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NCAA Tournament: Who will strut like a Peacock this year?

No doubt you remember the Titans. But the question is: Do you remember the Peacocks?

The Saint Peter’s Peacocks, that is. Last year, the Jesuit college in New Jersey from an obscure conference stunned the basketball world with major upsets of Kentucky and in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, becoming the only 15 seed to make it to the Elite Eight.

Are you ready for some down-home Madness?  As in March Madness.

This year the tournament is wide open. Some of these college teams look unbeatable one night and flat as a pancake the next. Like a seesaw: Up and down.

No question the transfer portal has become a major player in college athletics.

The transfer portal allows a player to transfer and play immediately without having to sit out one academic year. You could play for Alabama this year and start for Tennessee the next. We can talk about NILs next time around.

• Who are the beasts this year?

Houston: The Cougars are deep, talented and well-coached. They’re tournament tested having reached last year’s Elite Eight.

Alabama: The Tide is a wrecking crew that, when rolling, looks like a wintertime avalanche. Bama has one purpose: Put the ball in the hoop and do it fast.

Kansas: The defending champs. I have caught several of the Jayhawks’ games and although they will be a high seed, I don’t buy it. After looking miserable two weeks ago, Kansas has reeled off seven wins in a row.

UCLA: The Bruins are sharp. Winning the Pac-12 regular season (first time since 2013) and seeing two major win streaks this season. The Bruins won 14 in a row earlier in the season and currently on an eight-game streak. Senior leadership will prove difference.

• Who believes they can win?

Purdue: This team is dangerous and built for the long run. Matt Painter has his best team ever and anything short of the title is a major disappointment.

Providence: The Friars are for real. Well-coached and athletic. Ed Cooley has his best team running and getting better each game. This is my dark horse team to go far in the tourney.

Baylor: Do not underestimate this team. The Bears started wobbly but are athletic, aggressive and rugged.

Tennessee: The SEC is no longer just a football conference. The Vols show signs of brilliance and are well-coached to handle the pressure. They get real unlucky when March Madness rolls around, though.

• Who’s playing under the radar?

Marquette: Another run for a Shaka Smart squad? Very talented, very aggressive.

San Diego State: The Aztecs have grit and maybe will showcase their toughness early and often. They need to put the pedal to the metal and score in the 80s. their defense will take care of the rest.

Miami: The shining star of the ACC this year. This team has it all. The Hurricanes will be a tough out. Coached by a total pro with a no-nonsense approach.

Xavier: Another Big East team that has been magnificent. Coached by Sean Miller in his second stint, his first year back has him in the running for Coach of the Year. The Musketeers are real.

Texas: If this team plays together and spreads the ball around, look out. The Longhorns are a tough group and another tough out.

The Road to Houston begins in Dayton, Ohio, with the First Four on March 14 &15.   

The first and second rounds, March 16-19, will be held in Birmingham, Ala.; Des Moines, Iowa; Orlando, Fla.; Sacramento; Albany, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Greensboro, N.C.; Las Vegas; New York City; Kansas City, Mo.; and Louisville, Ky.

The Final Four is at Houston’s NRG Stadium on April 1 & 3.

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to get bumpy and quite exciting. It’s anybody’s title this year. Who wants it?