Friday, March 28, 2014

Who Will Earn a Trip To the Final Four?

The 2014 NCAA basketball tournament has proved to be yet another wild ride to cap off the collegiate basketball season.  Just like every other year, there have been enthralling matches, buzzer beater finishes, and dramatic upsets as 64 was whittled down to our current Sweet Sixteen.  But all the fun is going to kick off again this weekend, and by Sunday we will know whose season has culminated in a trip to the fabled lands of the NCAA Final Four!  All the Cinderella teams and upsets aside, now is the time for the big boys to make their mark, and I fully expect several of the top ranked sides to make the trip to Arlington, Texas.  Here is your predicted 2014 Final Four:

Florida Gators – Not only do the Gators have one of the nation’s top defenses and well-rounded scoring options, but they also have the easiest roads to the Final Four.  Both Kansas and Syracuse have been eliminated, leaving their first match against UCLA as the stiffest test ahead.  With Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson playing great, Florida will be challenged, but the combined efforts of Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Michael Frazier II, and Patric Young should be able to see Florida through.  In fact, this team is so strong that they are considered by many to be the favorites to go the distance and cut down the nets!

Arizona Wildcats – Their first game against San Diego State should be a defensive battle, with both teams’ defenses ranked in the top 5 nationally (San Diego State actually is actually 2nd, though their schedule was far easier…).  However, Arizona has supreme talent and has been the most consistent team in the nation all year.  Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon have both been very productive and they should progress.  The next matchup against either Baylor or Wisconsin should also figure to be a great contest, but I think this Arizona team call pull it through.  They were awarded the number 1 seed for a reason, and I expect them to battle on to the Final Four!

Louisville Cardinals – I didn’t expect this team to do so well before the tournament started, but their play last weekend has brought back echoes of 2013!  With many of the same stars of last year’s triumph like Luke Hancock and Russ Smith, the school also brought in 3-point specialist Chris Jones.  This team has the best potential to repeat as any I’ve ever seen and will certainly return to the Final Four.  With a young Kentucky and either Michigan or Tennessee standing in their way, I feel that Louisville has all the merits of a nationally contending force once again!

Virginia Cavaliers – Disrespected by all the experts, no one thinks this 1-seed will progress past the Spartans of Michigan State, but I disagree.  Virginia is the ultimate basketball “team”, and while they lack a dominant star NBA prospect, their duo of Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris can shoot the 3-ball consistently while their squad can all chip in to help score.  But what makes Virginia so strong is their top-ranked defense that won not only the ACC regular season but the ACC tournament as well.  An NCAA title may be beyond them, but I foresee the Cavaliers putting the MSU bandwagon to bed and progressing past Iowa State or Connecticut and right into the Final Four!

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