Yesterday, we gave you our picks for the games for Thursday and Friday. Even though today's games have already tipped off, we want to share with you our Final Four picks.
Our picks could not be completely different that one bracket could be perfect while the other could be ripped up by the end of next weeks. Our picks and reasons why are below the fold.
Ricky has Ohio State (East), San Diego State (West), Notre Dame (Southwest), and Kansas State (Southeast)
- The Buckeyes are my pick to win the national championship because they can beat you in so many ways. If you stop Jared Sullinger inside, look for Ohio State to go to their vast array of shooters in Jon Diebler, William Buford, and David Lighty. Lighty is going to be huge in this tournament because he is the only Buckeye who was on the team that made the title game a few years ago with Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.
This team is beatable though if you can get Sullinger into foul trouble. Other than guard Aaron Craft or big man Dallas Lauderdale, there is not much there on the bench. This could be big for a team like North Carolina or Syracuse who have a ton of size and athleticism in the frontcourt.
I have Syracuse in my Elite Eight and the staple for the Orange is the 2-3 zone defense. If Diebler and company struggle from the perimeter and lean away from Sullinger, look for Brandon Triche to have a Jordan Taylor kind of game where he goes on a tear and gets Boeheim back to the Final Four.
This might have people shaking their heads because of the news that Kyrie Irving is back for Duke. But, I love this Aztecs team. Yes, they beat BYU without Brandon Davies, but they got a huge confidence boost heading into the NCAA's. In their only two losses, point guard D.J. Gay was not being the go-to scorer that he can be in the backcourt. When Gay is on, look out. Also, their frontcourt can outphysical a ton of team with good defenders in Kawhi Leonhard, Billy White, and Malcolm Thomas.
The Regionals! The Aztecs in order to go to Houston will have to go through the greatness of Kemba Walker and the combo of Smith/Irving. I saw Kemba Walker at MSG for the Big East Tournament and this player has the ability to take over a ball game. If Walker remains consistent and doesn't go in a slump, UCONN can make the Final Four with help from freshman Jeremy Lamb at guard and big man Alex Oriahki picking up the rebounds.
Notre Dame is the best team in the Big East in my opinion. Ben Hansbrough over the season has developed the intangibles of his brother Tyler and that is a scary thought for the rest of the nation. They can shoot the three at a high rate like the Villanova game where they hit twenty three pointers in one game! I love their frontline even without Luke Harangody this season. Carleton Scott is a huge X-Factor because he can score and rebound, such as his sixteen point, nine rebound game against Pittsburgh. They are very experienced and Mike Brey is the Big East coach of the year.
The Kansas Jayhawks are a talented team with Marcus and Markief Morris on their frontline. If Tyrell Reid and Josh Selby can provide some scoring at the guard positions, Bill Self's squad will be tough to play. I think the Irish will outphysical the Jayhawks in this matchup because of guys like Scott and Nash getting the twins out early. If they can do that as we saw in KU's loss to Kansas State, you throw their whole offense out of rhythm. Tyshaun Taylor will also have to pull a Sherron Collins and be that dominant of a leader, but he has fallen out of Self's good graces a lot this year.
I don't have an upset because I think this region's top 4 seeds will hold serve. If I had to pick one, look for in the 3rd round the winner of the USC/VCU game to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The Boilermakers suffered a huge blow when Kelsey Barlow was suspended on Tuesday for violating team rules. He is a huge part of their defense. But, Purdue struggled down the stretch losing at Iowa and then a loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten quarterfinals. When E'Twaun Moore is off his game, Purdue does struggle with only conference player of the year JaJuan Johnson producing at a high level.
Why not Kansas State? The Wildcats have won eight of their last ten games coming into the NCAA's. Plus, Colorado isn't in the field of 64, so that's a plus. Pullen struggled early in the year and even said he wouldn't play in the NIT. Well, he stepped it up towards the end including a 30+ point performance in their upset of then top ranked Kansas.
But, this team isn't just Pullen. They are a top thirty team in the nation on the boards. Rodney McGruder has picked up his game of late, averaging eleven points and six rebounds a game. Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will have to be big in their second round game against Utah State. The Aggies have experience, but when the game is on the line, Pullen will take over.
The one seed is Pittsburgh. I don't trust their scoring other than Ashton Gibbs, but Brad Wanamaker has the tendency to step up in big games. I am looking for the Panthers to try to establish a third scorer, possibly a Nasir Robinson. Florida is an overrated 2 seed, but they can shoot from the perimeter very effectively and for BYU, maybe Jimmer Fredette goes off on a scoring rampage.
My National Title Game: Ohio State over Notre Dame
Pico has North Carolina (East), Texas (West), Kansas (Southwest), and Pitt (Southeast)
I think that North Carolina is tenuous as a Final Four team, but I love Kendall Marshall's game, and I'm not convinced that Arizona or San Diego State can't have a dream season. Pitt's very, very beatable, but unless it's the Zags (and they play with heart we haven't seen), I don't see who knocks them off.
I like Ohio State a lot, but I see North Carolina going on a nice run in the East region; the Buckeyes are good on D, but when they don't turn teams over, their defense is less impressive. It's a toss up for me.
In the West, I think the bracket is wild. I like Texas to rough up a Duke team that has seemed to be lacking at times, especially when they're sped up. I don't think the Longhorns will go fast on them, but the Longhorns defense has been excellent all year, battle-tested against some of the best teams in the country. I also like San Diego State to take out the Connecticut Huskies - they're hard to defend, but conceptually easy to stop - keep Kemba out of the lane and make others score.
In the Southwest, Purdue could be a challenge, but Kansas is dominant right now. If their big men can stay out of foul trouble, the Jayhawks should Rock Chalk their way to the national title game. I think Notre Dame's lack of defense and mediocre athleticism will catch up to them... maybe even in the "third" round, their second game in Chicago.
The Southeast is wide open. I think BYU, even lacking Brandon Davies, could come through; but chances are St. John's, Gonzaga, or Florida could all beat the Cougars. If Wisconsin was better at defending the outside shot, I'd pencil them in for the Final Four, but I like Pitt to win the region.
I like Kansas over Pitt,
and I like Texas over UNC.
My national title game: And I think Kansas defeats the Texas Longhorns in a battle of Big XII teams.