68 things to know about NCAA tourney

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>

Here are 68 things to watch for in this year's NCAA tournament . . .

1) Kyrie Irving and his toe — Remember, this is the digit that put Duke’s star freshman on the shelf since Dec. 4. However, it looks like he’ll be returning to the court — and he could be the difference between the Blue Devils bowing out early and winning back-to-back national titles.

2) The Jimmer — Just watch him. It’s Jimmer Fredette and he plays for BYU, but now he’s just known as the Jimmer. You’ll see why when you catch a look-see for yourself. This kid is as fun to watch as anyone and can seemingly made shots from halfcourt.

3) Kemba — For the first half of the season, it was all about Kemba Walker. UConn’s junior guard was sensational (yes, even better than The Jimmer). He led UConn to the Maui Invitational title and made the Huskies — who were supposed to be an NIT team — a top 10 team most of the year.

4) Harrison Barnes — The North Carolina freshman, the first frosh to earn a spot on the AP’s Preseason All-American team, struggled early in the season, but has been a completely different player since fellow frosh Kendall Marshall was inserted into the starting lineup to run the team.

5) Bruce Pearl — With the Tennessee coach in the midst of an NCAA investigation, there are many who believe this is the final hurrah for the Vols head man. He lied to the NCAA — and could pay the price with his job.

6) Villa ova? — Will Villanova coach Jay Wright still be the most handsome man in the college coaching ranks even if his team flames out in the first round? The Wildcats have been brutal of late — but Wright still manages to look like a movie star.

7) Missouri’s Phil Pressey – He’s a diminutive freshman point guard at Missouri who doesn’t even start, but there are few more exciting than the son of former NBA player Paul Pressey. He’s a blur on the court — and his passing ability is a thing of beauty .

8) Isaiah Thomas — No, not that one. This one is also a point guard and plays for the University of Washington. He’s more a scorer than a passer, but when he’s on his game, there are few better — and more exciting — to watch.

9) Thad Matta’s gum — There will likely be a point during the NCAA tournament when you’ll watch the gum fly out of the Ohio State head coach’s mouth and then he’ll utilize the five-second rule, grab it and throw it back in his mouth. It’s alright, Thad. No one saw.

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10) Dogus Balbay — If you are a fan of defense, you need to watch Texas’ senior guard. The Turkey native is relentless on that end of the court.

11) John Calipari — Either you love him or hate him, there’s just no middle ground with the Kentucky coach. A year ago, he had five first-rounders and was knocked out in the Elite Eight. This year the Wildcats are loaded again, but don’t have the depth or leadership of a year ago.

12) Steve Fisher and the Aztecs — Remember Fisher? He was the guy, once upon a time, who was leading The Fab Five into the Final Four. Now he’s taken the San Diego State program and not only made it relevant, but a legitimate Final Four contender.

13) Cinderella Story — Who is this year’s Butler? I’m not certain there is one, but there will be a double-digit seed that gets to the Sweet 16 — and maybe even the Final Four.

14) Bluebloods return — UConn, Arizona, North Carolina and UCLA were all spectators a year ago for the Big Dance, but they are all back in the field this year — which should add some juice to the event.

15) Coach K setting record — Will Duke’s head man break his mentor’s record and become the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 history? Mike Krzyzewski needs four wins to tie Bob Knight’s mark, which means he’ll set it if the Dukies can get to the national title game.

16) Pittsburgh — Is this finally the year that the Panthers go to the Final Four? Jamie Dixon took Pitt to the Elite Eight a couple years ago, but that’s as close as this program has gotten. This might be Pittsburgh’s best chance with an experienced, balanced group.

17) The ‘Zags — It was a tough go for Mark Few and Gonzaga early on, but the ‘Zags came on strong late in the season and earned the automatic berth via the WCC tourney title. The difference might be the extended minutes for walk-on David Stockton, the son of NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton.

18) Gator bait — Pay attention for whether Florida’s backcourt spreads the wealth. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton can score the ball, but Billy Donovan’s team is clearly at its best when the offense goes through Chandler Parsons.

19) Brad Stevens — Butler’s baby-faced coach still looks like he just hit puberty and after sub-par season, the Bulldogs finished strong — with a Horizon League tourney title — and made their way into the Big Dance again. Can they get some of that magic back?

20) Lavin and the hair gel — Former UCLA coach Steve Lavin is back on the sidelines with St. John’s, and he wins the award for the coach maximizing hair product. Lavin will lather it up with a senior-laden Red Storm group that has surprised many.

21) Jordan Taylor — No one takes care of the ball better than Wisconsin’s junior floor leader. Taylor won’t blow you away, but he’s one of the elite guards in the country.

22) Josh Pastner — I’m not sure which one looks younger: Brad Stevens or Josh Pastner. The Memphis head man, in his second year after replacing John Calipari, drew a first-round matchup with his alma mater: Arizona, where he was also an assistant coach under Lute Olson.

23) Old school — Want to see the purest of pure point guards? In a day and age where it’s all about scoring point guards, watch North Carolina freshman Kendall Marshall — who knows how to make his teammates better.

24) The Big Two — It was supposed to be the trio of JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel — in their final go-around as seniors — leading Purdue to the Final Four. Hummel tore his ACL prior to the season, but the dream still exists for Johnson and Moore.

25) Chris IGeorgetown’s senior point guard Chris Wright has been out the past few weeks with a broken wrist, but he'll return for the NCAA tournament and is the key for the Hoyas — who couldn’t win without their leader.

26) Chris IIChris Singleton, Florida State’s best player, will also return after a lengthy layoff. The 6-foot-9 forward is a multi-dimensional player who has been on the shelf for a month with a broken foot.

27) Psycho BBen Hansbrough, the younger brother of former UNC star and Indiana Pacers big man Tyler Hansbrough, has been the key cog in Notre Dame’s remarkable season in which the Irish earned a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance.

28) Marksman — Want to watch the best pure shooter in the entire 68-team field? It’s not The Jimmer, either. Catch Vanderbilt sophomore shooting guard John Jenkins.

29) Pitino’s suit — You never know what you’re going to get with Louisville coach Rick Pitino and his wardrobe. My personal favorite: The Mafia White.

30) The TwinsKansas’ two top players are Marcus and Markieff Morris — a pair of versatile forwards from Philadelphia who could wind up doing what Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich were unable to do a year ago: lead the Jayhawks to a national title.

31) Someone to pull for — This one’s easy. Kansas sophomore forward Thomas Robinson lost his grandparents and his mother within a three-week span earlier this season. Robinson was informed of his mother’s death by his 7-year-old sister.

32) Mr. Izzo — There’s arguably no finer postseason coach than Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, who has gone to six Final Four’s in the past 12 years. However, this Spartans team barely made the field and is a No. 10 seed going up against UCLA in the first round.

33) Charles Barkley — He might not know what he’s talking about, but Sir Charles is always entertaining — and is a lock to say something stupid. Just watch.

34) The Stare — Kansas State coach Frank Martin might have the deadliest stare anywhere. He’s as fiery as it gets – and no one wants to be the recipient of that look.

35) Say never — Will a No. 16 seed finally do it and knock off a No. 1? — It’s never happened and don’t expect it to go down this year.

36) Derrick Williams — He’s the guy who has single-handedly saved Arizona. The one-time USC signee landed in Tucson after Tim Floyd’s job was in jeopardy — and he’s become one of the elite players in the nation.

37) Voice of the people — If announcer Gus Johnson bursts someone’s eardrum during this NCAA tournament.

38) The Big East 11 — Can the league live up to the hype? It’ll need a couple Elite Eight teams and at least one club in the Final Four.

39) The best offseason hire? — St. John’s coach Steve Lavin bringing on assistant Mike Dunlap. The former NBA assistant and head coach at Metro State is one of the bright minds in the game and has been an invaluable resource for Lavin.

40) Belmont — Rick Byrd’s team nearly knocked off Duke a few years ago in D.C., and the Bruins are more talented and have more depth than he did the last time they went dancing. Belmont drew Wisconsin in the first round.

41) Freshman wall — Will Kansas freshman Josh Selby finally live up to the hype? One national recruiting site had the athletic guard as the No. 1 player in the nation. However, he was suspended for the first semester and hasn’t adjusted well since becoming eligible.

42) The next Dennis Rodman — That’s what some are calling Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried. He led the nation in rebounding and is relentless on the glass.

43) Justin Harper — Want an under-the-radar guy who has a chance to be drafted in June? Richmond’s athletic forward, who can also shoot it, is your guy.

44) Illini — Will it be Jekyll or Hyde? Bruce Weber’s team is as tough to figure as anyone. Illinois has the talent, but doesn't have much in terms of senior leadership.

45) Jackson Emery — This is BYU’s leader and top defender. While The Jimmer gets all the credit, Emery is quietly the glue for the Cougars.

46) Follow us, fellas — While we’re on the topic of leaders, here are some other good ones in the Big Dance: David Lighty (Ohio State), Brad Wanamaker (Pittsburgh), Ben Hansbrough (Notre Dame) and Dogus Balbay (Texas).

47) Enjoy the flava — Want guys with personality? I give you Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine, Kansas State’s Jake Pullen, Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Duke’s Nolan Smith and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas.

48) Hook 'em, eh? — If you’re Canadian, I’ve got just the team for you: Texas. The Longhorns start a pair of freshmen from north of the border: Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson. Both are pretty darn good.

49) Mr. X — UCLA freshman big man Josh Smith has been inconsistent, but he’s the X-factor for Ben Howland and the Bruins.

50) Jim Boeheim’s postgame news conferences — They are almost always entertaining for the Syracuse coach.

51) Bird watching — Will former Indiana State star Larry Bird be in attendance for the Sycamores game against the Orange?

52) Keith BensonOakland’s senior big man is a potential first-round pick. He’s put up numbers against quality frontcourt guys and could have his way against Texas.

53) Let's be Fran — Can Temple coach Fran Dunphy win an NCAA tournament game? It’s been a while since he got one in this event — a few years back with Penn.

54) Texas A&M — They are the most anonymous Top 25 team in the land. Mark Turgeon is as underrated a coach as there is – and the Aggies are as unknown of a BCS team in the Big Dance.

55) LeCoach — Akron’s coach, Keith Dambrot, coached LeBron James in high school for two seasons. Now he’s got the Zips in the NCAA tournament with a first-round matchup against Notre Dame.

56) D up, BuckBucknell junior guard Bryan Cohen will get the task of having to defend UConn’s Kemba Walker. Cohen, a guard from Philly, is the two-time Patriot League Player of the Year.

57) Banned — These are two guys who won’t be around; two of the top freshmen in the nation. Kentucky’s Enes Kanter was deemed ineligible by the NCAA and Jelan Kendrick was tossed off Memphis’ team by Josh Pastner and has transferred to Ole Miss.

58) Experience — Two teams that go in with as much experience as just about anyone are Notre Dame and Old Dominion. Both have a starting lineup full of seniors.

59) The Jimmer is coming — Pay attention to the Jimmer signs. I’m guessing they’ll be some entertaining ones.

60) Jordan Hamilton — As the Texas sophomore goes, so do the Longhorns. If he plays well, this team can go deep.

61) Utah State — Aggies coach Stew Morrill runs more plays than just about anyone. Just watch the cards on the bench.


They're part of the magic every season. Enjoy our photo-gallery tribute to college basketball cheerleaders.

62) Can Woffo go boffo? — Can Wofford’s own star, Noah Dahlman, match The Jimmer in their first-round matchup?

63) Gut feeling — Watch for Bobby Gonzalez. Just trust me. His name will pop up somewhere. Somehow.

64) Sweet matchup — Two of the toughest programs and two hard-nosed, blue-collar coaches go up against one another when No. 6 Xavier and No. 11 Marquette meet in Cleveland on Friday.

65) Coaching carousel — It’s already turning with openings at Georgia Tech, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Providence and Texas Tech – among others.

66) Looking to upgrade — Speaking of the carousel, some coach will get hot and turn their run into a big-time job — as Stan Heath did a few years ago when he went from Kent State to Arkansas.

67) Stamina check — Will I make it through the first weekend? My schedule takes me from Washington, D,C., on Thursday to Chicago on Friday, then down to Tampa on Saturday and finally in Charlotte on Sunday. I’ll sleep in mid-April.

68) My pick — Ohio State’s Jon Diebler will sink a 3-pointer that gives the Buckeyes the national title in a close win over Kansas — and I’ll look a whole lot smarter than I did a year ago when I picked Texas before the season to win it all.

Tagged: Arizona, Washington, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Purdue, North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Florida, Richmond, Bucknell, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Georgetown, Texas, Kansas, Oakland, Gonzaga, Brigham Young, Thomas Robinson, Jordan Taylor, Erving Walker, Chris Singleton, Isaiah Thomas, Ben Hansbrough, Brad Wanamaker, Chris Wright, JaJuan Johnson, Dogus Balbay, David Stockton, John Jenkins, Kendall Marshall, Josh Selby

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