Unlike last year when George Mason was obviously in over its head, this year’s Final Four has one of the strongest fields ever. This is the 29th year (since 1979) that the NCAA has seeded the field and only the second time that ever Final Four team is a two seed or higher. The other time was 1993 when three “ones” (North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan) and a “two” (Kansas) made it to New Orleans.
By the end of the season it was clear to me that there were six teams that were better than everyone else. Four of those six (Kansas and North Carolina were the other two) are meeting up in Atlanta and any one of them can bring home the trophy.
So I’m going to offer up my view of why each team will or won’t win the NCAA title. Each team also has that one guy, the X-factor if you will who is going to be the difference maker in whether or not his team is the one cutting down the nets. For three of the teams, the X-factor is a guy who isn’t one of the two or three best players on the squad. For the Gators, however it’s too difficult to figure out just who the two best players are so you might think I violated protocol where that one is concerned.
Just for the record, I picked Georgetown to beat Florida in the NCAA Title game when the tournament began. I also had UCLA and Louisville in the Final Four. Then after the first two rounds I switched from UCLA to Kansas (nice move, McFly!). Therefore I reserve the right to revise my title game pick when the time comes.
1. Why they will win —-
2. They play tremendous man-to-man defense and have learned how to defend Florida’s pick-and-roll over the last twelve months.
3. Aaron Afflalo is too good to hold to ten points like last year.
4. Darren Collison might be the quickest point guard in the country and guard play generally decides who wins in this situation.
5. They’ve beaten more ranked teams than anyone else.
6. It’s so much fun to say Luc Ricard Mbah a Moute
Why they won’t win —-
1. A front court if Mbah a Moute, Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya can’t compete with the other great big men in Atlanta.
2. Aaron Afflalo dreams about Corey Brewer and wakes up in a cold sweat.
3. Four of their top eight players shoot below 50 % from the free throw line.
4. They got clobbered by Florida last year and their top scorer in that game, Jordan Farmar turned pro while all the Gator starters are back.
5. They have too many championships already
Lorenzo Mata. The 6’8” forward plays the fewest minutes (23.1/g) of any Bruins starter but leads the team in fouls. Still he must provide defense and rebounding and let the perimeter guys do the offensive damage. His averages (6.7/5.5) are quite modest any they don’t really need to be much better. If he can have any success slowing down Horford and Noah Saturday he might get a chance to wrestle with a seven footer Monday night.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Why they will win —–
1. Greg Oden is the best true center to enter college basketball ball since Shaq Daddy entered LSU.
2. Mike Conley Jr. might deserve similar acclaim as a point guard.
3. They already escaped a near certain defeat at the hands of Xavier.
4. Freshman dominated teams from the Big Ten have a history of doing special things in the big dance.
5. Ohio State fans have suffered enough already
Why they won’t win —–
1. No Xaviers in Atlanta. These teams know how to finish.
2. Foul-prone Oden has not had to face someone as good and big as Roy Hibbert from Georgetown.
3. Talent aside, freshmen tend to flounder, not shine in the Final Four.
4. Did you SEE the game in Gainesville in December?
5. Troy Smith is overrated
Ron Lewis. The fifth-year senior is a rarity in college basketball, but Ohio State would be up the creek without this one. Lewis has to play well to ease traffic around Oden and crease driving lanes for Conley and Jamar Butler. Lewis has scored 74 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the last three games.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the Georgetown Hoyas and the Florida Gators.