CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It seems apropos that the first of today's 16 NCAA tournament games - the first full slate of games in the three-week event - involves Bryce Drew.
The now 38-year-old Drew, who is in his second season as coach at alma mater Valparaiso, led the Crusaders to the school's first-ever NCAA tournament win 15 years ago this month. Drew took a touch pass from teammate Bill Jenkins and drained a 3-pointer from the right wing as time expired to give Valpo a 70-69 win over Ole Miss in one of the most memorable moments of March Madness.
Valparaiso was a 13 seed in 1998 and made a Sweet 16 run. This year's team is a 14 seed in the Midwest Region with Tom Izzo's third-seeded Michigan State Spartans awaiting when the action tips off at 12:15 p.m. today.
I won't root for specific teams, per se, but there's no hiding my delight in the chaos of the opening weekend. Chalk is boring. Give me two double-digit seeds vying for a spot in the Sweet 16.
If you're still mulling your final bracket decisions this morning before laminating an official copy, trying to predict the havoc will bury you in for-amusement-only pools. Stay conservative and you'll finish strong.
Consider these facts when finalizing your bracket:
- Great coaches do great things during these three weeks.
The last nine coaches to win a national championship are John Calipari, Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Billy Donovan, Jim Boeheim, Gary Williams and Izzo.
Coach K, Roy Williams and Billy D won two championships in that span. Calhoun won three.
The No. 1 seeds this year are Louisville, Gonzaga, Kansas and Indiana. Louisville's Rick Pitino hasn't won a title with the Cardinals, but he boasts one national championship and six Final Four appearances.
This is the 15th consecutive NCAA tournament for Self, who guides South Region No. 1 Kansas. He's rarely an early out with one title, one runner-up, five Elite 8 and two Sweet 16 appearances.
By the way, Self's coaching company in the South Region: Roy Williams at UNC, Jay Wright at Villanova, Shaka Smart at VCU, Keith Dambrot at Akron, John Beilein at Michigan, Ben Howland at UCLA, Tubby Smith at Minnesota, Billy Donovan at Florida, Steve Fisher at San Diego State, Lon Kruger at Oklahoma and John Thompson III at Georgetown.
Some great coaches are going to lose early. The South might not be the best region in which you have a No. 1 playing a No. 2 in the regional final.
- It's easy to ridicule people who adhere to the seeds handed out by the selection committee and advance accordingly. But those people have a good shot at correctly predicting the national champion.
Since 1990 - a span of 23 NCAA tournaments - the national champion has been a No. 1 seed 17 times. That means there's a 74 percent chance, based on that sample size, that the national champion is going to be one of the four No. 1 seeds rather than any other seeded team.