Monday, April 6, 2015

The Final No One Saw Coming

The Madness has almost come to an end as the NCAA Tournament Championship has reached its final game. Of the plethora of questions that arose starting on selection Sunday, including the tournament field of 68 itself, only one remains, and that is who will be the National Champion. The others, like can Kentucky finish the season unbeaten and are they the best ever? No and No. Because of the parity in this year’s field will there be a sleeper that makes the Final Four? Yes, Michigan State. Will Villanova break their curse and get out of the round of 32? Nope. Suddenly one of the most coveted coaches may be on the hot-seat next season. Is this the best field of two-seeds ever? Well despite the big names, neither Arizona, Kansas, Virginia, or Gonzaga could get out of the elite 8, and the list goes on. Now we just have to see if Wisconsin can get it’s first title in over 75 years? Can Coach K take one more step to becoming the greatest college coach of all time? Here is what will need to happen for either of those questions to be answered with a yes. Wisconsin needs to get over themselves. In other words, imagine if the USA had lost to Finland in the Gold Medal 1980 Olympics, there never would have been a “miracle on ice”, the incredible win over the Russians would have been nothing more than a footnote. Not that this is on the national scale like that was but if you reside in the state of Wisconsin it’s pretty close. However they need to recognize that there’s still more work to do and one very tough game left that may in many ways be more difficult, if that’s possible. Change the history of the school or become another footnote. Duke needs to Finish. They got off to a slow start after Coach K got back from coaching the World Championships. They weren’t very good defensively, and didn’t fully utilize their talent, and had a 3-3 stretch in January that dropped them out of the top 15 and had even fans wondering how far they could go. Then they won 17 out of 18, managed to avoid Notre Dame the school that hung two of their four losses on them, and now find themselves in the NCG, again. People were beginning to question the caliber of the Devils after losses to Mercer (1st round), Louisville, Lehigh, and Arizona (by 16) over the last four years. Well this is their chance to put it on display as for the first time since they lost to Arkansas in 1994, they are underdogs going into the Final. Our pick? We’re done pickin’. This could be one of the best finals in the history of the tournament, a great contrast in styles, with a good potential for free basketball at the end. Only time will tell what kind of pros the Okafors and Tanks of this game become but we’re looking to see a great conclusion to a month of madness that makes it the greatest event in sports bar none.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Final Four - Big Favorites are Far From Sure Things

This year’s Final Four is a microcosm of the entire the entire NCAA Tournament, should be highly competitive, one clear favorite, and look for an upset en route to the Final. The NCAA Committee has to feel good with what the final outcome of what was a very controversial field has been. Four storied programs, four great coaches (3 sure fire Hall members), the Wooden Award winner, and only time will tell how many NBA players spring up from this crop. Oh, and did we mention 2 great game matups? Only the Pac-Man v Mayweather fight is a more anticipated event so let’s look at the matchups. The early game is a rematch of a December matchup between Duke and Michigan State which Duke won quite handily but as you already know things are quite different now as Duke plays much better defensively and the Spartans don’t even resemble the same team. That is what makes this one so tough to call. No doubt the Duke starting five can match up with anyone in the country but get to their bench and although good, there is a noticeable drop off. How can there not be with 2 potential first-rounders in the starting lineup and probably the #1 overall pick? Additionally, this game screams matchup problems for State as they don’t have a deep front line and if they get into foul trouble against Okafor there simply isn’t the deep bench there to help them out. Not to mention Justise Winslow’s sudden ability to hit the 3-point shot makes if very difficult to double down low. Michigan State’s best shot is to get into a transition game with BlueDevils and try to steal one down the stretch. This will be tough because despite the marquis names pacing the sidelines, Coach K actually owns Tom Izzo 9-1. Travis Trice will need to come up huge for the Spartans but that six-point line is there for a reason and not because Izzo fouls at the end of games. We like the Devils to advance to the championship game on Monday night. The second game pits the second of two rematches for the Wisconsin Badgers as they relived the 2014 tournament with a victory over Arizona in the Regional Final again this year but hope to change the final two chapters of the 2015 sequel by defeating Kentucky and advancing to the Finals on Monday. Last year, it was Wisconsin that was the favorite and Kentucky that was the upstart, 8-seeded, freshman laden school that wasn’t supposed to be there, advancing to Final Four with victories of only 7,2,5, and 3 points respectively, but advanced as a last second (good look) jumper bounced off the rim. However this sequel could also be titled “The Empire Strikes Back” as that Kentucky team that lost the Finals last year has brought back that freshman backcourt, only now they are sophomores and more seasoned, even after all of the last second heroics of last year, better and perhaps the best in all of college basketball. And that 8 seed? Now they’re all growns’ up, undefeated at 38-0 and perhaps the best in history. An the Empire wants a title. In other words, Luke may go down with the ship in this version, but what the Badgers need to do force the Wildcats to shoot outside, because if they have a weakness this is it. Conversely, it was 67% shooting from beyond the arch that propelled the Badgers past the favorite Arizona in the Regional Final and they will need a repeat performance if they are to keep playing on Monday. Although most pundits, bracket tacticians, and fans in general have the Kentucky cutting down the nets, if there is someone left who has a good shot at beating them it’s Wisconsin. A team with a similar makeup to Notre Dame, whom lead UK by 5 with 5:18 to play, has Senior leadership and runs that slow “Princeton style” backdoor pick, style of offense that stifled the Cats until the final minute of the game when Kentucky took the lead back. However as good as the Player of the Year is, Frank Kaminsky will have two or three big athletic kids thrown at him and will need to stay out of foul trouble but still create a presence defensively. In the end we think Kentucky will simply have too many weapons to throw at Wisconsin, and from all angles, and if they don’t shoot lights out again it could be a long day, as they don’t force many turnovers and the Cats will kill you in the paint if they get their normal amount of game possessions. We like Darth Vader to advance against Duke in the finals on Monday. Get the Highlights, Stats, Scores, Betting Lines, and more on the main site.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Opening Bands Set the Stage for the Headliners

For all the carnage, upsets, bloodshed, and tears that embodied this year’s NCAA Tournament for the first five rounds what’s left is three tops seeds that even then novice would have had in their brackets, and one school that has become synonymous with the Final Four. In fact, after more one-point games in the first two rounds than ever before and all the upsets it almost seems anti-climatic but once the dust settled it was (1) Kentucky, (1) Wisconsin, (1) Duke, and (7) Michigan State left standing. Perfectly understandable, yet unremarkable. However, even those of you that wanted to see Cindy or one of her friends walk down the velvet carpet to Indy have got to admit, these are going to be three really good games. For those that are the traditionalist, you’ve gotten a good dose of your UKs, KUs, Dukes, and UCLAs. Coach K’s, Rick Ps, One-N-Done Joh Cal, and Tom Izzos with three top seeds left standing and 7 that plays like 1 every March. Everyone should be happy especially those that don’t affiliate with either side and just want to see a good game with a ton of enthusiasm. You kidding me, how great were those Arizona/Wisconsin and Notre Dame/Kentucky games? This dance as already lived up to the hype, which is tough to do and the main course is still to come. That said, here are the Final Four matchups and the way we think they will go.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Not Your Daddy's Sweet 16

Although most of the school names may be familiar the components of the teams are totally different so part of calling the tournament this year has been to separate the names on the jerseys from the players that wear em’. Firstly, Wichita State may be coming off the biggest win in the school’s history since 1981 but this team may not be as good as the 2013 team that was a top-seed and victim of a bad draw in the 2nd round taking on a #8 Kentucky team that made it all the way to the finals. Conversely, they will give Notre Dame all they can handle on Thursday but that is where the run should end. Notre Dame is back in the National Spotlight but this isn’t football. The Irish had a great regular season but struggled to beat a feisty Butler squad and many think they should be watching this one from home for their play during the final stretch of regulation but their here and they’re going to be the Shocker’s opponents. I’ll tell ya, after looking at the size Wichita State, they actually may want to borrow the Tight End from their football team as does anyone doubt that the Admiral’s Kid would make a great addition at power forward? The Tar Heels are where they always seem to be, in the Sweet 16, but Jordon, Worthy, and Perk aren’t coming out of the locker room, or even Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, or LD2 that won the title in 09’. This year’s club is not quite as solid in the top 5, or deep on the bench and hobbled by injuries and will struggle against a big, deep, and experienced Wisconsin team. Doesn’t it always seem that Arizona rolls into the dance as a top seed with only 2 or 3 losses but never seems to end up in the Finals? In that regard to that this year’s team may be similar but unlike their predecessors we do think they have the combination of a strong backcourt and one of the most athletic big front lines that will not only make it to the Final Four but the toughest test for Kentucky. Speaking of Kentucky, they have been the cornerstone of conversation during both the regular season and during the tournament with the possibility of going unbeaten for an entire season, but they are young and kings of the “one n done” may be exposed if they run into a team with Junior Leadership (Junior is the new Senior) who can give them a run for their money. The Friday Matchups Eleven National Championships, too many Final Fours to count but as intimidating as the for letters on the front of the jerseys USED to be there are not many that fear this year’s version of UCLA. The only other unanimous selection of the entire NCAA tournament field, Kentucky was the unanimous overall tops seed, and the Bruins were the unanimous pick for the one school that shouldn’t have been there. I don’t buy that the goaltending call got them through the first round, as Looney had the rebound anyway and would have followed up with a dunk plus SMU missed two shots after that which could have won the game, but they did beat a UAB team that played it’s best game of the season against Iowa State and was hardly the competition most faced to get this far. Last year the Bruins were here as well but had a stock cupboard of young talent that left for the NBA Levine, Anderson, and Powel that on any given night had the athleticism and power to give anyone a run for their money. They are still young but don’t quite have the guns to stay with Gonzaga, who actually may be better than the “Morrison Teams” of 2005-6 that rolled 30 wins and were among the favorites to win the whole tourney. In fact many believe this is Mark Few’s best team ever and the fact that they’ve already beaten this UCLA team by double digits in Westwood this year (their only home loss of the season) would make this loss far worse than the 2006 loss where they led by 17 points only to fall in the final minute. Keep in mind that starting Bruin lineup had more NBA players in it than the entire Gonzaga roster. Once again not the same makeup, the Zags should roll in this one. or view all of the Tournament Previews and view comments on the Main Site.