A Modest Attempt at Picking the Final Four

Everybody wants to get to Texas. Arlington will host this year’s Final Four, and simply getting there will represent a huge accomplishment for four squads. Correctly predicting which four teams will make it is a nearly impossible task. And to be honest, my chances of getting all four right are about as high as my chances of getting my belligerent cat off my lap while I write this blog. But that doesn’t make it any less noble an endeavor, does it?!? Well, I’m going to  give it a whirl regardless. Feel free to tell me where (and why) I’m wrong in the comments!

South Region Champion: Florida

Why I like them:

Put those guns away Patric!

Put those guns away Patric!

The Gators have not lost since December 2nd and have spent the past two weeks dominating just about everybody in the SEC. Coach Billy Donovan has what looks like a special team on his hands; the physical Gators are experienced, deep, and poised to go far. Their pieces seem to fit together extremely well–they’ve got an enforcer down low in monstrous center Patric Young, a dynamite shooter in Michael Frazier II, and a super-efficient scoring forward in Casey Prather. The Gators are physically imposing and defensively dominant.

Why I might be wrong:

The SEC was awful this year and, as a result, the Gators have not frequently been playing NCAA Tourney level teams. Their offense could become a concern going against high-caliber defenses like Pitt’s or VCU’s.

West Region Champion: Creighton

Why I like them: 

It helps to have the best player in the country.

It helps to have the best player in the country.

These guys have the best player in college basketball. Senior Doug McDermott is having one of the best seasons in college basketball history, putting up simply audacious numbers (27 PPG, 7 RPG, 53% FG%) in the gritty Big East. At 6-8, McDermott is virtually unguardable thanks to a sweet jumper which he uncorks without hesitation and an excellent post and mid-range game. He’s the key for a Creighton offense that picks defenses apart with insane efficiency. Creighton shoots 50% from the field and shares the ball beautifully, averaging nearly 18 assists per game, the second most in the country. McDermott is complimented by a wide array of incredible shooters including Ethan Wragge (who has hit 104 threes on 220 attempts this season!) and Jahenns Manigat. The Bluejays also served up quite possibly the best performance of the college basketball season when they beat Villanova in Philly by a final of 96-68 in January (they also routed Nova 101-80 in Nebraska later in the season). Most importantly, the Bluejays defense is fairly strong. They may not be VCU at that end, but thanks to their electrifying offense, they don’t have to be. Creighton was also given what looks like a relatively easy path to go deep by the NCAA selection committee.

Why I might be wrong:

Providence might have provided a blueprint for knocking off the Bluejays in the Big East Championship. Ed Cooley’s Friars stymied Creighton with their 2-3 defense and while Doug McDermott still got his (he scored 27), the rest of the Jays’ roster was quiet in the 65-58 PC win. Creighton doesn’t turn it over much, but Providence showed one way to keep the Bluejays out of the paint (the Friars were also lucky that Creighton was ice-cold from distance).

Midwest Region Champion: Louisville

Why I like them:

Russ Smith is still Russdiculous.

Russ Smith is still Russdiculous.

The Cardinals are hotter than pavement in July. Rick Pitino has painted a proverbial masterpiece this year, as the defending champs have overcome the off-season losses of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng and the early season dismissal of forward Chane Behanan. In spite of the attrition, the Cardinals roared (or chirped, or whatever it is Cardinals do) to the AAC championship. You might even be able to make the case that this Louisville team is better than last year’s. The Cards’ recent results have been impressive–they beat UConn 81-48 on March 8th and beat Rutgers 92-31 in their next game. They’re also a truly excellent two-way team, sitting at eighth in the nation in points per game and 15th in points allowed. Russ Smith is still the straw that stirs the drink for these guys and the kid from Brooklyn is having by far the best season of his career. Meanwhile, forward Montrezl Harrell has stepped up in a major way and Luke Hancock still drops daggers.

Why I might be wrong:

The Cardinals are in the Region of Death along with Duke, Wichita State, Kentucky, and Michigan. Getting out won’t be easy.

East Region Champion: Virginia

Why I like them:

The ACC coach of the year knows what he's doing.

The ACC Coach of the Year knows what he’s doing.

Tony Bennett (not this guy) has a team that is almost surgical in their approach, turning off opponents’ offenses and scoring at an efficient rate themselves. They’ve got a number of quality, complete players (Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are the headliners) and a tough cover in guard Malcolm Brogdon. The Cavaliers won the ACC Championship with a win over Duke and their ability to slow down the high-flying Blue Devil offense (Jabari and friends managed only 63 points) bodes well for the Dance.

Why I might be wrong:

The Cavaliers go into troubling scoring funks. Their lack of a go-to scorer (Joe Harris fails to qualify in my book) could be an obstacle against the likes of Michigan State or Villanova.

A Modest National Title Pick: Louisville over Florida

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2 Comments

Filed under College Basketball

2 responses to “A Modest Attempt at Picking the Final Four

  1. Unc

    Sparty wins it all – healthy, good combo of size and skill and best post-season coach.

    • I could certainly see it, but the fact that they went basically half the season w/o being able to put together any back-to-back wins concerns me slightly. They did look outstanding in the B10 Tourney.

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