November is one of the best months of the year for sports fans. The NFL and college football are both starting to heat up while basketball and hockey are usually kicking off. November is also when college basketball teams begin their march toward the Final Four in April, and this year it looks like some historic programs will be making a push toward the title.
Indiana comes into the year after having one of its best seasons in recent memory. Last year, the Hoosiers advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 10 years, and it looked like they were moving toward returning to their glory days of the 1970s and 80s. Pollsters seem to have taken note - the Hoosiers enter the season as number one on the Associated Press Top 25.
It's easy to understand why many experts see big things from Indiana this year. Not only are they led by a great coach in Tom Crean, but they return almost all of last year's squad including seven-foot sophomore Cody Zeller, a unanimous preseason All-American. The return of Zeller, coupled with the arrival of guard Kevin Ferrell, has Indiana sitting as a good pick.
But you can never count out last year's champ Kentucky. Unlike Indiana, the Wildcats return virtually nobody from last year's team, including freshman phenom Anthony Davis (now with the New Orleans Hornets), but coach John Calipari has a new crop of young, talented stars waiting in the wings. Leading the charge is North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow who will run the point, but he will be joined by the likes of freshmen Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress.
The Wildcats aren't the only team from Kentucky to enter the season with high expectations, cross-state rivals Louisville are in the mix as well. The Cardinals visited the Final Four last year under the leadership of coach Rick Pitino, and they return three starters from the team, which had one of the best defenses in the country. It certainly won't surprise anybody if Peyton Siva and Russ Smith lead the Cardinals back to the Final Four.
Last year was strange that Kentucky was the presumptive favorite and never wavered from their quest to capture the title, but that might not be the case this year. Though Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville lead the way, this year is wide open. Anybody - from Ohio State and Michigan, to Syracuse and UCLA - could end up cutting down the net come April.
Professional athletes are undoubtedly very knowledgeable about their respective games. Would anyone question that Michael Jordan knows almost everything there is to know about basketball? Or if Joe Montana is familiar with the ins and outs of football? That being said, living and breathing the game doesn't necessarily mean they'd be good at coaching. However, there have been many big-name players who have made the successful transition to coaching.
Robin Ventura - Chicago White Sox
Though nobody would place Robin Ventura in the all-time greats, he was among the most productive players of the last couple decades (not to mention he got in a legendary fight with Nolan Ryan). He played most of his career with the White Sox before finishing it off with stints with the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers. After retiring, he was quickly hired by the Sox to manage his former team.
In 2012, just his first year at the helm, Ventura has made the White Sox one of the best teams in the American League. Many baseball insiders expected the Detroit Tigers to run away with the American League Central, but Ventura's leadership has brought the Sox into a fierce divisional battle.
Jim Harbaugh - San Francisco 49ers
Over the last 10 years, few teams have been as continually disappointing as the 49ers. The team was a revolving door of coaches, players and inconsistent results. That all changed in 2011, when ownership brought in former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh to turn things around. With a 13-3 record and a berth in the NFC Championship game, it's clear he did just that.
Harbaugh's success at the professional level mirrors his work in the college game. As coach at Stanford, he turned a former Pac-10 also ran into a national title contender, and helped tutor eventual number one draft pick (and current Indianapolis Colts QB) Andrew Luck.
Doc Rivers - Boston Celtics
Perhaps no player was better suited for coaching than Doc Rivers. The Celtics coach played for 13 years as point guard for the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs. His experience as a point guard made him adept at leading a team and his in-game strategy is among the best in the NBA.
He got his start coaching with the Orlando Magic, but his work with the Celtics has been truly remarkable. He helped turn a struggling team into a title contender in just one year, bringing a championship back to Boston in 2008. Since then, the C's have been among the best teams in the league, and they have Doc to thank.
From college basketball’s top 64 teams, there remain just four – all vying for the same dream, to be crowned NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions.
We took a look at trends in ticket resale prices to gauge the excitement of college basketball fans as well as demand for Final Four tickets.
Who do you think is going to win it all?