2016 NCAA Tournament Preview: Expect Madness

March 15 is the day that kicks off March Madness, or as it is formally called, the 2016 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. The last two of the 68 teams left in the tournament will meet at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on April 4 to decide a champion. If there is a word that can define the 2015-16 season, it is parity.

Throughout the season, there has not been a team that has looked like it could be the number one threat to take home the title. The North Carolina Tar Heels were the preseason number one team in the nation.

No team has won the National Championship from this spot since the 2008-09 season, the last time the Tar Heels hoisted the trophy. North Carolina currently has a (22-5) record and looking like a championship caliber team in some games, while in others they are just trying to survive.

The Kentucky Wildcats were also seen as a contender this season, just like they have been every other season of this decade. The John Calipari led squad was looking to make its fourth Final Four appearance in the last five years.

As usual, Kentucky has a squad full of some of the top freshmen in the nation. However, the Wildcats have not been able to capitalize on this like in previous seasons.

Kentucky would start the season ranked second in the AP Top 25, and would eventually climb into the number one spot. However, they would hit several speed bumps and are currently ranked 16th with a (20-7) record.

The Villanova Wildcats have been number one in the AP Top 25 for three weeks now. The team also holds the number one spot in the ESPN.com Power Rankings. But many do not put a lot of faith into Villanova once the fight begins. Since their loss in the Final Four to North Carolina in 2009, Villanova has never made it past the first round of the tournament.

One team to keep an eye on is the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners are currently ranked 4th in the nation and they have been in the top 10 for almost the entire season. They are a team that has performed well the last couple of seasons.

They were nothing compared to the Blake Griffin-led squads of the late 2000s.

This year’s team is very different from the past: they are a hard nosed team that can handle the pressure and has handled it all season.

Another team that can make some noise this March is the Michigan State Spartans. Tom Izzo has his team poised to make another deep run after last year’s Final Four appearance. The Spartans have also been a team that has hung around all season, much like Oklahoma and North Carolina.

Michigan State can stumble into the tournament and wreak havoc for contending teams and make their own path to the Final Four.

Senior criminology student Mike Jorda is very excited for the start of the tournament.

“Its great to see all of these teams going at it,” Jorda said. “You really learn what teams are for real when this time of the year rolls around. The best part of the tournament is when the Cinderella team shows itself, and they start to make an improbable run.”

One great thing about March Madness is that you do not know anything. Yes, sports writers, analysts, and every person who will be filling out a bracket for fun or for money has no clue how things can turn out.

That is the great part: this is madness. We have 68 teams looking to become a national champions and write their names in the history books. These teams are so vastly different.

We have powerhouse contenders like North Carolina and Kansas year in and year out. You can have the Cinderella teams like George Mason who made an improbable run to the Final Four in 2006, or VCU who made the run in 2011.

This 2016 tournament is going to be a year where very little brackets will be perfect after the end of the first day. This can be a season where we see monumental upsets and head scratchers. But that’s what makes this such a great time of the year, 68 teams competing for one thing: a championship.