2007 Final Four Predictions

Wed, 03/14/2007 - 1:47pm

By Aran Smith

Nine quintillion to one?

That's the odds of filling out a perfect bracket according to ESPN. That's 9 billion times a billion. Not so tough right? So without further ado, here's the first perfect bracket in the history of mankind:

Midwest  East
  Florida (1) UNC (1)  
  Jackson St(16)   Florida  
  E. Kentucky (16)  
  Arizona (8)   Arizona
Mich St.
  Marquette (8)  
  Purdue (9)   Florida UNC   Mich St.(9)  
  Butler (5)   Maryland Texas   USC (5)  
  O.Dominion (12)   OD
  Maryland (4)   Maryland
  Texas (4)  
  Davidson (13)   Florida UNC   New Mex.St.(13)  
  Norte Dame (6)   Oregon G'town   Vanderbilt (6)  
  Winthrop (11)   Winthrop
  G.Wash (11)  
  Oregon (3)   Oregon
  Wash. St. (3)  
  Miami OH (14)   Oregon Vandy   O.Roberts (14)  
  UNLV (7)   G. Tech G'town   Boston Col.(7)  
  Ga. Tech (10)   G. Tech
  Texas Tech (10)  
  Wisconsin (2)   Wisconsin FINAL FOUR
  Georgetown (2)  
  TX.A&M CC (15)  
  Belmont (15)  
  Kansas (1)  
  Ohio St. (1)  
  Niagara (16)   Kansas
Ohio St.
  C Conn St. (16)  
  Kentucky (8)   Kentucky
  BYU (8)  
  Villanova (9)   Kansas  
Ohio St.   Xavier (9)  
  Virginia Tech (5)   So. Ill.  
Tenn.   Tennessee (5)  
  Illinois (12)   Va. Tech.
  L. Beach St.(12)  
  Southern Ill (4)   So. Ill
  Virginia (4)  
  Holy Cross (13)   Kansas
Ohio St.   Albany (13)  
  Duke (6)   UCLA
TX A&M   Louisville (6)  
  VCU (11)   Duke Stanford   Stanford (11)  
  Pitt. (3)   Pitt.   TX A&M   Texas A&M (3)  
  Wright St. (14)   Pitt TX A&M   Penn. (14)  
  Indiana (7)   UCLA Nevada   Nevada (7)  
  Gonzaga (10)   Gonzaga Nevada   Creighton (10)  
  UCLA (2)   UCLA Memphis   Memphis (2)  
  Weber St. (15) North Texas (15)  
 West South Staff Picks

  NCAA Champion Runner up Final Four Final Four Sleeper
Aran Smith UCLA Georgetown Texas A&M Florida Nevada
Adi Joseph Texas A&M UCLA Florida Texas Notre Dame
Matthew Maurer North Carolina UCLA Texas A&M Florida Albany
Nick Prevenas Florida Texas A&M UNC UCLA VCU
Josh Redetzke Georgetown Kansas Oregon Texas A&M G. Washington
Channing McCarthy Florida Georgetown Texas A&M Kansas Notre Dame
Jon Nichols Ohio St. Florida UCLA Texas Arkansas
Drew Wolin Florida Texas UCLA Ohio State G. Washington
Theo Rabinowitz Kansas Georgetown Florida Ohio State Georgia Tech
Ryan Reed Washington St. Florida UCLA Ohio State Davidson

Title Contenders:
Florida, Ohio State, UNC, Kansas, UCLA, Georgetown, Texas A&M, Oregon

By securing the top overall seed in the tournament, the Gators insured themselves the easiest road to the Final Four of any one seed, with the South bracket significantly weaker than the rest of the regions. A strong case could be made that Ohio State, UNC or even UCLA deserved a higher seed than Florida, but the Gators are the defending champs and their players were rewarded for returning to school. Potential match ups with Maryland and Oregon in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight are likely the only real challenges along their way to the Final Four. Florida was the prohibitive favorite before the seeds were announced and became a bigger favorite when they were given the top overall seed. But if they overlook someone, and/or key players Green or Brewer miss significant time due to foul problems, they can be beaten.

Greg Oden is quickly becoming the dominant bigman everyone expected him to be. Should OSU square off with Florida in a rematch of their early season game in the Final, it's unlikely Al Horford will have his way with Oden the way he did in Gainesville in December. Oden's wrist appears much closer to 100% and he is no longer cautiously protecting his wrist the way he was earlier in the season. Mike Conley's maturation and proven clutch play give the Buckeyes a great chance. They have the perimeter pieces in place to compliment Oden inside giving them a real shot to cut down the nets in Atlanta.

North Carolina has the most talent and depth of anyone in the country. Coach Roy Williams loves to play 8-9 deep, with his bench giving his regulars plenty of rest and demanding high intensity level at all times. As the tourney progresses, look for him to shorten his rotation with his regulars seeing 5-10 more minutes per game. The mask is obviously hampering Hansbrough's full ability offensively, but luckily the Heels have Brandon Wright down low who is able to pick up the slack. The play of their young guards Lawson and Ellington is likely to be the key, and though they have the talent their lack of experience could be their downfall.

Kansas is right with North Carolina in the most talent in the country argument. Their back court is loaded and even for those who say Brandon Rush isn't clutch, their group of perimeter guys Sheron Collins, Russell Robinson, Chalmers and Julian Wright all are. Getting a one seed over UCLA was probably generous, considering their lack of wins against quality teams after losing to Texas A&M at home in January. Though just a freshman, Sherron Collins could play a big role in Kansas' March into the madness.

UCLA was the 2nd seed out West last year and made it to the title game, and they are a stronger bunch this time around with an upgrade at point guard, Josh Shipp in the mix, plus a year of maturity across the board. Getting to the Final Four wont be easy with potential match ups with Pitt and Kansas along the way, however guard play rules the tournament and UCLA in my opinion has the best back court of anyone. Between Mata, Aboya and Mbah a Moute, the Bruins have the pieces to contain the Gators two headed monster inside. Their back court has a decided advantage with Michael Roll every bit as dangerous a shooter as Humphries.

Georgetown's Princeton offense is no longer the quagmire for opponents that it once was as a number of teams have begun to use it and thus opponents are better prepared to face it. Georgetown's guards are solid but not standout, which is normally the difference maker for teams. But like Florida, G-Town features a forward (Jeff Green) who passes as well as anyone on the team. Green has become one of the most complete players in the country, with great instincts and the ability to take over in crunch time. Center Roy Hibbert has improved offensively and gives them a true low post threat. Having won the Big East Tournament in convincing fashion, the Hoyas are a dangerous 2 seed in the East. Look for them to upset UNC and reach the Final Four, with a chance to win it all.

Texas A&M features the most clutch player in the entire tourney in Acie Law. The man has ice water running through his veins. Plus you could make a strong argument that he's the nations top point guard, but his forte remains scoring. The Aggies also have a quality bigman in Joseph Jones plus a solid core of role players including Lithuanian glue guy Antanas Kavaliauskas, and sharp shooting sophomore Josh Carter.

Oregon played a little too well in the Pac-Ten tourney final running USC completely off the court with Bryce Taylor having the game of his life. it makes you wonder if they peaked too early. Their backcourt trio is surely among the best in the country and anytime you have 3 prolific scorers who average over 14 points, plus over 80% from FT and 40% from three you have a dangerous team. If Oregon had more inside than Marty Lunen their chances against Florida would be a lot better. But their backcourt could create problems for Florida just the same. They will have to play as well as they did in the Pac-ten tourney to challenge Florida, but don't bet against Aaron Brooks and company.

Final Four Contenders:
Texas, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Nevada, Vanderbilt

With wonderboy Kevin Durant suiting up for the Longhorns anything is possible. A sweet sixteen showdown with UNC appears imminent. It will be a joy to see 2 of the fab frosh - Durant and Wright square off. But Tim Floyd and USC stands in Texas' way. Durant has proven to be the most lethal scorer on the college level in some time. His ability to put big points up in a hurry will have opposing coaches waking up in a cold sweat. Texas backcourt duo of DJ Augustine and AJ Abrams compliment Durant well, with Augustine setting the table and playing wise beyond his years, and Abrams ability to heat up and drain threes in bundles. Texas lacks great depth and will likely falter before making the Final Four as teams will hound Durant mercilessly. Durant will look to Carmelo-ize the Longhorns, but with less supporting cast to work with than Melo had, the odds are stacked against him. Coach Barnes ability to conserve his superstar's energy for the closing minutes of games will be key. Hey Durant, Bob Knight may not like having freshmen such as yourself on the college level, but check the ratings for Texas games vs Texas Tech games in the tourney and see what the fans think.

Pittsburgh is eying a potential Sweet Sixteen match up with UCLA and former coach Ben Howland. Pitt could be a tough match up for the Bruins as they are obviously very familiar with Howland and his coaching strategies. UCLA has good toughness but maybe not the level that Pitt has, plus the Bruins don't have a true 7-footer to match up with Aaron Gray. But that may not matter unless Gray decides to play harder than he did in the Big East Tourney. Pitt remains a dangerous team, especially if Gray comes to play.

Maryland's is not chock full of McDonald's All Americans in fact they have none, but they have many top 100 prospects and have developed a good deal of team chemistry. Besides the egg they laid against Miami in the first round of the ACC tourney, this team has been playing excellent basketball over the last few weeks of the season. They have experience in seniors Strawberry and Ibekwe who excel defensively. Their point guards are young, but have a good deal of moxie and show maturity.

With such a tough road to get there (Memphis, Texas A&M and Ohio State), it seems unlikely that Nevada will get to the Final Four. However with their three stars they are capable of beating anyone. This team deserved better than a 7 seed in the South, but losing in the Conference tournament came back to bite them. The committee was consistent about Tourney play this year but hasn't shown the same consistency regarding Conference tourney play from year to year. Nick Fazekas - the human praying mantis - is one of the less heralded 20 point, 11 board, 1.4 block, 45% 3 point shooters you will find.

Vanderbilt was one of a handful of teams to beat the Gators in the regular season. Their perimeter combo of Derrick Byars and Shan Foster shoulder the scoring load and form one of the top wing tandems in the country. This team plays Washington State in the second round and could be prime to upset them. Their opening round match-up with George Washington won't be easy.

Wisconsin, Washington State, Virginia, Memphis

Wisconsin as a 2 seed was Florida's big prize for getting the top overall seed. Without Brian Butch, this team just doesn't have the same offensive balance that they had with him. The proof is their close matchups with Ohio State before the injury and the blow out in the Conference tourney final after. Tucker remains a handful, however Wisconsin appears to be a team primed for an early exit due to their lack of depth inside.

Washington State deserved a 3 seed with as well as they played all season. But their team and coach Tony Bennett lack experience playing in the Big Dance. Further compounding their problems is the incredibly tough road they face Vanderbilt or George Washington in second round and then Georgetown in sweet 16 followed by Texas or UNC. They could find themselves in a dog fight in their first round match up with Oral Roberts.

Virginia can get to the Sweet Sixteen but it has to do with who they play than anything. they were given a 4 seed but didn't prove that they deserved it with their play away from home. Their back court is one of the premiere tandems in the country with Sean Singletary and JR Reynolds, but outside these two the team lacks much to scare people.

Memphis seems to not get much respect nationally and though they have a lot of talent and depth this team is susceptible to teams that can slow it down and grind it out - see Nevada. Memphis will look to speed their games up and out-athleticisize their opponents and may be able to do so for a few rounds. But ultimately their poor free throw shooting and inability to excel in the half court will catch up with them.

Let the Madness Begin!

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