The college basketball postseason is underway. Next to the air in our lungs, what could be more important at this time of year? A special edition of the Bucket List — 10 observations as the conference tournament action cranks up.
1. Michigan State is winning the Big Ten tournament, do you hear me? Unless Indiana wins it in front of a friendly Indianapolis crowd, which is entirely possible. Or unless Maryland wins it, which could happen. Or maybe Purdue. Or Wisconsin. Or … Ohio State?
The seventh-seeded Buckeyes are my sleeper pick. Traditionally, Thad Matta’s teams have fared very well in this event. OSU needs at least a couple of victories this time, it seems, to line itself up for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2. Just stop, Iowa fans. Your big, bad Hawkeyes disappeared sometime in February, and they’re not coming back.
3. Let’s not even talk about Northwestern or Illinois.
4. Let’s do talk about Notre Dame’s insane 6-1 record against Duke and North Carolina over the last two seasons. Have you checked out an ACC tourney bracket? The fourth-seeded Irish are lined up to face the fifth-seeded Blue Devils on Thursday and the top-seeded Tar Heels in Friday’s semis. This should give them tremendous confidence heading into an event they won, to the surprise of many, a season ago.
5. Alas, these aren’t last year’s Irish. More important, Virginia and Miami have the best combinations of experience, toughness and overall mojo in the ACC. I expect the Cavaliers and Hurricanes to meet in a 2-vs.-3 semifinal that produces this year’s eventual champ.
6. I find it next to impossible to believe that Kansas, the top seed in the Big 12, is good enough to beat third-seeded Oklahoma three times in one season. If they meet in the final, I’m taking Buddy Hield and the sweet-shooting Sooners. I’m looking for OU to turn it on in a big way this month. Think: Final Four.
7. You know how some say the media build athletes up only to tear them down? There’s a bit of that happening with LSU freshman phenom Ben Simmons. His Tigers probably won’t make the NCAAs unless they get to the SEC tourney final — they might have to win the thing — and Simmons didn’t turn out to be quite the national player of the year candidate so many had cracked him up to be.
But you know what? He’s still a spectacular talent. I hope to see lots more of him before his NBA dream comes true in June.
8. The Big East is a fine league. A terrific league. A league that should produce a No. 1 seed (Villanova) in the Big Dance. And yet …
Man, do I ever miss the days of Syracuse, UConn, Pittsburgh — even Notre Dame — doing battle in New York. Conference realignment has rendered the Big East still unrecognizable, not to mention a lot less interesting than it used to be.
9. No offense to our friends at DePaul, of course.
10. The Pac-12 is far from the best conference, but its tournament should be great fun. I count at least eight teams that could win it. Or am I just crazy? Something tells me Wednesday’s opening-round result between 7-seed USC and 10-seed UCLA will end up being really important.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.