Here’s what I want in the next two days as the main portion of the NCAA Tournament begins.
I want upsets, at least two good ones by a 13, 14, or 15 seed. I want extra basketball, at least two overtimes. I want a player, unknown to most of the country, to light it up (he doesn’t even have to deliver an upset). I want an All-American or two to play like one. I want a big-time team to play as though it’s going to win the national championship.
I know what you want. You want to go 32-0 in your bracket. Well, that’s not happening.
Here are some things to look for in the next two days.
The possible “good’’ upsets: North Dakota State over Oklahoma, North Carolina State over Saint Louis, Western Michigan over Syracuse.
Other games I’m looking forward to most (here’s where the OTs will occur):
■ Ohio State-Dayton: Some really good bitterness here since Ohio State doesn’t play other Ohio schools often. This would be a decade’s worth of bragging rights for Dayton, especially point guard Jordan Sibert, who transferred from Ohio State.
■ Louisville-Manhattan: Rick Pitino takes on his former player and assistant Steve Masiello (if you hear him talk, he sounds just like Pitino sort of the way Ben Cherington sounds like Theo Epstein). Will he hold back? Will Masiello have enough inside knowledge to pull off an upset?
■ Cincinnati-Harvard: So when the big, tough Bearcats punch, will the Ivy Leaguers punch back? I bet they do.
■ Michigan State-Delaware: Everyone loves the Spartans but I expect this to be a close game because Delaware can utilize its quickness and outstanding ball-handling.
■ VCU-Stephen F. Austin: I think the Lumberjacks can handle Havoc but I don’t think they’ll win the game. Has a chance to be a close one between teams with contrasting styles.
■ UCLA-Tulsa: The Bruins can’t afford to be distracted by their Pac 12 tournament championship because Tulsa is a team on an 11-game winning streak and will try to make this a half-court game.
■ North Carolina-Providence: College basketball aristocracy vs. Ed Cooley’s pickup team. An upset would be delicious.
■ Iowa State-North Carolina Central: I hate when the committee puts together two teams I like. Iowa State is the most entertaining team in the tournament. North Carolina Central is a good, determined underdog. I can’t root here.
■ Gonzaga-Oklahoma State: This should be a shootout. The Zags can play offense, that’s for sure, but can they play enough defense to slow down Marcus Smart and his teammates?
■ Oregon-BYU: Up and down they go, where it stops nobody knows. When they met in the regular season, Oregon won, 100-96, in overtime.
Players from power conferences who will demonstrate how good they are:
■ Doug McDermott, Creighton. No one is Larry Bird, OK? Even if you’re a guy from the middle of the country who’s tall and shoots well. But “McBuckets” is really good and entertaining, with a variety of offensive moves, from long-distance 3-pointers to up-and-under low-post bankers.
■ Bryce Cotton, Providence: He’ll play all 40 minutes and even more if he has to. He’ll wear out whomever North Carolina puts on him, and he’ll get his.
■ Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. He’s a 6-foot-9-inch, 250-pound forward from Down Under whose games aren’t widely seen, but he’s one of the best big men in the country.
Players from non-power conferences who will have big moments:
■ Taylor Braun, North Dakota State: When his Bison were about to lose their conference tournament final and he wasn’t playing very well, Braun turned on a switch and scored 9 straight points to secure the win. He’s a 6-7 guard who can hit threes and slash to the basket (he also leads the team in assists). I can envision him sparking up a big upset. His teammate, TrayVonn Wright, is entertaining, too. He jumps out of the building.
■ Jeremy Ingram, North Carolina Central: A smooth operator out of the backcourt with a quiet game. You add it up at the end of the night and he has his 20.
■ Tyler Haws, Brigham Young: Here’s a volume scorer. If it’s in his hands, it’s heading toward the basket. He gets his shots through perpetual motion, using as many screens as possible.
Other things I want:
■ Oregon to wear the uniforms with the school name in BIG letters under the numbers.
■ Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State to finish his career in fine style.
■ The various announcers not to compare McDermott to Bird, but they can compare Braun to Jimmer Fredette.
■ Briante Weber of VCU to get 10 steals. Nobody plays defense like him.
■ Sim Bhullar of New Mexico State, all 7-5, 360 pounds of him, to get one really good dunk.
■ Joe Harris of Virginia to have a 30-point game. He has sacrificed individual stats for team achievement this season.
■ Coach Bo Ryan of Wisconsin to tell a ref: “Good call.’’ That would be a first.
■ The Wichita State players to smile. They say they play angry, and it looks it.
■ John Calipari, in a losing postgame press conference, to admit that the one-and-done strategy might not be the best idea.
■ Chaz Williams to have one great game (maybe two).
■ Mike Krzyzewski to admit in a press conference that he shouldn’t have taken a shot at the Atlantic 10 (which he did in another press conference).
■ Michigan’s Nik Stauskas to hit 10 threes in a game.