TERRE HAUTE —
Get your brackets filled out — the first games in the 75th NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship will be played this evening.
This tournament looks wide open. Ten or 15 teams could be the winner. One coach says a double-digit seed could prevail even though a No. 4 seed or better has taken the title in the past 24 seasons.
Louisville has been made the early favorite by the pros in Las Vegas at 9-2 odds. The Cardinals had been listed at 3-1 but the figure dropped due to teams in their bracket, including Duke, Michigan State, Oregon, Creighton and St. Louis.
Indiana is second in the list of favorites at 7-1 odds, and three teams are tied for third at 8-1: Duke, Miami of Florida and Florida.
Wichita State and Creighton are the Missouri Valley Conference teams in the field. Other teams faced by Indiana State are Miami, Ole Miss, New Mexico, Iona, UCLA and San Diego State.
The Sycamores will be in the NIT for the third time in school history. They’ll face Iowa, and Dan Dakich will be part of the broadcast team for ESPN2. He calls Jake Odum one of his favorite players and is looking forward to doing the game.
Kentucky, by the way, is a No. 1 seed in the NIT and begins play on the road.
ISU’s first NIT game was played at Houston in 1977. The Cougars escaped with an 83-82 victory in Larry Bird’s first year in school.
The Sycamores got a home game the following season and beat Illinois State 73-71 before falling to Rutgers on the road.
The following year, of course, ISU made its first appearance in The Big Dance. Sports Illustrated recently named the 10 greatest players in the tournament. Bird was fifth on the list.
The Top 10 starts with Lew Alcindor at No. 1 and is followed, in order, by Bill Walton, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Bradley, Magic Johnson, Christian Laettner and Jerry West.
Another team going for national honors this week is the Vincennes University men’s basketball team. The Trailblazers are 30-2 and a No. 5 seed in the 24-team event and begins play tonight.
The DePauw women capped a perfect season last week by winning the NCAA Division III tournament.
Tom-Cattin’ It — Lon Kruger is the coach of the Oklahoma team in the NCAA field. He now has taken five different teams to the tournament and has a 14-13 record.
Former Creighton coach Dana Altman is the coach at Oregon.
• The U.S. was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic last week. A headline in The Chicago Tribune summed up the action: U.S. effort is no classic.
• Miami went for its 22nd straight victory in the NBA on Monday against Boston. That mark ties Houston for the second-longest in the league with 33 by the Los Angeles Lakers being the record.
The Indiana Pacers, meanwhile, are in a little slump but still are in good shape in the standings with the second-best mark behind Miami in the Eastern Conference.
• Victor Oladipo of IU was named player of the year by The Sporting News.
• Billy Taylor was fired as men’s basketball coach at Ball State last week. He was 84-99 in six seasons.
• Luke Fischer of Germantown was named Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin. He is an IU recruit.
• It won’t be quite the same in Wrigley Field this summer. Celebrities visiting Chicago no longer will sing the national anthem at the seventh-inning stretch at Cubs’ games in a custom begun by Harry Caray.
The honor will be limited to celebs with strong ties to the city or team.
Tom Reck may be contacted by telephone at (812) 232-3231, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at 4884 S. Fifth St., Apt. 3, Terre Haute, IN 47802.