Even if you have no interest in college basketball you are likely aware of “March Madness” which hits a new level today when the NCAA Men’s Tournament gets underway with 16 games around the country.  Actually the tournament has already begun with four teams winning games this week to get into the 64-team bracket and while they are officially first-round games those of us know they are really play-in games.  So North Carolina State, Albany, Tennessee and Cal-Poly have now made it into those brackets you’ve seen around the office or on a copy machine. They won’t be around for long.

Half of the field will be gone by late Friday and when the weekend is over only 16 will remain with hopes of winning a national championship.  As one who has entered several pools I like just about everyone else including President Obama like Michigan State to win it all which is a real kiss of death.

I also have bracket sheets in which I picked Louisville and Florida to hoist the championship trophy on April 7th when the madness finally ends.  On my list of other teams to watch, well there’s Arizona, Iowa State, Wisconsin and Duke.  Big deal you say because they are choices of many. You want more of a long shot.  Okay, how about Oregon and Kentucky?

In all honesty it’s a crap-shoot and I don’t have much confidence with my predictions with one exception.  I can say with confidence that a #16 seed will not beat a #1 so Florida, Virginia, Arizona and Wichita State will all made it through the opening round.

While a 16 seed has never beaten a #1 this is the 25th anniversary of the most memorable first-round game ever.  It was on St. Patrick’s Day in 1989 that Princeton, led by Red Bank Catholic alum Bob Scrabis nearly stunned Georgetown before losing by one point.  So let the madness begin!

The St. Rose girls team celebrating last nights win over Paterson Eastside (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)

St. Rose and Manasquan are certainly rivals, especially when it comes to girl’s basketball where they’ve had their share of battles in recent years.  They are both a win away from playing for the biggest title in New Jersey.  The Purple Roses beat Paterson Eastside rather easily in the quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions last night at the Pine Belt Arena behind a 22 point, 9 rebound, and 7 assist effort from Jess Louro.

St Rose will face the state’s top-ranked team Shabazz in the semifinals Friday night in Toms River after second-seed Manasquan takes on surprising Woodrow Wilson of Camden.  Wins by the Warriors and Purple Roses would set up an epic confrontation Monday night in Trenton for the TOC title.