March is the best month

Another March is upon the world, and with it comes one of the biggest sports phenomena every year.

This event takes 68 Division I collegiate men’s and women’s basketball programs and puts them against each other in a single-elimination tournament as a finale to the season.

March Madness is back, baby.

Although the hometown Youngstown State University Penguins won’t be in the field of 68 this year, it’s still a sight to see so many teams battle for the right to be called National Champion.

Of the 68 teams, 32 will receive an automatic bid by winning conference tournaments — 32 Division I basketball conferences, 32 automatic bids.

The remaining spots will be filled by the NCAA, which picks teams it believes deserve a shot to play for a championship.

As for what the world will see in each tournament — both men’s and women’s — The Jambar has a few ideas.

Caitlin Clark has hands down been the best player in college basketball this season. Clark leads the country with 32 points per game to go along with 8.6 assists per game. Not to mention, she broke the all-time NCAA scoring record — incredible.

Clark is currently leading the No. 3 University of Iowa Hawkeyes into Selection Sunday with a 28-4 record. It’s likely she’ll see her second straight Final Four.

The University of South Carolina is 32-0 — the only undefeated team in women’s college basketball. A championship game appearance is simply a right of passage for the Gamecocks.

As for women’s Horizon League teams, ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme predicts Cleveland State University will be one of the four No. 13 seeds in the tournament as an automatic qualifier and face off against a No. 4 seed.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is predicted as one of the “first four out,” meaning the team has something to prove before it can make it into the bracket with an at-large bid.

On the men’s side, the University of Houston is playing its best basketball, as the team beat out the No. 14 University of Kansas, firmly placing the Cougars at No. 1 in the country.

Wooden Award-winning center Zach Edey is playing Purdue University to a No. 1 seed in the field as well, having 21 double-doubles on the season. Youngstown State’s DJ Burns had 22 double-doubles this year.

As for teams that could make waves being lower seeds, the University of Vermont Catamounts could be a scary team to see in March. This year, they are projected by ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi as a No. 13 seed.

The Cats have made the tournament in four of the last seven years and have played their opponents closer and closer each season. In a year filled with upsets, look for them to make a push to the second round — at least.

After a first round exit last season to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson University — the second time in college basketball history — Edey and Purdue will come with a vengeance this season.

Michigan State University somehow levels up every year in March. Last season, the team sent No. 2 seed Marquette University home as a No. 7 seed. The Spartans are projected as a No. 8 seed this year, which is horrible news for any No. 1 seed in the Round of 32.

As for championship contenders, a coin flip would be just as helpful in deciding the two teams out of the 68-team field — especially in March.

Whatever the outcome for men’s or women’s basketball, it will be another fantastic showing from 136 teams in another edition of March Madness. Hope you’ll be watching.

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