|Morehead St. (16)||Louisville||
|E Tenn. St.(16)|
|NCAA Champion||Runner up||Final Four||Final Four||Sleeper|
|Aran Smith||Pitt||UConn||Oklahoma||Michigan St.||VCU|
|Adi Joseph||Pitt||UConn||North Carolina||Michigan St.||Utah State|
|Adam Ganeles||Louisville||Okla St.||UConn||Oklahoma||Temple|
|Nick Prevenas||Pitt||UConn||Oklahoma||Wake Forest||California|
|Borko Popic||UConn||Oklahoma||Florida St.||Michigan St.||Mississippi St.|
|Stevan Petrovic||Pitt||Louisville||UNC||UConn||Utah State|
|Jon Nichols||North Carolina||Louisville||UConn||Duke||Ohio State|
|Josh Redetzke||UConn||Duke||Michigan St.||UNC||Western Kentucky|
|Jon Pastuszek||North Carolina||Wake Forest||UConn||Pitt||Wisconsin|
Pittsburgh, UConn, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisville, Wake Forest
This year’s field appears more wide open than normal and a team from outside
this group could get hot and win. But odds are your champion will come from
these six teams.
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
last year’s Kansas Jayhawks 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 and last year’s Kansas team (Cole Aldrich could change
Of the six projected title contenders, UConn, Oklahoma, Louisville and Wake
Forest currently have projected top 10 picks, with Thabeet, Griffin, Clark and
Aminu respectively. The other two (Pitt and North Carolina) have first round
candidates but no likely top 10 guys.
Pros: Lost just four games all season playing in the toughest conference in
the country. Their relentless, bruising style wears teams down in the final
10 minutes making it a nightmare to score points. DeJuan Blair is a dynamic
bigman capable of taking opposing bigs completely out of their games. LeVance
Fields is a bigtime college point guard with great toughness, leadership ability
and amazing efficiency (near 4-1 a/to ratio). This team has talent, experience
and toughness and beat a #1 rated UConn team twice in the regular season. They
are our pick to win it all.
Cons: Their lack of scoring ability could haunt them if a team gets hot from
outside and they’re forced to play catch up. Pitt has been vulnerable in games
when Blair has gotten into foul trouble. The team lacks great frontcourt depth
behind Blair and Biggs, although most teams cannot match up with their frontcourt
Pros: Arguably the most impressive team when they were at full strength in the
regular season, UConn has an x-factor (Thabeet) in the middle that makes them
extremely dangerous. UConn also has an emerging star playmaker in Kemba Walker
who could end up pushing them over the top, making the third time the charm
should UConn face Pitt in the final. AJ Price is a streaky player capable of
dominating when he’s on his game.
Cons: If they reach the final game they will hope like crazy it’s not against
Pittsburgh who appears to be kryptonite for them with Blair getting inside Thabeet’s
head and neutralizing his dominance inside. Losing athletic guard Jerome Dyson
has been a much tougher blow to overcome than it was a year ago. His scoring
and maturity puts a lot of pressure on point guards AJ Price and Kemba Walker
to score on the perimeter.
Pros: Came into the season as everyone’s prohibitive favorite to win it all.
North Carolina has more talent than anyone and when they play as a team are
nearly impossible to beat. They possess an experienced and relatively deep roster.
Their backcourt of Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington will give them an edge in almost
every game with scoring and quickness. Reserve Ed Davis has a lot of upside
and appears to be developing quickly, and their starters Hansbrough and Thompson
are more than most teams can match. Tyler Hansbrough came in the year after
UNC won it all and will look to finish his career off with a ring.
Cons: The extent of Ty Lawson’s turf toe injury (which kept him out of the ACC
tourney) is the determining factor. According to Coach Roy Williams he will
likely miss their first round game. If he can return and be effective, they
are as potent as anyone. However, without him (or a less effective Lawson) this
team is extremely vulnerable with an inexperienced and overrated Larry Drew
as his backup. Their depth has proven to be less talented and ready than they
had hoped, as the Heels have struggled to put teams away losing games late in
Pros: Oklahoma has the best player in the country in Blake Griffin who appears
to be completely back after sustaining a concussion. They also feature and 2-punch
by the name of Willie Warren, one of the most talented and mature freshmen in
the country. With Lawson not at full strength and people sleeping on them, the
Sooners could be prime to upset the favorite Tar Heels and come out of the South.
Cons: They don’t have a true floor general. Oklahoma was on their way to a 1
seed before Griffin got caught in a border war football game and took repeated
blows to the head from the Longhorns causing him to miss a 2 games (both losses).
Pros: Landing the #1 overall seed gave them the easiest road to the Championship
game of anyone with both North Carolina and Pitt on the other side of their
bracket and an easier than average road to get to Detroit. Coach Pitino has
a way of building on momentum with his pressing style making this team extremely
dangerous. Louisville proved themselves as the best team in the best conference,
winning both the regular season and Big East tourney. This team also enters
the tourney on a 10 game winning streak.
Cons: When Terrence Williams and Earl Clark are your marquee players, there’s
a certain streak factor that could come back to bite them. Both guys are first
round talents and both have a tough time playing up to their ability every time
out. This team lacks a great point guard and consistent shooting ability, relying
heavily on their defensive pressure.
Pros: The Deacons were one of the elite teams in the nation through the first
half of the year and Jeff Teague was playing out of his mind. Al Farouq Aminu
might be the most talented freshman in the nation. And forward James Johnson
gives them a steadying influence with a bag of tricks offensively. Their length
and defensive ability gives them the ability to beat anyone on any night. Coach
Dino Gaudio appears extremely comfortable, and never looks overmatched against
the top coaches in the business. With 3 future pros, there aren’t many teams
that can match the firepower of Wake Forest.
Cons: Fast Forward 2 months (from their midseason peak) and Wake no longer is
playing with the same swagger. They have fallen far from where they were in
January when they were threatening to run away with the ACC. This team relies
heavily on two sophomores and a freshman, so experience is not on their side.
Jeff Teague must regain his confidence if Wake is going to be able to withstand
the defensive pressure of Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.
Final Four Contenders:
Michigan State, Duke, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Purdue
Michigan State has a number of potential pros but none that are surefire
first rounders or elite talents. This team is extremely steady and consistent
and coach Izzo often finds a way to beat more talented teams in the tourney.
While Louisville has more potential to do damage in the Final Four, look for
Michigan State to beat the Wake-Louisville winner and make it to Detroit where
they will enjoy some home cooking.
Duke can no longer complain about not having a standout athlete with
one of the highest risers in the country in Gerald Henderson. Henderson enters
the tourney as one of the top performers in the nation doing his best Kobe impression
each time out. His confidence has grown exponentially this season and he, along
with Singler, appears to be the guy that can carry Duke out of the embarrassing
first weekend losses that they have suffered in recent years.
Gonzaga came into the year as a final four candidate but struggled to
get through their pre-conference schedule. They seemed to gel towards the end
of the year after putting Matt Boldin at the point guard position and switching
Jeremy Pargo to his more natural off the ball position. This team has the coaching,
experience and talent to reach the final four for their first time.
West Virginia has a real shot to reach the Elite Eight and the toughness
and familiarity of playing Louisville being in the same conference. Huggins
won’t let his bunch be intimidated by Louisville should the two square off and
West Virginia’s one of the teams hitting it’s stride at just the right time.
Purdue is well coached and plays as a team as well as anyone in the nation.
If they can surprise UConn in the Sweet Sixteen, they could make a push to Detroit.
They epitomize the term scrappy and feature a talented sophomore trio in bigman
JaJuan Johnson, wing forward Robbie Hummel and point guard E’Twaun Moore. Although
they’re all sophomores, they are all experienced having made a run behind these
guys to the tourney last year.
VCU, Utah State, USC
Call me crazy but I have VCU all the way to the Elite Eight. Looking
at their road to get to face off with Pitt in the Elite Eight will mean beating
a well coached and talented UCLA team, beating Villanova essentially in a home
game for the Wildcats in Philadelphia and a likely rematch with Duke in the
Sweet 16. With maybe the steadiest point guard in the tourney (Eric Maynor)
and an athletic and fast improving bigman (Larry Sanders), VCU has it in them
to win all three but it will take three upsets for them to get there.
Utah State lost just 4 games all season and impressively won the WAC
conference tournament. This team is accustomed to winning as Coach Stu Morrell
has led this team to 10 straight 20 win seasons. With solid talent but no standouts,
this is a scrappy bunch who rarely turns the ball over and will be a handful
for a Marquette team hurting after losing their point guard Dominic James for
Southern Cal won the Pac-Ten tourney. They feature the most athletic
player in the country in Demar DeRozan who appears to have figured things out
in the past two weeks. They also have the steadying influence of Daniel Hackett
and a big time athlete and defender inside in Taj Gibson and a defensive wizard
coach in Tim Floyd. Michigan State could be in trouble in the second round against
this athletic bunch.
Western Kentucky, Butler, Cleveland State, Mississippi State,
Memphis, Syracuse, Kansas, Villanova, Missouri
How can a Memphis team with 25 straight wins be overrated? Their 2 impressive
road wins came against teams who were struggling at the time and overrated in
Tennessee and Gonzaga. So who have they really beaten? On the positive side,
this team can match up with anyone in terms of athleticism and their core has
the experience of making to the championship game last year. But this year’s
freshman point guard Tyreke Evans doesn’t have the poise and talent of last
year’s freshman, Derrick Rose. Look for them to fall to Cal in the second round
or UConn in the Elite Eight.
Yes Syracuse took UConn 6 overtimes eventually coming out with the victory
in the Big East tourney. Without that win they would have been a much lower
seed. They are problematic for teams due to their zone defense, but Arizona
State is used to seeing that and has more experience and fire power with Harden
and Pendergraph. The Cuse has good depth but waiting for them in the Sweet 16,
if they make it, will be Oklahoma which will prove too much for the Cuse to
match up with.
The defending champion Kansas Jayhawks have a nice one two punch with
Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich but after losing four key members of last year’s
team: Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur, and Darnell Jackson (all
drafted) they don’t have the fire power to make a deep run this year.
Villanova enjoys the advantage of playing in Philadelphia for their first
two games. They have a number of talented guards starting with Scottie Reynolds.
However, this team is unlikely to advance far due to their lack of interior
size. Dante Cunningham is an undersized post player who can take over game and
Jay Wright is a terrific coach. But Villanova lacks talent and is not worthy
of a 3 seed and will struggle to beat a quality Duke squad if they make it that
I have Missouri making my Elite Eight but they’re not a strong threat
to make it to Detroit. This team has quality frontcourt players and plays excellent
defense but lacks the talent in the backcourt necessary to be a true threat.