Predicting Top Seeds For March Madness 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year for NCAA college basketball fans. NPR's Arun Rath talks with A Martinez of member station KPCC about March Madness.

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

It's the most wonderful time of the year for NCAA basketball fans, at least. By tomorrow night, they'll be filling out tournament brackets and looking forward to this week's matchups. A Martinez is a co-host of "Take Two" on member station KPCC, and he joins us now to talk about March Madness. A, tomorrow is selection Sunday. Four sides of the bracket means we'll have four top seeds. Do you have a sense of who they'll be?

A MARTINEZ, BYLINE: Well, Wichita State, for sure, will be a top seed, because they finished the season unbeaten. They're ranked number one or one of the top teams in the country. So they'll for sure have a top seed. After that, you never know, depending on how the tournament - the conference tournaments go. As I was crunching the numbers for this, I was looking at one team that seemed to always show up in some of the categories - in the statistical categories, and that's Mercer.

Mercer from the Atlantic Sun, the Mercer Bears, 25th in scoring, 29th in field goal percentage, 40th in rebounds. Now, you're thinking those numbers don't sound so good, but consistency across the board with those numbers mean that they can be a team that maybe could sprout up. Depending on where they're seeded and who they play and where they go to play, they could be one of those teams that could pull off a big upset in the first round.

RATH: So let's talk a bit more about that one certain team that you talked about, Wichita State. Great story here. This is a school that's two times smaller than the neighboring basketball powerhouse, University of Kansas. They're the first undefeated NCAA tournament team in 23 years, but they've been criticized for having a pretty easy season. When it comes to playing these top seeds, how do you think they're going to do?

MARTINEZ: Well, they advanced further than anyone thought they would last season, and I think that's a little bit of what they're holding onto heading into this tournament. They've already proven that they can beat better teams. Now, unless they go all the way and prove that they can once and for all win a championship, there's still always going to be that criticism.

But, you know, this is a group of players that have been together a long time. And in college basketball, a long time means more than two seasons. They're juniors and seniors that know themselves, know the system and are very familiar with each other. And a team like Kansas, a team like Kentucky, those top level teams, while they're great and they have amazing talent, those guys really have only been together a few months.

So they can get bit by teams like Wichita State. And, I for one, wouldn't mind seeing an unbeaten team. Everyone wants to see perfection once in a while.

RATH: For Wichita, it's good for their mindset, though. If you can be undefeated and think like you're the underdog, it's probably good for them.

MARTINEZ: And that's exactly what they are, because most of the country believes that they might have a little bit of a run but it won't last very long, as they did last year when they went deep into the tournament. So they're very experienced with this feeling against them in this country in terms of them doing more than what they may be capable of doing.

RATH: Let's turn to professional sports now. Now, this, I just think, is weird. The L.A. Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks are going to play baseball's opening series of the season in Sydney, Australia, on a cricket field.

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

RATH: Why?

MARTINEZ: It's Major League Baseball trying to do their best to expand themselves internationally. There's a lot of money out there internationally. Australia has had a history of having a couple of players in the big leagues, but the Dodgers have been doing this for a long time.

Peter O'Malley, the former owner, took them to Japan. The Dodgers was recently in China. They've expanded into Taiwan. And that's what major league teams are trying to do, to take the game of baseball and sell it because of those dollars that are just sitting there for someone to soak up. And most of the leagues in North America are trying to do the same thing. The NFL's a big example with what they've tried to do in Europe.

RATH: Yeah. What about the NFL, which is - they're doing these London games every year now, and there's even talk of an NFL team being based in London, which it's hard to imagine putting up with that travel schedule.

MARTINEZ: Hard to imagine. Yeah. But if - of all the teams, of all the sports, the NFL is probably the one that can do it because there's a week between games, and they can adjust the schedule. For the teams that do go to Europe, they adjust the schedule so they get the most amount of rest.

It would be a bit of a hassle to travel that far and to make that kind of commitment. But for every single player that complains, I don't see them complaining when those marketing dollars, based on all these efforts, gets put into their paycheck.

RATH: Now, are the players' unions speaking up or speaking out about the overseas games, about it being too much?

MARTINEZ: The players don't like it. In every single sport, the players can't stand it, because, number one, they feel that they need to prepare for the regular season, which is a long grind to begin with. But they also understand that they are in conjunction and in a partnership with the league to make as much money as possible.

And these kind of journeys, you know, either to Europe, to Asia, to Australia means more dollars eventually down the road. So while they may complain, they are not going to complain later on when they see it in their paycheck.

RATH: I don't know. I love England, but the idea of a playoff game happening in London feels unwholesome to me.

MARTINEZ: Or how about a Super Bowl in London?

RATH: My goodness.

A Martinez is the co-host of "Take Two" on member station KPCC. A, thank you.

MARTINEZ: Thanks a lot.

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