For college hoops fans, this is the most anticipated week of the year.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament is scheduled to tip off on Thursday with the First Four games followed by first round play on Friday and Saturday.
After the tournament was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, basketball fans are eagerly anticipating the Big Dance but this has been anything but a normal college basketball season.
Several teams playing in their conference tournaments had to bow out last week due to positive test results and contact tracing in their programs. Top-seeded Virginia and Duke both bowed out of the ACC tournament while Kansas also had to drop out of the Big 12 tournament.
There is no doubt the virus could play a big role during the tournament. While teams will play in a bubble in Indianapolis, they are really only one positive case and contact tracing away from an early exit.
It would be a shame to have a top contender have to bow out but in this ongoing pandemic, it is certainly a possibility.
Looking at the tourney field, there should be some fantastic games with a few upsets and buzzer beaters along the way which makes the tournament one of the best sporting events of the year.
Undefeated Gonzaga is the top overall seed and rightly so after going 26-0 in the regular season. The Zags have not been truly tested this season for 40 minutes although BYU spurted out to a 12-point halftime lead in the West Coast Conference tournament championship game before Gonzaga righted the ship in the second half to pick up an 88-78 victory.
The Zags are the fifth team to enter NCAA tournament play undefeated since Indiana last ran the table in 1976.
The other No. 1 seeds in the tourney are Baylor, Michigan and Illinois.
The most dangerous No. 2 seed for me is Ohio State. Other teams that could surprise and make a deeper run than expected include Florida State, Texas Tech and Georgetown. My “ready to pull an upset” list include UC Santa-Barbara, Liberty and Winthrop.
The state of Virginia tied a record with five teams earning bids to the tourney this year: UVA, Virginia Tech, VCU, Liberty and Norfolk State.
I think there are seven or eight teams capable of cutting down the nets come April 5 as there is also a lot of parity in basketball this year.
As always, you have to play well and have a little luck.
My Final Four picks are: Gonzaga, Illinois, Florida State and Baylor.
There is no question the Zags have looked like the team to beat this season and I think they finish the job. My pick in the title game: Gonzaga 72, Illinois 67.
Congrats to Holden Sykes and his team at Southside Cornhole on raising over $1,000 at the Phillip Kallam Benefit Tournament held on Sunday in Lawrenceville.
The proceeds will be given to the Kallam family as Phillip continues to recover from serious injuries suffered in an automobile accident on December 30 and is currently undergoing rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia.