Morris: There’s madness from A-Z in this year’s tourney field

03/16/2014 11:22 PM

03/14/2015 3:30 AM

A American. After 12 years as an assistant coach at Princeton, Georgetown and American, Mike Brennan took the head position this season. American went from 10-20 a season ago to Patriot League tournament champions.

B Sim Bhullar. New Mexico State’s 7-foot-5, 360-pound center is easily the largest player in the tournament field. His younger brother, Tanveer, at 7-3, 335, was redshirted this season.

C Harvard guard Brandyn Curry, a two-time academic all-Ivy League selection, returned to the team for his senior season after dropping out of school a year ago and selling life insurance.

D Doug. Creighton’s Doug McDermott is so good he should be known by his first name. If McDermott played at Duke, talk would be about him being among the greatest college players of all time.

E Experience counts in the NCAA tournament, and no team has more than Mercer, which won the 2012 tournament with the eight players who are seniors this season.

F Florida. The Gators are the No. 1 overall seed and a good bet for the Final Four after falling in the Elite Eight each of the past three seasons.

G Gill, as in Anthony Gill. The former South Carolina player made the clinching free throws in Virginia’s ACC tournament semifinal win over Pittsburgh.

H Hawks! St. Joseph’s has the tournament’s best mascot, a Hawk who stands in one corner of the court and never stops flapping his wings. Never.

I Injuries. Michigan State will have Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Keith Appling back in the lineup; Kansas will play the first couple of rounds without 7-foot center Joel Embiid; and BYU lost all-West Coast Conference guard Kyle Collinsworth in the conference tournament to a season-ending knee injury.

J For “ Jacks,” which is what Stephen F. Austin wears across the front of its jerseys, short for Jackrabbits. Stephen F. Austin is coached by former South Carolina assistant Brad Underwood, and assisted by former Gamecock player Michael Boynton.

K Kansas, which features 6-8 freshman forward Andrew Wiggins. He does not get the hype of other freshmen, but might be the best of the bunch.

L Louisville. The defending national champs are the sleeper in the field to win it again.

M “Mount Mayhem.” Style of defense instituted by second-year Mount Saint Mary’s coach Jamion Christian, who learned to coach that style while an assistant at VCU under Shaka Smart.

N Names. Jordair Jett of Saint Louis, Colton Ray-St. Cyr of Coastal Carolina, Indiana Faithful of Wofford, Kristijan Krajina of Mount St. Mary’s, and Shabazz Napier of Connecticut make my team.

O Odds of predicting a perfect tournament bracket: 1 in 9 quintillion. (Quicken Loans will pay $1 billion if you pull it off. Good luck).

P Providence. The Friars lead the tournament field in sharp-shooting from the free-throw line at 78.1 percent.

Q Quinn Cook, Duke guard. Couldn’t find a better “Q” entry.

R Rebounding always is key to winning. Kentucky has the top rebounding margin in the tournament field (plus-9.8 per game), followed closely by Tennessee (8.8) and Arizona (8.5).

S Smith, Russ. The senior for defending national champion Louisville is best point guard in the field.

T What a Turnaround by Milwaukee. The Panthers were 8-24 a season ago, including a 3-13 last-place finish in the Horizon Conference. They returned two starters, yet went 21-13 and won the Horizon conference tournament.

U Undefeated. Wichita State at 34-0 is the first team to enter the tournament with a perfect record since UNLV in 1991.

V Virginia, which, along with Florida, plays the best defense of all teams in the field. The Cavaliers allow a nation-best 55 points a game.

W Creighton’s 6-foot-7 Ethan Wragge. He learned how to shoot properly from his Iowa girls’ basketball hall of fame mother, and is making 47.8 percent of his 3-point attempts this season.

X Xavier Rimmer. The 6-2 junior point guard averaged 9 points during the regular season for Louisiana, then scored 27 in the Ragin’ Cajuns Sun Belt Conference championship win over Georgia State.

Y Youthfulness. No team has it like Kentucky, which started five freshmen in the SEC tournament championship game against Florida.

Z Zags. Yes, Gonzaga is back in the tournament ... for the 16th consecutive season.

About Ron Morris

Ron Morris

Ron Morris

Morris has been employed at The State newspaper for 15 years, the last 11 as sports columnist. He is an Oklahoma native who was reared in Wyoming and graduated from UNC Charlotte. He previously worked for the Durham (N.C.) Morning Herald and the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat.Along the way, Morris has written a book, "An Illustrated History of ACC Basketball" and won numerous national and state awards for sports column writing, enterprise reporting and feature stories. He is a five-time sportswriter of the year winner in South Carolina by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Morris has run a marathon, hitch-hiked across the country and appeared in Sports Illustrated for counting the number of times the ball bounced in a men's basketball game between Catawba College and Appalachian State. Email Ron at or call him at (803) 771-8432.

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