It’s the final countdown.
We are just hours away from the official tipoff of the NCAA Tournament. Ok, the play-in games have already started, but none of the teams participating in the play-in games will pull a 2011 VCU and make a run to the Final Four. Besides, the only question most people ask in regards to the tournament is this: Who’s in your final four? Well in an effort to answer this question, here are my picks to make it to the Final Four and win the National Championship.
1. Villanova V. 2. Arizona, Winner: Arizona
1. Kansas V. 2. Kentucky, Winner: Kansas
2. Arizona V. 1. Kansas, Winner: Arizona
East Regional Winner: 1 Villanova
Villanova is back in the NCAA Tournament to defend their crown as the number one overall seed in the tournament. Head coach Jay Wright deserves a lot of credit for the job he’s done at Villanova. He’s taken a team that has been known to choke under the bright lights of the tournament and transformed them into a perennial power house. Led by senior guard Josh Hart (18.9 PPG), Villanova is once again one of if not the best teams in the tournament. Their defense has been outstanding this year, allowing 62.8 points per game, ranking 17th in all of Division 1 Basketball in Scoring Defense. Villanova will make it out of the East Region to get to the Final Four, but they won’t make it past Arizona.
South Regional Winner: 2 Kentucky
Head coach John Calipari has expertly set himself up to look like an overachiever again this year, just like he did last year. Once again right before the start of the tournament, he complained about the selection committee’s process of seeding the teams. This is all an effort to mask some of the problems that his Kentucky team has, such as the fact that his team shoots only 35.9% from the 3 point line. However, they have a tremendous freshman guard in Malik Monk (20.4 PPG), the 29th leading scorer in the nation. He’s just enough for Kentucky to get past the number 1 seed in the South North Carolina and make Kentucky’s season appear to be successful. However, a freshman guard alone won’t be enough to topple Kansas in the Final Four.
Midwest Regional Winner and Runner-Up: 1 Kansas
There’s always one top team in the nation that appears to be more lucky than they are good, and that’s the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas has played in countless close games this year, and they’re able to pull them out due to having one of if not the top coach in all of Division 1 basketball, Bill Self. It also helps that Kansas’ backcourt may be the best in the tournament. They’re led by 5-11 senior guard and Wooden Award (*award for the best play in division 1 basketball) candidate Frank Mason III (20.8 PPG) and 6-8 freshman guard Josh Jackson (16.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG). These two will help carry Kansas all the way to the National Championship Game, but their luck will run out come April 3rd.
West Regional Winner and National Champion: 2 Arizona
What can be said about the Arizona Wildcats? Head coach Sean Miller consistently has his team atop the PAC 12 Conference, and this will be the year he takes his team over the top to not only the Final Four, but to the mountain top as National Champions. They have the size and length of an NBA roster, most notably 7 foot tall Forward Lauri Markkanen (15.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG). Guard Allonzo Trier (17.3 PPG) has also found his groove after a frustrating season, and his play is trending upward at the right time. And like any good team, their defense can shut opponents down, as they allow opponents to score just 65.4 points per game, good for 37th in the Nation. Oh, and they’ll be playing in Phoenix, Arizona, the ultimate home-court advantage considering they play just down the road in Tucson. All of these ingredients will result in some home cooking for the Wildcats, as they will be crowned as the national champions once the final buzzer sounds.