"March Madness" is upon us on two scales — one small and one large.
The small one is Tennessee's "March Madness," which is now under way in Murfreesboro, as the Blue Cross Basketball Championships for the Class A, Class AA and Class AAA girls tournament, while the boys' versions are on tap for next week.
Coach Mike Buck's Stone Memorial Panthers are in the Class AA tournament next week, after they defeated the Unicoi County Blue Devils to earn their first-ever trip to the "Big Dance."
This is the furthest any Cumberland County boys team has ever gone. The Jets and Lady Jets have made it to the substate, while the Lady Panthers qualified for the state tournament during their first two years of existance.
Buck and his coaching staff will prepare Cameron Thompson, Brock Rowan, Robert Troino, David Keyes, Alex Kiser, Larry Breeden, Justin Simmons, Luke Matthews, Dustin Dishman, Robby Myers and Brandon Cole to face either Fulton, Howard, Livingston, Giles County, East Literature, Liberty Tech Magnet or Boliver Central in the tournament.
Bolivar Central has three state titles, while Giles County and Fulton have two championships. Howard was runners-up twice, while Livingston was a runner-up.
Since SMHS and Fulton are from the same region, they will be placed in opposite brackets, while Bolivar Central and Liberty Magnet will be placed in opposite brackets, as they are in the same region.
The Panthers lost twice to Livingston 72-61 and 65-62 during the regular season.
The Class AA games will be played at 5 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, and at 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, March 17. The tournament draw will be made Saturday morning.
I hope a large contingent of fans will make the trip to MTSU next week to cheer the Panthers on to a state title.
Getting back to the larger "March Madness," Arkansas-Little Rock, Belmont, Butler, Gonzaga, Indiana State, Morehead State, Oakland, Old Dominion, Saint Peter's, UNC Ashville, Long Island University, Northern Colorado, South Carolina State and Wofford earned automatic berths for winning their conference championships, as part of the 68-team men's field, which begins in Dayton, OH, with the NCAA First Four.
The 16th and 17th seeds playing March 15-16 in Dayton, OH, for a chance to play the #1 seed in each of the four regions on March 17-20 at eight other sites for second- and third-round games.
The regionals are at Anaheim, CA; New Orleans, LA; Newark, N.J.; and San Antonio, TX, on March 24-27, with the final four, April 1 and 3, in Houston, TX.
The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-10, America East, Atlantic 10, Big West, Conference USA, Mountain West, Patriot League, Southland, SWAC and WAC will all crown champions this weekend for automatic berths in the "Big Dance."
The Ivy League is having a playoff game between Harvard and Princeton to see who gets the automatic berth next week. The two teams tied for the regular season championship.
The Harvard-Princton loser could get an at-large berth, while Tennessee Tech, which lost in the OVC title game, could get an at-large bid, since there are 68 teams getting bids this year.
Tennessee opened SEC Tournament play against Arkansas and needs a win to help its resume' for next week, while Vanderbilt plays L.S.U.
Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Florida are locks for the NCAA, but Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi State need wins in the SEC Tournament to improve their stock for the "Big Dance."
Could this be the last post-season appearance for Vol Coach Bruce Pearl? That question will be answered over the next few months, as Tennessee will know their fate after the NCAA Infractions Committee meets in June.
I suspect it will be discussed on the SEC tournament telecasts this weekend.
The Tennessee Lady Vols, with a 22-game winning streak, are in the women's "Big Dance" after winning the SEC Tournament last weekend in Nashville, along with Ohio State, UConn, Duke, Stetson, Princeton, Xavier, Marist, UT-Martin, Samford, South Dakota State, Arkansas-Little Rock and Gonzaga.
The Big Sky, Big South, Big 12, Big West, Colonial Athletic, Conference USA, Horizon League, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Northeast Conference, Pac-10, Patriot League, Southland Conference, SWAC and WAC will crown their champions this weekend.
Tennessee Tech, runners-up in the OVC Tournament, and MTSU should get at-large bids.
Vandy, Kentucky and Georgia are probably in the women's tourney.
The Lady Vols should be a top seed in one of the four regions, while UConn and Baylor should qualify as two of the other three. Ohio State, Stanford and someone else are the other possible #1 seeds. Someone is going to be a #2 seed.
The Lady Vols lost at Baylor earlier in the season and defeated Stanford, which snapped UConn's long winning streak.
Knoxville is one of 16 sites to host first- and second-round games on March 19-22, with regional sites in Dayton, Ohio; Spokane, WA; Philadelphia, PA; and Dallas, TX, hosting games on March 26-29. The final four is in Indianapolis, IN, on April 3 and 5.
Lady Vol fans wish the selection committee place UT in a region where they won't have to face UConn or Baylor until Final Four weekend. UConn is the defending champion.
The NCAA men's selection shows are Sunday afternoon, while the women's show is on Monday. Between now and the two selection shows, the bracketologists will be figuring who are the last four teams out and the last four teams in. That will change after every conference game between now and Sunday.
Teams who have their bubbles burst will be invited to the NIT and WNIT.
Expect some upsets in both the men's and women's tournaments this year.
Good luck with your brackets.
The NFL is discussing their collective bargaining agreement which ends at 5 p.m. Friday. I still predict a lockout, but the draft will go on in April has scheduled. Without the collective bargaining agreement, why hold a draft.
If underclassmen are drafted and haven't signed with an agent, the NCAA should let them go back to their respective colleges and finish their careers.
If there is a lockout, I suspect it will be a long one.
(Ed Greif is the Chronicle sports editor and his column appears regularly. He can be reached at email@example.com.)