March Madness, the holy grail of college basketball, starts on March 19 with more eyes on it than ever. "The Big Dance" is known for its wild plays, heartbreaking endings and Cinderella stories – and this year will have an abundance of it.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs look to be the first undefeated champs since Indiana in the 70s. Oklahoma State has one of the best college basketball players in the last decade. Some magical storylines have sprouted from March Madness, so here is what to watch for this year.
The one seed in the west, Gonzaga, is putting on an offensive clinic unseen in college history. The Zags are averaging 92.1 points per game, the highest in Division I since 2007. On top of that, Gonzaga has already beaten their regions two, three and four seeds by more than 10 points each. Gonzaga has also matched decades-spanning records in field goal percentage and offensive efficiency.
Baylor and Illinois, both one seeds in their respective regions, come into the tournament on fire as well. The Bear's last seven games consisted of six top-25 ranked programs, and the Bears defeated all six. The Fighting Illini have won 14 of their last 15, including a Big 10 tournament championship.
Some other dangerous teams in the bracket include Alabama, who plays at the fastest pace of any team in the country, and Houston, who steamrolled the American Athletic Conference tournament - including demolition of Cincinnati in the final - and a well-oiled Ohio State team fresh off of an Illinois loss.
March Madness is every college basketball player's dream stage, and there have been many student-athletes throughout the season who have put their name in the hat for the brightest star.
Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State is the projected number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The 6'8" 19-year-old runs the Cowboys' point guard position and averaged over 20 points in the regular season. Oklahoma State enters the tournament as the four seed in the midwest region, where they may have to run into Illinois, Houston or West Virginia.
The Michigan Wolverines are without their star player, Isaiah Livers, who is not projected to return for the tournament. Livers led the Wolverines to a 20-4 record that earned them the one seed in the East Region.
Iowa's Luka Garza and USC's Evan Mobley are two big men who have played dominant basketball on the season as well, leading a journey that would see the two teams cross paths in the Sweet 16 if both advance that far.
Everybody loves to see a low seed knock off one of the best teams in March Madness, and this season has some exciting prospective upsets.
Loyola-Chicago, famous for their magical 2018 run that saw the Ramblers make the Final Four as the 11 seed, returns to the Big Dance as the midwest region's eighth seed. Loyola will be accompanied by their famous superfan Sister Jean, who is thought to be the spark behind their magic.
One of the three Ohio colleges in the tournament, Ohio University, enters the west region as the 13 seed and has the firepower behind Jason Preston and a fortunate bracket placement to potentially make a Sweet 16 run.
Most notably in this tournament, though, is the factor of the unknown. The magic and insanity of March Madness is unpredictable and part of the reason it is so fun to watch. Who knows what team will get knocked off out of nowhere, or what player is going to hit a game-winning buzzer beater? The madness starts soon.