CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For my money, the first week is always the best week of the NCAA tournament, not least because there are so many games being played all the time. And while that's not the case in week two (which is why we're giving you some good reading links below to pass the time between games), I'm still psyched to be in Charlotte, the most stacked regional I've covered in years.
Think about it: East No. 1 seed North Carolina is the tournament's top-overall seed and (after last week's beatdowns of Arkansas and Mount St. Mary's) the most feared team in the land.
No. 2 seed Tennessee is the tournament's best two-seed and probably had a better résumé for a No. 1 seed than Kansas did. (Note that I didn't say the Vols were the the more dangerous team.)
No. 3 seed Louisville has been the most underrated team in the country for the past two months -- and a defensive nightmare for opposing teams. (The Cardinals were my surprise pick to reach the Final Four before the tournament, and they still are.)
And No. 4 seed Washington State merely decimated a Notre Dame team that several pundits picked to reach San Antonio.
Taken together, it's the highest-quality regional I've covered since the 2003 Anaheim Regional featured Arizona, Duke, Kansas and Notre Dame. Any four of the teams here in Charlotte could win the region (including Washington State, if they turn it into a Bennett-family redux of Wisconsin's 2000 Final Four run).
Me, I'm just tickled that my four pre-tournament Final Four picks are still alive in week two for the first time in years. Here's why I think these four teams will survive to San Antonio:
(Or something like that.)
Got some links for you to read during the day while you're waiting for the regional games to begin. First off, I got a good laugh from reading
Also, if you haven't had a chance to check out the SI Vault -- the new free database of
And while I can't replicate the aged, musty smell of those red-covered
If you're looking for dynamite college hoops stories from this season and previous years, it's easy to search the archives of writers such as
I'll let those folks pick out which ones they'd like to link to in the future, but at the risk of self-indulgence I thought I'd pass along a few links (with commentary) over the next week to some of the favorite stories I've written over the years that are suddenly seeing the light of day again thanks to the Vault.
For now, here are some that have a connection to the games taking place this week:
• I had a blast working
• Gotta say I felt bad about interrupting
• It's easy to forget how messed-up North Carolina basketball was when
• I haven't written any stories of length yet on Kansas'
Enjoy the games!