Kids’ guide to March Madness


Otto Porter helped Georgetown have a fine season. The Hoyas might even make it to the Final Four. (Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST)

It’s that time of year again. Time for the NCAA basketball tournaments. Time for brackets, buzzer-beating baskets and big-time players. March Madness.

With 68 teams competing in the men’s tournament and another 64 in the women’s tournament, there’s no way I can talk about every team. So let’s look at a few.

Local teams

The Georgetown men’s team had a terrific season. They finished in first place in the Big East with a record of 25-6 (25 wins and six losses). The Hoyas’ 6-foot-8-inch do-everything forward Otto Porter is one of the top players in the country.

But the keys to how far Georgetown gets in the tournament are guards Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. If they can hit some three-pointers, and if the Hoyas play tough defense, Georgetown could make it to the Final Four.

The Maryland women had a rough season that included knee injuries to three key players. But the Terps hung tough for a 24-7 record and a No. 4 seed in the tournament. (A seed is a ranking, so a No. 4 seed is the fourth-ranked team in its division). Maryland should win their first two games because they are playing at home. Then they will probably run into a traditional powerhouse, the Connecticut Huskies — in Connecticut. UConn thumped Maryland in December, 63-48. They will probably do it again.

The Navy women are like lots of teams in the tournaments: They are just glad to be there. The Midshipmen had a great season by winning the Patriot League tournament and gaining a No. 15 seed. Now they have to play Kentucky. Root for Navy, but it probably won’t be close. The Kentucky players may be stars in the WNBA someday, while the Mids will be officers in the United States Navy.

Cinderella teams

Basketball fans always talk about the big upsets in the NCAA tournaments. The truth is, the top teams — the No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds in each division — go to the Final Four an overwhelming amount of the time. In the past 10 years, only three teams seeded lower than fifth — Butler, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth — made it to the men’s Final Four.

It’s even tougher in the women’s tournament: Only one team with a seed lower than No. 4 — Minnesota — went to the Final Four in the past 10 years.

So will there be any surprise teams this year? In the men’s tournament, keep an eye on Creighton (a No. 7 seed), Belmont (11) and Mississippi (12). They are teams with good records and experienced players.

Nicknames

When in doubt, just root for the team with the coolest nickname. Such as the Albany Great Danes, Iowa State Cyclones or Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

But root for somebody, and enjoy the games.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids. His latest basketball book is “Real Hoops.”

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