Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Final Four Prediction and a Contender for Cinderella: March Madness Looms Ahead!

March has arrived, and with it comes the madness! Yes, NCAA basketball is on the cusp of reaching its climax, and as the season starts to wind down and bracketology experts re-organize the potential NCAA tournament entrants, college basketball fans across the country will get their pens ready to start filling out their brackets! What is there to behold in a nation of teams that has already enjoyed countless upsets of #1 ranked teams. Is there really any dominant team that has a definitive claim at reaching the Final Four? And who is going to be this year’s Cinderella darling that reaches the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight against all the odds?
The Final Four:
1. Indiana Hoosiers – Great team. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo are beasts and can lead this team to greatness. They also go 6 men deep with decent scoring options and have excellent depth, which is crucial for high intensity tournament games that come thick and fast. Indiana also has good wins against quality teams like Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State. Although they have now lost two of their last three games, I do foresee them getting it together for the NCAA tournament.
2. Kansas Jayhawks – A thrilling team! The NCAA basketball tournament is all about high thrills and dramatic buzzer-beating victories. Kansas is no stranger to exciting wins. They have gone to overtime 3 times this season and won all 3. Save for a rough stretch of 3 losses in early February, Kansas has been nearly flawless and defeated ranked opponents like Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Ohio State. They have a very talented freshman in Ben McLemore, who can simply take over any game. Additionally, he is supported by 4 experienced seniors in Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson, and Kevin Young. Experience and raw talent will take Kansas far.
3. Miami Hurricanes – Experience? Miami has 6 talented seniors and probably more college basketball experience than any other major team in the country. Naturally, their wisdom is enabling them to beat teams like Michigan State, Duke, and NC State. Atop the ACC, their best player is sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, who averages around 14 points per game. Another thing that will help the team is their depth. There is no superstar player, just 8 guys that get at least 5 points per game. Such balance will help see them through the NCAA tournament and allow Miami to wear down their opponents. One potential pitfall though: for all their experience they have not played in the NCAA tournament in years, meaning this is these players’ first trip to the big dance. Have no fear, their coach, Jim Larranaga led George Mason to their infamous Final Four run in 2006. They will be ready to contend!
4. Georgetown Hoyas – Superstar! Otto Porter does it all. He scores, he shoots 3-pointers, he makes simple layups, he attacks the rim, he steals, and he can pass. He is a top 5 pick in the NBA Draft. He has led Georgetown on a fantastic 11 game win streak beating ranked teams like Notre Dame, Louisville, and Syracuse along the way. They are in control of the Big East and have surrounded Porter with a strong and deep team that can score from all over the bench. Georgetown has all the makings of NCAA champions and will surely be eyeing a trip to the Final Four.
Cinderella Darling. Belmont Bruins – No NCAA tournament will be complete without a minor school making a fantastic run and dethroning several top teams. So who will stun the country this year? The Belmont Bruins. I picked this team to be the darling because they have 5 players averaging 10 points per game meaning they have a well-balanced attack. They can also sink the 3-ball, with 4 players shooting around 40% on 3-point shots. They can make free throws. This is the kind of team that will give an athletic big program all sorts of headaches if their shooters get hot. They did get thumped by Kansas in their only matchup against a serious team, but perhaps that experience will give them an edge for vengeance! Look out for Belmont!
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