Kansas Tops Men's NCAA Tournament Billing
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Let the madness begin. The national championship in men's college basketball is three weeks from today. The NCAA tournament brackets were announced last night, and the top spots go to some of the most successful programs in college basketball history. That would include Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse and Duke. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us from our New York bureau, with a preview.
MIKE PESCA: Hi.
MONTAGNE: So is there one team to beat this year, Mike?
PESCA: I'll dodge that and give you two. I think the experts would say that the Kansas-Kentucky match-up would probably be the most likely if you had to pick one. And they're the two teams with the most wins ever in NCAA Division I men's basketball.
And if you had to pick between UK, which is what Kentucky calls itself, and KU, which is what the University of Kansas calls itself - I can't exactly tell you why, but they've been calling themselves that for over 100 years - it'd be very hard.
KU, Kansas, is a classically constructed team. They have a lot of experience. They have a point guard who likes to get other players the ball. Kentucky, on the other hand, has this great freshman point guard named John Wall. And their coach is John Calipari, whose Memphis team, two years ago, lost a heartbreaker to Kansas.
Although, officially - I know I saw that game on TV - but the NCAA went in and stripped Memphis of its wins. They also did that with another team that Calipari coached, the University of Massachusetts, because of recruiting violations.
But Calipari still shows the ability to recruit these great, young players in John Wall and another - and some other guys like Cousins, who's this big, uh, strong, post player. They're just the kind of athletic players that John Calipari loves to coach.
MONTAGNE: And Mike, it would not, though, be March Madness without a dark horse. Do you have one for us this morning?
PESCA: I have a few. You know, I'll point to Siena, a 13 seed. But I'm going to tell you that most people who think they're clever and are filling out their brackets across the country, they all love Siena because they have a good match-up in the first round. And every year for this - if they win this year, it'll be their third consecutive year that they pulled an upset. So at what point does it stop becoming an upset?
Kansas State is a very good team. Ohio State's a very good team. Baylor is an interesting team. They're a number three seed. And a few years ago, Baylor had trouble at their school beyond the normal kind of nastiness we talk about in college basketball. They actually had one player murder another player. So it was absolutely horrific.
And they were almost stripped of their program. But they did one smart thing. They hired a coach named Scott Drew, and they stuck with him. And he has turned that team around. And they're a really tough team. So I might look for Baylor to cause some damage in the tournament.
MONTAGNE: Now, I don't have a huge amount of time here. But how about some of the players that you'll be watching? And maybe even talk about some part of their background, some interesting, off-the-court stuff.
PESCA: Yeah, well, one game, Maryland versus Houston, features two great scorers. Aubrey Coleman is the number one scorer in the country. And Greivis Vasquez, he's Maryland's great scorer. But this is a really interesting guy.
Anthony Johnson, of Montana, scored 34 of his team's 46 second-half points. And the only reason he's at that school is his wife is also a college basketball player - sort of dragged him along to community college, then dragged him along to Montana. So he's the kind of story, and could be the kind of player, that causes - like I said, that could cause a stir in this tournament.
MONTAGNE: Well, in the seconds we have left, what about the women's tournament? The pairings, they'll be announced today, right?
PESCA: They will announce their brackets today. And luckily, a few seconds is all it takes to say the words UConn. What a team - the record for most wins in a row. They haven't even come close to losing this year.
MONTAGNE: OK, University of Connecticut. Thanks very much.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Mike Pesca.
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