The NCAA tournament begins in earnest today, with the road to the national championship appearing to be wide open. Northwest Herald sports reporters Jeff Arnold and Meghan Montemurro discuss.
Arnold: Happy March Madness to you, Meghan. I can’t believe The Boss wants us to contribute to the delinquency of hard-working Americans everywhere and add to the 8.5 million hours of lost work time because college basketball is on TV. But anything for the company, right? Gonzaga is ranked No. 1 right now. They don’t have a chance in Spokane to win this thing, do they?
Montemurro: One of the best sports weekends is finally upon us and with a season that has already been littered with upsets and parity, I can’t wait to see how the NCAA tournament plays out. Unfortunately for Gonzaga, I see them as one of the No. 1 seeds to get knocked out before the Final Four.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Bulldogs and what coach Mark Few has done with the program. They’ve lost only two games this season – home against Illinois and at Butler – and have won 14 straight games.
But as much as I want to see a mid-major program put together a Butler-like run to the title game, I don’t see that happening. If they run into Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, the Badgers’ ability to slow the tempo and grind it out defensively will prove too much for Gonzaga, which will be the first No. 1 seed to get knocked out.
Arnold: I’m going with Saint Louis as a surprise team. The Billikens are fresh off their first Atlantic 10 tournament title, have a legitimate star in Kwamain Mitchell and have played inspired basketball since coach Rick Majerus died in December.
Interim coach Jim Crews has really gotten the most out of his team, which has won 15 of its past 16 games. I know they find themselves in that dreaded 4-13 matchup, but I’m handing Crews’ crew a glass slipper.
Montemurro: Four Big Ten teams – Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State – have a legitimate chance, in my mind, of reaching the Final Four while Illinois and Minnesota, with all their talent yet inconsistencies, could either lose their first game or reach the Sweet 16.
If the Big Ten doesn’t have at least four teams reach the Sweet 16 and two teams advance to the Final Four, it should be considered a disappointing performance by the conference. I can’t buy into Indiana and coach Tom Crean. He’s left a lot to be desired with in-game management, and the pressure is undeniable as the Hoosiers pursue their first NCAA title in 26 years. Well, soon-to-be 27 years.
Arnold: OK. Bragging rights time. I’ve got Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas and Miami in my Final Four with Louisville taking the title with an 85-79 win over Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk. Who do you have?
Montemurro: You just had to make your prediction first and make me look bad. My picks nearly mirror yours. I’m taking Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas and Syracuse in the Final Four with Louisville beating Kansas, 79-74, to win the title.
• Write to Meghan Montemurro at email@example.com. Write to Jeff Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org.