Once again, the spectacle of the Men’s NCAA Basketball tournament is upon us…and once again, I’ve watched a grand total of two games all season. However, as he did last season my good friend and avid Duke fan, Coty Soult has penned a guest preview column for us. Here is what Coty has to say:
Well, it’s March again already and the brackets are being printed and filled out with vigor. I love this time of year, it’s the time when, whether you like college basketball or not, you’re paying attention to the game.
I’m going to try to decipher the hot topics of this year’s field in the tournament. I can only provide you with the information that I know and have gathered throughout the year, and try to throw out my thoughts on who might move on and who might go home earlier than expected.
What I can’t do, and really no one can, is tell you who is going to win. Sometimes I think the more information you know about this tournament the worse off you are. Like I’ve said before, you’re better off giving your bracket to your five year old kid, your grandma, or your wife because they have just as good of a chance or better of predicting this thing than you do. But…… That’s why I love it, every game matters, every shot counts, and every defensive screw up can send a team home for the rest of the season. This makes every team try their best and give every inch of heart they have.
Every year there are teams that come into the tournament as the favorites, or who the talking heads feel are the teams to beat. Typically they jump on the band wagons of the number one seeds, as they should as number one seeds win 78% of all the games they play. The problem is that it doesn’t always work out as predicted. It seems like every year there are a few top seeds that get knocked out of the second or third round.
This years top seeds:
Kentucky- This is the probably the best team in the tournament. What makes them the best? Defense, plain and simple. Yes they have great offensive talent, every starter on this team will play in the NBA, and you don’t get into the NBA without being offensively gifted. But it’s the defense that make this team special, Anthony Davis is just a beast down low. Get used to hearing that name because you will be hearing it non-stop until Kentucky either loses or wins the tournament. As a freshmen he led the country with 157 blocks. This changes every team’s offensive game plan tremendously, when you can’t drive to the basket you can’t collapse the defense, this means that everyone is covered on the three point line. I really don’t think there has been a college player who has impacted the game this way since Patrick Ewing. As I said before Davis isn’t the only player on this team that can hurt you, six players on this team average close to double figures. That’s a balanced attack and that is the formula for winning championships. If there is one downfall of this team it’s that they are young, real young. Even with that, this is by far the best team in the field and they are going to be hard to beat.
Syracuse- This is a team that played well all year long, so well in fact that they finished the year with a record of 31-2. In the Big East that’s impressive. They have a great duo with Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine who can both score and score a lot. I’m not going to spend that much time with this team because I thought they had major issues coming in to the tournament . They are 125th in the country in rebounding, this is horrible and it won’t win you many games. They also lost their top shot blocker and rebounder with Fab Melo being held out due to grades. This team will be out quick.
North Carolina- Carolina probably has the second most talented team in the tournament, and it is a close second. Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes lead this fast paced offense in scoring. They are second in the country in scoring and fourth in assists, in other words they can score and run the floor with anyone. They also have what I believe is the best point guard in the country with Kendall Marshal. He is what makes this team click, and I think that he is the only way you are going to stop this team. Did I mention that they’re number one overall in rebounding? Pretty scary right? Carolina can be beaten though, and the way to do it is with solid defense and slowing down the game. Florida State proved this twice. All in all, I would have to say that only Kentucky should be favored over this team to cut down the nets and win it all.
Michigan State- I think that Michigan State got the fourth number one seed by default. That in no way means that this team should be taken lightly. Draymond Green could be the top senior in the country, he’s a great leader, and is the go-to guy in their offense. Having a go-to guy in your offense is in my opinion underrated – there is no question at the end of the game who is going to take the shot. Having this, has propelled many teams through the tournament. Another advantage this team has is that they have one of the best tournament coaches in the country with Tom Izzo. His teams always play tough, rebound, and play good defense, and that is what wins games in the tournament. Coming out of the Big Ten is also an advantage because it proved to be the best conference in the nation this year. Michingan State is by no means the best team in the country and I don’t expect them to even get to to the elite eight. There is just not enough fire power on this team to make a prolonged run in the tournament.
Outside the top four seeds there are some solid, yet less talented teams that have a chance to make a run the the national title. Although they don’t have the same kind of record in the tournament as the number one seeds, not having a number one seed is in no way a death sentence.
Some of the better teams in this bunch are listed below.
Kansas- Has the national player of the year in Thomas Robinson.
Missouri- Led by a new coach and a high powered offense.
Duke- With ACC freshmen of the year Austin Rivers
Florida State- Michael Snaer is one of the best shooters in the country.
Teams from mid-major conferences have made runs through the tournament, and I really think that’s what makes it so fun – the so called “Cinderella” teams. Butler has been in the championship the last two years in a row. There have been runs made by George Mason, VCU, and others to the final four. The lowest seeded team to win the championship since the field expanded to 64 was when Villanova shocked Georgetown as an eight seed. I really don’t see any teams making that kind of run this year but, there are some teams that I think could make some real noise by upsetting some of the big dogs.
Below are the mid-major teams that I think could make some noise.
St. Mary’s- Has turned in to a good program over the last few years.
Long Beach State- Is a tough, battle tested team with veterans.
Temple- Is the best team out of the Atlantic 10 conference with Ramone Moore who scores 18 points a game.
Overall I really think this will come down to two teams, Kentucky and North Carolina. And if I have to pick (and I have changed my mind numerous times) I would go with North Carolina due to their experience. Any of you who know me know how hard, as a Duke fan, it is to say that…but I have to go with what I think. Now, take everything I have just written and throw it out the window because chances are everyone’s bracket including mine will be ruined by the sweet 16.
Have fun and enjoy what I believe is America’s best sporting event!