|Bronx boy Kemba Walker has UConn dancing.|
Today marks the beginning of the best four-day stretch in all of sports: the opening two rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Nothing compares to the drama of the Big Dance. Every game – there are 16 today, 16 more tomorrow and another 16 over the weekend – is a dogfight. Every game contains potential for heroism and heartbreak. It's 18- to 22-year-old kids playing the biggest games of their lives. The quality isn't as high as you'll see in the NBA, but the desire and hustle and passion is immeasurably greater.
Let the Madness begin!
(For the record, I'll be rooting hard for my hometown Washington Huskies, a 7th seed, who face Georgia Friday night with a matchup against 2-seed North Carolina looming. I've also become an increasingly fanatic St. John's supporter. The Johnnies, led by Bronx-bred point guard Dwight Hardy, play a tough Gonzaga team in Denver tonight without senior DJ Kennedy, who blew out his knee during last week's Big East tournament. Final Four Picks: Ohio St., Pittsburgh, Purdue, Duke. Champion: Ohio St.)
Because this is a borough-centric blog, I'm going to highlight all the Bronxites playing in the tournament and break down their teams' prospects for advancement.
But first, we'd be remiss if we failed to mention the one Bronx college team already dancing: the Monroe College Mustangs and Lady Mustangs. The Monroe men's team won it's first junior college national tournament game on Tuesday night in Kansas, while the women's team advanced to the junior college Final Four with a win last night. The men play again tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Coffeyville, a Kansas team playing in its home state. You can watch the game live on psblive.com. The women play Friday night in Illinois for a shot at the title.
Below is a list of five Bronxites playing in this year's tournament, ranked in order of best-to-worst chances for making a deep tourney run.
1) Kemba Walker, junior guard, University of Connecticut
Notes: Walker is a former McDonald's All-American who attended the Bronx's IS 174 before matriculating at Manhattan hoops powerhouse Rice High School. Known as a defensive specialist coming into this season, Walker has blossomed into one of the most dynamic scoring guards in the country, leading Connecticut to a Big East tournament title and a three seed in the Big Dance.
When/Where to Watch: UConn takes on Bucknell tonight at 7:20 on TNT.
Prediction: Walker shines and takes UConn to the Sweet 16, where they will lose to San Diego St.