Once again, Ricky and Pico pick the round's games. There have been a lot of surprises - and we'll talk about that next week - but it's been a great tournament. The inclusion of Butler and Virginia Commonwealth speaks to what teams can do with experience, great game planning, and maybe a little luck as well. And perhaps it's a bit of a down year, considering how many "hold your nose" inclusions there were in the NCAA field.
That said, Virginia Commonwealth was a surprise pick in the NCAA Tournament field... and they've done pretty well for themselves. Kudos to the Selection Committee for squeezing them in; that gets them off of the hook for Alabama-Birmingham.
It's complete surprises like the VCU Rams that make this Tournament worth watching. Below, see which basketball teams we think will make it to the Final Four.
Southeast Region: (2) Florida vs. (8) Butler – Saturday 4:30 EST CBS
Pico Dulce: How do you pick against the Butler Bulldogs at this point? All they do is win, win, win, yeah - at least in the NCAA's. Are those days of struggling against Horizon League foes behind them? Have they found the magic to keeping star forward Matt Howard out of foul trouble? Brad Stevens' team executes, Shelvin Mack makes plays, and Andrew Smith has size. And the Bulldogs found a way to play stingy field goal defense against the Badgers, a formerly efficient offensive ball club. Butler finds ways to win, and they've beaten two teams better than Florida to get to this point. Butler will need to contain the outside shooting of the Florida Gators. And since so much has been a surprise, I say the Butler does it.
Ricky Keeler: The Bulldogs are back in the Elite Eight and made another statement with their win over Wisconsin. They face a tougher test in Florida who can shoot the basketball and are aggressive on the glass. The player I am watching in this game is Florida forward Alex Tyus. Tyus had seventeen rebounds against BYU along with nineteen points. But it will come down to Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons hitting their three pointers for Florida to win. Shelvin Mack will get his points, but they will need Matt Howard or Shawn VanZant to help in the scoring department. It seems Butler never has the edge, but I am taking Brad Stephens’ Bulldogs because I think they will find a way to win again.
West Region: (3) Connecticut vs. (5) Arizona – Saturday 7:05 EST CBS
RK: >>Picks Connecticut<< Grab the popcorn for this one. It’s going to be a show between Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams. The question for both teams is: who will help their star players? The Connecticut Huskies had 60 of their 74 points come from Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb against San Diego State. How will they get by a tough Arizona team that plays pressure defense at the guard positions with Lamont "Mo Mo" Jones as the catalyst? I am rolling with Kemba and Jeremy Lamb to win this game. The difference will be Alex Oriahki inside. If he can find a way to attack the offensive glass, the Huskies will be going to Houston.
PD: >>Picks Arizona<< San Diego State had some pretty good defense on Kemba for stretches. Don't let him get into the lane. Make him make contested shots as much as one can. Don't let him get wet (hot). Don't feed him after midnight. I've seen Gremlins 1 and 2, and I'm convinced he's a next generation Gremlin. I feel that his supporting cast - especially up front - is still a little weak, with Lamb as the offensive support. If Lamont Jones can play another crisp game and add points for the Arizona Wildcats, Sean Miller's defensive strategies should be able to hold down the Huskies. Maybe he's been watching St. John's game tape, since the Johnnies rolled all over Duke and U Conn.
Southwest Region: (1) Kansas vs. (11) VCU - Sunday 2:20 EST CBS
PD: VCU is a good story. They play with high energy, never give up, and Joey Rodriguez is extremely pesky. But I like Kansas' guards in this one - they do their jobs defensively, and don't get in the way of the Morrii (the Morris twins). And they can hit big shots if they need to.
RK: Before I make this pick, I still want to give the Rams a ton of credit for making it to the Elite Eight when nobody gave them a shot. But, I like Kansas a lot in this matchup. The Florida State Seminoles, despite losing to VCU, still had the rebounding edge 47-32. This is a Kansas Jayhawks team that is not known for their guard play, but they can beat you up inside with the Morris twins. Markieff Morris was in foul trouble early against Richmond, but the Spiders were still dominated. Like we keep saying with the Rams, if Bradford Burgess and Jamie Skeen hit their shots, they can stay in it. However, this 1 seed isn’t going home before Houston. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
East Region: (2) North Carolina vs. (4) Kentucky - Sunday 5:05 EST CBS
RK: This battle between two historical programs was actually played earlier this year. Back on December 4th, the Tar Heels beat the Wildcats in a thriller 75-73. I expect this game to be another classic. Kentucky continues to get big plays not from their star freshmen, but from the role players like a Josh Harrellson or a Darius Miller. Brandon Knight has not scored much in two of the games, but he has been so clutch this NCAA Tournament. My pick is the Tar Heels. They scored 52 points in their frontcourt alone in the first matchup and this was without point guard Kendall Marshall. Their frontcourt has too many weapons. Tyler Zeller had 27 points the first time, and he will replicate it again. Tar Heels win with a late 3 from Harrison Barnes.
PD: John Calipari's young stars are struggling to score. Josh Harrellson's been the Wildcats' most consistent player. And still, the Kentucky Wildcats are winning with some pretty good defense. Just how good can it be against the Tar Heels, who aren't turning the ball over at all? Yes, they're forcing turnovers while playing incredibly strong defense in the paint, but with Kendall Marshall running things, the North Carolina Tar Heels get the most out of their possessions. Can Kentucky disrupt that? Can Kentucky's athletes stop the Tar Heels' transition game? That's the big question for the last Elite Eight matchup.