CHICAGO, March 12, 2012 – On Sunday, the NCAA selection committee announced the field of 68 teams that will make up this year’s March Madness tournament. As always, some teams got in by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin, and some teams had their bubble devastatingly burst when they learned that they wouldn’t be dancing on into mid-March. As always, there are several teams that we all expect to succeed, but these are the teams that will get into the Elite Eight and beyond.
Sweet 16 Winners:
Kentucky – While we’d all love to put the fan-favorite Wichita State Shockers into the Elite Eight, with the Wildcats in the way it’s just not realistic. Kentucky has thoroughly outclassed every other team in the nation in terms of talent and more recently determination, and that should easily guide them this far.
UNLV – They’re the longshot of the bunch, but UNLV has the firepower to mow down every team that gets in their way. Ever since they pulled the floor from under UNC earlier this year, teams have been afraid of playing UNLV. It might get tough to get past Baylor and Duke in back-to-back games, but UNLV has the best chance of those three to survive.
Michigan State – The Spartans have quietly become a national powerhouse, living in the shadow of the perennially troubling Buckeyes. Tom Izzo’s team, however, has become the type of silent yet deadly efficient machine that traditionally beats out the more talented teams later on in the tournament.
Missouri – Perhaps, if the basketball gods feel as generous towards Murray State as they did towards VCU last year, the Racers will make it this far. But don’t count on it. The Tigers have somewhat overachieved this year considering how small their roster is, but incredible focus and effort conquers Goliath more often than not, and the Tigers will find themselves in the Elite Eight.
Syracuse – The Orange could be seen as the deepest team in the bracket, but considering that, we should all be wary when trying to figure out how games against Notre Dame and Cincinnati went so terribly. The Orange should get this far, but they’d better hope that they can exorcise the demons that made them blow those two easily winnable contests. Even without their defensive pillar in Fab Melo, the Orange should be okay getting this far.
Florida State – This team beat UNC and Duke this year. Twice. Enough said. Look out, Buckeyes.
UNC – Speaking of the Tar Heels, they need to thank those basketball gods for the bracket that they received. They shouldn’t blink an eye until the Sweet 16, but facing either Temple or Michigan may cause them to get out of bed in the morning. They’d just better hope that they don’t get lazy from this cupcake draw and get flattened later on.
Kansas – Did you see the Jayhawks when their seeding was announced? They looked as happy as Mel Gibson on a movie set. Come on Bill Self, teach your players to smile!
Elite Eight Winners:
Kentucky over UNLV – The Wildcats will win this game in the first 10 minutes unless they relive the West Virginia nightmare from two years ago and helplessly watch UNLV make it rain from behind the arc. Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis will make the Rebels look like 8th graders with his post presence, and the Wildcats talent will be simply overwhelming.
Missouri over Michigan State – The Spartans have the size advantage over Missouri (almost anyone does), but the Spartans might have to beat two conference champions just to get to this point, and a rigorous schedule might wear away a larger team more than the smaller Missouri. The Tigers’ hot streak should carry them all the way to New Orleans.
Florida State over Syracuse – The Seminoles are the biggest threat to any top seeded team outside of that exclusive group, and they’ll show that when they take Syracuse out in their Regional Finals. Seminole outside shooters Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys should be too much for the Orange to handle, and if last year’s UConn team taught us anything, it’s that conference tournament-winning teams have the capability of staying hot throughout March regardless of seed.
UNC over Kansas – This game will be Jayhawk karma for looking so pissed off on national television. That’s just bad juju. Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and company are looking like they’re ready to slightly outclass Kansas in almost every category, and Tar Heel point guard Kendall Marshall could easily been the X-factor with the nightly 15 points and 10 assists he’s been putting up.
Final Four Winners:
Missouri over Kentucky – Flashy, over-talented, freshmen-loaded Kentucky teams have a history of choking at random times, and this game will be it. Kentucky should have the size and athleticism to beat anyone, but playing enough solid games to get this far in itself will be a challenge. If anyone is good enough to capitalize on the Wildcats having an off day, it’s the hard-working Tigers.
UNC over Florida State – It’s just too hard to expect North Carolina to lose to the same team three times. Once was baffling, twice made you nod in approval in Florida State’s direction, but three times? We can all fully expect this insanely talented North Carolina squad to have its list of A-list superstars get pissed enough to bulldoze this Florida State team with all the fire and passion of Alec Baldwin at an airport.
National Championship Game:
UNC over Missouri – This will be by far the greatest game of the season. Barnes, Zeller and Marshall up against Mizzou’s Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon, Kim English and Phil Pressey should be a clash of historic proportion. But Mizzou’s effort level, an essential in coping with their lack of size, will finally be countered by that of North Carolina. Not only will the Tar Heels stay with the Tigers step for step in terms of hustle and quickness, and Zeller and his fellow UNC bigs will finally be the blow to take down the mighty Tigers.
The NCAA title is coming back to North Carolina.
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