Just as ESPN experts Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Andy Kats, I’m also stunned to see the Final Four teams that will be dancing in Houston on April 2. No one could possibly predict that all four No.1 seeds will go down; Butler would make it back to the big dance without Gordon Hayward; Kemba Walker would lead UConn to nine straight victories; Brandon Knight would become big time for Kentucky; and Virginia Commonwealth University, a team that won the 2010 CBI Tournament, would upset Kansas.
Who would have imagined that out of 5.9 million brackets submitted only two entries would be correct?
Let’s start with the East bracket. No. 4 seed Kentucky is a typical young “one and done” type of Calipari team. Last year his team was loaded with talent, losing five of their players to the NBA draft Calipari still didn’t have enough to win it all. This year his young team is in a position where they can prove everybody wrong.
Throughout this year Kentucky faced all types of adversity and chemistry issues, but if you look at this post season you wouldn’t know. Brandon Knight has taken on the leadership role, knocking down big shots and with the emergence of their man in the middle, Josh Harrellson. Kentucky should be looking to redeem themselves from when they lost to UConn in Maui at the tournament at the beginning of the season.
UConn out of the West bracket is, to me, the best team. Just as Calipari, Jim Calhoun’s UConn team is also a young one. But they are led by arguably the best player in all of college basketball.
The heroics of the 6- foot-1-inch Kemba Walker tends to come out in tournaments. He is the main reason UConn won the previous two tournaments. Walker exploded at Maui, averaging about 30 points a game. He rescued them in the Big East Tournament and is currently picking apart this year’s NCAA Tournament. In fact, this semifinal game against Kentucky will be a rematch from the game in Maui where UConn defeated them 84-67.
The teams have grown as a whole since then. I don’t expect a blowout, but there is too much fight in Kemba to let them lose. Not to mention the emergence of freshman guard Jeremy Lamb, who, during UConn’s nine-game winning streak, scored in double figures in every game.
The most unbelievable team that made it to the Final Four is VCU, hands down. VCU, a No.11 seed out of the Southwest bracket, is the new George Mason (or Cinderella, if you prefer that term). I know no one who had VCU in his or her Final Four bracket. In fact, a lot of my peers didn’t know VCU even existed.
On selection Sunday, when the committee picked VCU as a team for the tournament, that pick instantly caused controversy. Teams such as Alabama, Colorado and Virginia Tech felt their resume was good enough to make the Big Dance, but the committee thought VCU deserved the bid instead.
VCU entered the tournament with a chip on its shoulder, but is playing like they deserves to be there. Their last victory was over No.1 seed Kansas, where VCU was confident and shot the lights out.
In the Southwest bracket most people believed that the Butler Bulldogs would have fallen short in the second round against No.1 seed Pittsburgh Panthers. Brad Stevens, at the age of 34 and only in his fourth year as a collegiate head coach, has taken his team to the Final Four two consecutive years. Last year, the Bulldogs’ amazing run was cut short due to a missed shot from Gordon Hayward.
This year’s tournament run started at the end of the regular season when Coach Stevens had “a contact lens mishap,” and since he started wearing glasses the team has not lost.
Fear the glasses is what they are saying in Indiana. Lets see if VCU actually fears them in Houston.
The question of who is the best NCAA team this year is still floating around in my mind. Let’s say hypothetically speaking VCU wins, does that make them the best team?