Wednesday, April 2, 2008

And Then There Were Four....

The 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball tourney has now been cut from 65 to 4, and if you are like me, you couldn't be more disappointed with the way it turned out. This is the first year in the history of the tournament that all 4 of the No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four. It means that all those people who filled out a bracket and played it conservatively ended up making out like a lotto winner. It also means that those people who actually watched the regular season games, put some thought into their bracket, and did a little reading up on the mid-major teams had already set fire to their precious picks at the end of Round Two. You might say I'm a little bitter... but wouldn't you be bitter if you were losing in a family pool to people twice your age who didn't see a single game all season? (No offense, Grandma!)

However, as the tourney always does, it gave us some great moments. Stephen Curry went from relative unknown to household name overnight, Tyler Hansborough proved why he is one of college basketball's all-time greats against Louisville, and Xavier showed that there is no substitute for senior leadership. And it also gave us a Final Four that we might one day look back on as the greatest of All-Time. It's like getting to see the Rookie/Sophmore challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend 2010 before it happens. Now, I know that is putting a lot of pressure and hype on this group of four. But when you put these rosters together on the same table it is a scout's dream. Two top 5 picks (Rose and Love) headline the bunch, while at least 5 other players (Rush, Collison, Lawson , Douglas-Roberts, Mbah-a-Moute) look to be first round picks.

Note on Lawson: If not this year, he is a definite first rounder in 2009

Starting with the Kansas/UNC match-up: As I said earlier this month, this match-up defines the phrase "heavyweight bout." Both teams are so deep, with NBA type talent at all positions. UNC has Hansborough, but KU can counter with Jackson, Arthur, and Kaun in the front court. UNC can throw Ty Lawson (arguably the quickest end-to-end guard in the country) at KU, but they counter with Mario Chalmers. These teams do a fantastic job of mirroring each other till about the 8th roster spot, which is absurd. I like the depth of KU, but they were almost beat by a much undersized and outmatched Davidson team. Davidson played on the same level with KU for 39 minutes in the Elite 8. UNC's pace will present more problems for KU than did Davidson's, so I like UNC in this game to beat KU.

Now with UCLA and Memphis: Earlier this year I didn't think anyone on Memphis could hit a free throw to save their lives. Turns out Coach Calipari was just to hustling Conference USA and all the other teams in the field, as if to say "Free Throws? Yeah, I was just saving that skill for a good time." And now is as a good a time as any. The Tigers shot over 70% against MSU and Texas and cruised to a Final Four appearance on back to back MOP type performances by Derrick Rose. UCLA, on the other hand, struggled in the early rounds but really turned it on against Xavier and Western Kentucky. Kevin Love is the real deal, averaging over 20 pts and 10 boards for the Tourney. Both Love and Rose are as good as gone at the end of the season, headed to glory as NBA Lotto Picks (helloooo, Miami!). But I believe it is Rose and the free-wheeling style of Memphis Coach John Calipari that gets the job done against an experienced UCLA team. Three straight Final Four appearances are all well and good, but I got a feeling Love and Co. are going to be sucking wind, playing defense against Calipari's Shuttle Run Offense.

In any event, these teams (statistically speaking, with the exception of maybe Tennessee) have been the four best teams all year. I doubt I could've asked for better match-ups than the ones coming up this weekend.

... Even if that means Grandma takes down the pot in my pool.


Matt Boyer said...

Post-Script: According to, over 400,000 people correctly predicted the Final Four. So much for suspense and surprise.

The Real Kevinator said...

how could you be disappointed? The games this saturday are gonna be sweet.

Matt Boyer said...

There is no substitute for a good cinderella team

Brother Benjamin said...

I concur

Michael Tobin said...

Everyone complains that the BCS system is flawed, well the BCS should look to the NCAA selection committee for advice. They did a great job selecting the top 4 teams, and after only two close games in the sweet 16/elite 8 we should finally get some great basketball, which is what March is all about.