Final Predictions for the 2010 NC Double-A Tournament
- Ohio State emerges as the Final Four entrant from the Midwest Regional. Evan Turner is already well known to college hoops fans across the country, but he's got ample support, too. William Buford has come on strong in the latter part of the year, and possesses a similar type of skill set as the future lottery pick Turner. Jonny Diebler provides the firepower from long range, while space-eater Dallas Lauderdale does his part to keep the Buckeyes from getting overwhelmed inside. The main concern with this club is their extremely short rotation, which could cause them to wear down as the tournament progresses. But I'm a big believer in Thad Matta, and have been impressed with his work ever since he took underdog Xavier to the Elite Eight in 2004 with my good friend Romain Sato leading the way. Columbus rejoices as the Bucks make it to Indianapolis to take on the...
- Butler Bulldogs. Yessiree, the Horizon League champs will finally make their mark when it counts and turn the West Regional upside-down. Like Ohio State, they will not come at you with a ton of players, but the ones they do throw on the court are very, very good. Sophmore Gordon Hayward is already being talked about as a future NBA ballplayer. He's 6-foot-9, can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor, and is a terror on the glass. Shelvin Mack has hit big shots all year, and seems to get better as the stakes get higher. The main concern with this team is their lack of size. Matt Howard is their best inside player, but he's just 6'8" and wears a giant T-shirt under his jersey to hide the lack of muscle definition underneath. But that being said, this is still your typical Butler squad that plays exceptionally smart, makes plenty of 3s, and forces you into tough shots on the defensive end. With the Final Four being played right at home, it would be the ultimate Cinderella story to have little ol' Butler busting the bracket and dancing all the way to the semifinals. Either that, or UTEP is just too physical down low and Butler's on a plane back to campus by 7:00 tonight. Hey, at least I took a shot!
- My brother Sam will express his undying love for Luke Harangody at least 700 times over the course of the tourney, regardless of how many games the Dame plays. He's truly obsessed with the guy, to the point where I worry that one time when I go in his room he's gonna have Gody pictures plastered all over his wall like that psychotic mathematician from A Beautiful Mind. I'm just scared about the possibility of the Irish making a legitimate run through the bracket and Sam's excitement level gradually building to a point that just might be downright unhealthy. Let's all root for Old Dominion to end this thing right away...for everybody's sake.
- Michigan State will not advance past the Sweet 16. Maybe they get by Maryland in round two, but that's as far as they go. It's just not the same Spartan team we saw early in the year. Chris Allen's in trouble, Durrell Summers is in the doghouse, and that Garrick Sherman character gets a little bit whiter every time he steps foot on the court. I would not be surprised in the least if he shows up to the first practice next fall as an actual ghost. The excellent play of Raymar Morgan has been a pleasant surprise, but it just won't be enough to get Izzo's crew to the same heights they reached last April.
- Out of the East, I can't see a scenario where 32-2 Kentucky does not float through the bracket and get to Indy. John Calipari's team has been as consistent as any group in the country all year long, and boasts a wealth of young talent from several different spots on the floor. John Wall is the odds-on favorite for #1 overall pick in June's NBA Draft. He's a super-athletic 6-foot-4 point guard that is deadly in the open court. His outside shot still needs plenty of work, but at this level, he can still get by just fine with what he's got. The painted area is also in good hands with this squad. DeMarcus Cousins is a jumping-jack freshman at 6'11", and grizzled junior Patrick Patterson takes care of whatever is left. Calipari has been down this road before, and knows exactly what it takes to navigate through the maze successfully. Don't forget that if Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose hit their free throws a couple years ago, this guy is a former National Championship-winning coach, and not just some guy in a $5,000 suit that looks like he spent the last 2 and a half hours applying mousse to his perfectly maintained lettuce.
- My cousin Mayer will make a flawless prediction at some point in the next three weeks. For instance, last year, when I wrote that Michigan State would have a decided advantage against North Carolina playing at home in Ford Field during the Final Four, and that this edge could quite possibly push the Spartans over the top, Mayer called shenanigans on me and set the story straight. He pointed out that this exact game took place just a couple months prior, and that the Tar Heels made mincemeat of MSU in the very same Ford Field. Mayer turned out to be 150% right as Carolina won that final game by 150 points. Can't wait to see what the wise one has in store for us this time around.
- I hate to say it, but I think this is the year Mike Krzyzewski brings his Duke Blue Devils back to the Final Four. It's been a good long while since Coach K danced to the final, but the drought ends now. Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer are both fantastic shooters, from the 3-point line and the charity stripe. Nolan Smith has come into his own this year, and is the perfect third banana for the Devils on offense. Duke employs their usual brand of physical, unforgiving defense, and that will be the difference as they waltz through their region unscathed for the first time since 2004.
- As for the semi-finals and the finals (even though it's silly to predict outcomes of games that most likely will not happen), I like Evan Turner to best Gordon Hayward in one half of the bracket, and for Duke to knock off Kentucky on the other side in an epic battle between two powerhouse programs. As for the championship, and it pains me to say this, but I like the Buckeyes. I mean, don't get me wrong, I hate the Buckeyes. But I have been wildly impressed with Evan Turner's overall game and ability to remain poised even as his team faces a late deficit in a hostile setting. He can win the MOP award at the Final Four and ride off into the sunset, where he will almost undoubtedly be one of the first three players selected in the upcoming NBA draft.
- OR, I could be dead wrong about everything. That's what makes the NCAA tournament the best event in all of sports. Okay, second best. I really do love that World Strongman Championship.
Enjoy the tournament, people...