We're off on the road to New Orleans

The 2011-12 college basketball season began with an indelible image: Michigan State and North Carolina playing on the deck of an active aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, before thousands of U.S. troops, their commander in chief and an impossibly beautiful, bleeding San Diego sunset.

College hoops kicked off with a bang. If the four months since are any indication, we're going to end it that way, too.

From Maui to Madison Square Garden, from Coach K's record-breaking win to accusations in Syracuse to fisticuffs in Cincinnati, from Indiana's announcement ("We're back, and we're going to rush this court, and we're not going to leave!") to Austin Rivers' Chapel Hill heroics, we've already experienced the best and worst of what college hoops has to offer. But as always, this sport saves its best for last: the NCAA tournament. The Big Dance. Sixty-eight teams, four regions, three weeks of masterfully designed chaos just waiting to be unleashed.

The bracket is set. The road to the 2012 Final Four -- at a site famous for so many classic college hoops moments, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans -- is paved and marked. Before you start inking up your bracket sheet (but hopefully months after you told your boss not to expect you in the office on Thursday or Friday), let's take a truckload of college hoops knowledge, open the back hatch, and dump it squarely upon your cranium's front yard.

For Eamonn Brennan's full take, click here.