direction of head coach Rick Pitino, a 2013 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, are 24-5 and at the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (16-2) when they face Manhattan College tonight on the road.