2008 Final Four Predictions
By Aran Smith
|UNC (1)||Memphis (1)|
|Arkansas (9)||UNC||Memphis||Oregon (9)|
|Notre Dame (5)||Wash St.||Pittsburgh||Mich. St.(5)|
|G. Mason (12)||N. Dame||
|Wash. St. (4)||Wash St.||
|Winthrop (13)||UNC||Pitt.||O.Roberts (13)|
|Oklahoma (6)||Tennessee||Texas||Marquette (6)|
|Boise St. (14)||Louisville||Stanford||Cornell (14)|
|Butler (7)||Tenn.||Texas||Miami (7)|
|St. Mary's (10)|
|Tennessee (2)||Tennessee||FINAL FOUR||
|Austin Peay (15)|
|Miss Val. St.(16)|
|UNLV (8)||Kent St.||FINAL||
|Kent. St. (9)||Kansas||
|UCLA||Texas A&M (9)|
|Western Ky. (12)|
|Siena (13)||Kansas||CHAMP||UCLA||San Diego (13)|
|USC (6)||G'Town||UCLA||Xavier||Purdue (6)|
|Kansas St. (11)||USC||Baylor||Baylor (11)|
|Wisconsin (3)||Wisc.||Xavier||Xavier (3)|
|CS Fullerton (14)||USC||Xavier||Georgia (14)|
|Gonzaga (7)||G'Town||W,Virginia||West Virginia (7)|
|Davidson (10)||Gonzaga||W,Virginia||Arizona (10)|
|Georgetown (2)||G'Town||Duke||Duke (2)|
|UMBC (15)||Belmont (15)|
NBADraft.net Staff Picks
|NCAA Champion||Runner up||Final Four||Final Four||Sleeper|
|James Burbridge||Kansas||UCLA||UNC||Texas||Washington St.|
UCLA, Kansas, Tennessee, Texas, UNC, Memphis
Only a handful of teams have what it takes to win it all this year.
An interesting note is that every champion since 2000 has had at least one player from their roster eventually picked in the top 5 of the NBA Draft except the 2002 Maryland Terrapins and every champion since 1995 has had at least one player from its roster eventually picked in the top 10 of the NBA Draft except the 1998 Kentucky Wildcats.
Of the six projected title contenders, only UCLA (Westbrook: 8th) and Memphis (Rose: 2nd) currently have projected top 10 picks. The other four all have first round candidates but no likely top 10 guys. *Texas PG Augustin has a shot to move into the top 10 if Texas were to win it all but he appears more likely to be a 12-25 level player.
Pros: UCLA has it all. One of the top coaches in the business, a quality backcourt (Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook and Josh Shipp), a stud in the frontcourt (Kevin Love) they play ray gun defense (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Westbrook) and have a quality bench (Mata-Real, Aboya, Keefe). I look for them to face Kansas in a rematch of the West regional final from a year ago with repeat success. Darren Collison might be the best free throw shooter in all of college basketball and with a lead in tight games will be a huge weapon at the FT line.
Cons: UCLA comes into the tourney with some injury concerns. Their top front court defender Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said he felt like his ankle exploded after re-injuring his ankle during their semifinal in the Pac-Ten Conference Championship against USC. Although just two days later felt as if he could go if he had to against Stanford in the Pac-Ten Final. He should be back, but how close he'll be to 100% by the important games is yet to be seen. Kevin Love also was visibly bothered by back spasms in the Stanford game. Both player's health will be crucial to UCLA's title hopes.
Pros: Kansas appears to be a team hitting it's stride at just the right time. Without question Kansas has what it takes to win it all, and after UCLA, they have the best chance to do so. Their quality backcourt, particularly defensively makes them very dangerous and their deep frontcourt also gives them an advantage. This is Bill Self's best shot yet to win it all, and Kansas will be extremely difficult to keep out of San Antonio this year. Mario Chalmers has really developed into a consistent performer on both ends of the floor. 30 points in the Big 12 Conference Championship showed that he's ready for primetime.
Cons: Their balance is their strength but also their weakness. They lack a true go-to guy. Someone that in a close game, they can turn to and feel certain they can pull them through. Sherron Collins has the potential to be that guy, but his injuries this year have slowed his progression some. Brandon Rush is heating up from outside, but doesn't appear to have the speed and mobility he had a season ago.
Pros: Tennessee has more depth than any team in the country. They have the ability to keep all of their players fresh and play at a high level of intensity throughout. Tyler Smith is a consummate glue player giving the team exactly what it needs (soaring, rebounding, passing, defense) every game. Chris Lofton gives them an elite go-to scorer and with so many great shooters this team is capable of shooting any team out of the tournament.
Cons: Losing in the SEC Tournament doesn't bode well for momentum, although it's not always a bad thing to rest up and have less games going into the Big Dance. Tennessee lacks an absolute stud in the frontcourt but with Chism, Crews and Tyler Smith hitting the glass they can usually hold their own.
Pros: Texas received a 2 seed, but it might as well have been a 1 as their potential Elite Eight match up with Memphis will be in Houston where they're sure to have a home crowd atmosphere. Texas has beaten more goliaths this year than anyone with wins against UCLA, Kansas and Tennessee.
Cons: Texas' greatest strength is their advantage at the point guard position, but facing Memphis Augustin's effectiveness could be neutralized by the size and athleticism of Derrick Rose. While Coach Rick Barnes has proven to be one of the best recruiters and regular season coaches in the country, he has yet to ring the bell in the tournament, although the same could be said for Bill Donovan before 2006.
Pros: Memphis lost just one game all season and has the top point guard in the country. They are able to run teams out of the building with their amazing speed, athleticism and depth. Joey Dorsey inside also makes for a difficult match up as few teams have a player with such strength and athleticism crashing the glass.
Cons: Playing in the Conference USA is no way to keep a team on it's toes. The Tigers lack of quality competition and close wins could catch up with them. Their inability to shoot free throws: last in Div 1 is another big strike against their title hopes. Their road to the Final Four will include games against Pittsburgh and Texas, both capable of beating Memphis. To win it all this team will have to step up and hit some free throws at crucial times.
Pros: The Tar Heels are the number one team in the country having finished the season with just two losses. North Carolina doesn't have to leave the state before reaching the Final Four. With the likely NCAA player of the year in Tyler Hansbrough, and a blue chip backcourt with depth, the Tar Heels have all the necessary ingredients to win 6 games in the tournament.
Cons: Who have they beaten? The ACC Conference is way down from the norm, and UNC hasn't had to face anyone this season. (The best two teams they beat all year were Duke and Clemson, neither of which is a true Final Four candidate) Memphis had a much tougher season and proved themselves against far greater opponents (USC,Georgetown, UConn, Arizona and Oklahoma). Despite being given the top overall seed in the tourney, the Tar Heels were handed the toughest bracket of all with the top 2 seed in Tennessee, possibly the top 3 seed in Louisville (they'll have to beat one of the two) and a road littered with land mines along the way. UNC could have their hands full with Indiana and a difficult match up in the second round.
Final Four Contenders:
Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Louisville, Stanford, Washington State, USC, Xavier
Pittsburgh was one of the last undefeated teams in the country and rated in the top 10 before losing Mike Cook (for the season) and Levance Fields (for a big portion of the year) to leg injuries. They'll likely need to beat both Memphis and Texas to get there, but this team is certainly capable as they proved in beating Georgetown to win the Big East Conference Tournament. Few teams are able to match up with Pittsburgh's physical style which has a new and improved centerpiece by the name of Dejaun Blair.
Georgetown lacks the intrigue of last year's Final Four squad with no Jeff Green safety net to bail them out of close ball games. Their depth is one of their real strengths, although the tournament normally equates to shortened benches. This team could give Kansas a run for their money with their back cutting, precision Princeton Offense, but they appear to be a notch below the contenders this season.
Louisville was a number of scouts and insiders pick to reach the final four before the season began. They had a nightmare start to the year with the injury to David Padgett and a lack of overall effort. But they rallied in Conference play and salvaged a 3 seed. They're still extremely dangerous with Coach Pitino's pressing style but they appear to be a player or two away from being a true contender this year.
Stanford's two headed monster is enough to make a lot of teams top scorers want to bury their head in a towel at the end of the bench. After getting by one Lopez, there's another 7-foot Patrick Swayze lookalike intent on sending their shot into the 18th row. Lawrence Hill has had an off year but is capable of heating up quickly. Stanford's success in the tournament rests squarely on their backcourt holding their own. Mitch Johnson and Anthony Goods are capable of playing well, but their lack of consistency knocks them from the ranks of true title contenders.
Washington State may have struggled in the middle of the Pac-Ten season (three straight home losses), but that can be excused when you consider how strong the Conference is. Their backcourt of Weaver, Low and Rochestie can match up with anyone and their mistake free, defensive style can cause fits for teams, especially when they're knocking down their shots. They're in the toughest conference and have their work cut out for them, but this team has the change up style to surprise some teams.
USC's combination of athletes and a coach Tim Floyd that will make the right adjustments to give the Trojans a shot at making a run to the Final Four. PG Daniel Hackett makes everyone better and shooting guard OJ Mayo seems to have matured and is playing his best basketball at the end of the the season. In the frontcourt the long, athletic tandem of Taj Gibson and Devon Jefferson are going to create fits for the slow interior players of Wisconsin in the team's likely second round match up. Look For USC to reach the Elite Eight and give Kansas all they can handle. That's four Final Four candidates from the Pac Ten, and one huge omission (Arizona State).
Xavier is the West region's best hope of keeping the Bruins from reaching the final Four for it's third consecutive season. Xavier employs tremendous defense and has blue collar mentality. Their get opponents in dogfights and usually find a way to out-grit them with key stops and big three point shots. Sport Illustrated cover boy Drew Lavender is the catalyst, though just 5-foot-6 he plays with tremendous heart. The Musketeers are a dangerous bunch who certainly should not be taken lightly.
Baylor, Davidson, West Virginia
The Baylor Bears have been one of the nations top teams flying under the radar all season. Coach Scott Drew is building a powerhouse in Waco, which is pretty amazing considering the Dave Bliss shenanigans are still a medium sized blip in the rear view mirror. The Baylor backcourt quartet of Curtis Jerrels, Henry Dugat, Tweety Carter, and LaceDarius Dunn can match up with anyone and could create major problems for Xavier in the second round.
Davidson hung with UNC early in the season and with shooter extraordinaire Stephen Curry, they are a threat to beat anyone on any given night. The winner of their game with Gonzaga will have a real chance to beat Georgetown in the second round.
West Virginia has one of the hottest players in the country in Joe Alexander. He finished off the season scoring 29 or more points in 4 of his last 6 games. The team has adopted Bob Huggins tough nosed style and has some solid skill players and athletes. Their first round match up with Arizona should be tough and the winner of this one will have a good chance to beat Duke in the second round.
Duke was in and around the top 5 all season but their reliance on the three ball and lack of interior strength will make advancing to the Elite Eight difficult. Should they make it that far, the speed and athleticism of UCLA's guards will likely be too much for Wojo #2: Greg Paulus and company to handle. Duke is certainly stronger than last year, and they have as many good three point shooters as anyone which could give them a nice run, but their lack of an interior presence will likely doom them sooner than later.
Purdue was a surprise team all season as many predicted them to be near the bottom of the league with so many young players. Robbie Hummell and company had other ideas rolling through league play catching a lot of teams off guard. Hummell is an excellent freshman, and they have a number of hard nosed players but their success was as much to do with the ineptitude of the Big Ten as the strength of Purdue. Look for Baylor's guard to be too many and too quick for the Boilermakers to handle.
Ah yes indeed it's fun time!