There are some things in life you always remember, like your first kiss.
This is the year for Northwestern to remember its first dance as the Wildcats make their inaugural appearance in the NCAA Tournament. For a tournament that started in 1939, it’s hard to believe a school now bustling with over 20,000 students couldn’t back in before now.
For its first March Madness opponent, Northwestern is treated to a matchup with Vandy (19-15). The magnificently inconsistent Commodores enter the tournament with the most losses ever by an at-large team. It’s exactly what we’d expect from Vanderbilt, a school that discovers new ways to lose.
Thanks to the wisdom of the Selection Committee, one of these teams will experience the joy of an NCAA Tournament victory Thursday night. It’s fitting.
All this being said, most people are interested in one thing this time of year, beating Larry in accounting and winning their office pool. It’s the only time of year anyone in Middle Tennessee ever says “Marquette,” “Xavier,” or “Bucknell.”
Here are a few handy tips to become a March Madness champion.
Tip No. 1: Always take No. 1 seeds to reach the Sweet 16.
Upsets abound when a No. 5 faces a No. 12. In fact it’s happened 20 times since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
But a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1. Mathematically speaking, go ahead and advance all No. 1 seeds into the Sweet 16 and don’t bother chasing an extremely rare upset here.
Tip No. 2: Abandon Cinderellas before midnight approaches.
Early round upsets are what make March Madness special. Just remember no team lower than a No. 12 seed has ever reached the Elite 8.
Only four double-digit seeds have ever reached the Final Four since 1985.
Tip No. 3: Get the blues.
Twelve of the past 13 national champions have blue in their school colors. The only exception is Louisville in 2013.
Tip No. 4: Kansas is shaky.
The Jayhawks have earned a No. 1 seed six times under coach Bill Self. They have reached the Final Four only one of those six times. For what it’s worth, I think they will be denied a Final Four berth yet again.
Overview: Glancing at the four regions, the South looks the toughest with three teams that could arguably be No. 1 seeds in North Carolina (27-7), Kentucky (29-5) and UCLA (29-4). Then there’s Wichita State (30-4) and the best No. 12 seed of all time in MTSU (30-4).
The Midwest is clearly the weakest with top-seeded Kansas (28-4) followed by No. 2 seed Louisville (24-8). How Louisville earned a No. 2 seed over UCLA is mysterious.
Final Four: Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon, Duke.