The NCAA Tournament is right around the corner, and a few of us over here at One-Bid Wonders figured we would share some of our insight on the Final Four to help you with your last-minute picks. Enjoy!
No. 1 most likely to miss out
Ari Kramer: No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin’s potential Sweet 16 matchups are scary. If the favorites advance, the Badgers would face either UNC or Arkansas. Both squads have the pieces to frustrate Wisconsin — UNC with its size, athleticism and playmaking of Marcus Paige, and Arkansas with its frenetic pace. If the Badgers advance, they’ll probably face Arizona, a tough, physical team with the versatility up front to match Wisconsin’s.
Martin Kessler: No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers
This isn’t really about the Badgers. This is just about the West’s strength. Arizona, the No. 2 seed, has legitimate championship ambitions. Baylor, the No. 3 seed, is battle-tested. And No. 4 UNC recently beat both Louisville and Virginia in the ACC tournament. And don’t overlook No. 8 Oregon or No. 9 Oklahoma State — either team could be a challenge for the Badgers in the Round of 32.
Doric Sam: No. 1 Villanova Wildcats
If the Wildcats are able to get past Louisville, I have them facing Virginia in the Elite Eight. Villanova steamrolled through the Big East with ease and has not seen a defense like Virginia’s. Part of me also expects Justin Anderson to be at full strength by this point, which would allow the Cavaliers’ offense the ability to keep up with the Wildcats.
Sam Perkins: No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers
Gotta’ love Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky, and the Badgers are no joke, but they also would appear to have by far the toughest road to the Final Four of the four No. 1s, with a super physical Baylor squad, perennial contender UNC, and two very solid teams in the 8/9 game in Oregon/Oklahoma State.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs: No. 1 Villanova Wildcats
The Wildcats are in a tough, tough East Region and they rely on the long ball. 43 percent of their field goals come from beyond the arc and in a one and done scenario, one bad shooting game means an early exit from the tournament. With Louisville, Providence or UVA standing in the way, Nova’s trip to the Final Four looks unlikely.
Non-top-two seed most likely to make it
Ari Kramer: No. 3 Iowa State Cyclones
I love Iowa State’s draw in the South, a region loaded with offensive-minded teams. Fred Hoiberg’s offensive scheming is as good as anyone’s, and the up-tempo Cyclones wouldn’t run into a slow-paced, defensive-oriented team until the Elite Eight – and that’s if Utah or San Diego State gets on a roll.
Martin Kessler: No. 3 Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones enter the tournament on a roll, having just topped Kansas in the Big XII title game. Georges Niang is a beast, the type of player who could put Iowa State on his back for a couple games. The Cyclones would have to get past No. 1 seed Duke — admittedly a challenge — but I have a feeling No. 2 Gonzaga will fall before the Elite Eight.
Doric Sam: No. 7 Michigan State Spartans
Tom Izzo’s team can never be counted out in March. The Spartans are battle-tested with seven overtime games this season. As long as they don’t choke from the free throw line, which seems to be their Achilles heel, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a run deep into the tournament.
Sam Perkins: No. 3 Baylor Bears
If Notre Dame was a 3-seed in any other region than Kentucky’s, I’d be going with the Irish, because their athleticism and toughness are ridiculous. Instead, I’ll go with Rico “The Enforcer” Gathers and the Bears’ ability to rebound the ball, play physical, and make things really ugly in the paint.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs: No. 3 Iowa State Cyclones
Yes, this means I believe Jahil Okafor and Duke will not make the Final Four. ISU will beat the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight, and make the Final Four, behind one of the most entertaining, fluid and well-rounded offenses in the nation. Fresh off a win against Kansas, Georges Niang and Monte Morris and the full cast of Cyclones, will keep the momentum going straight to the end of March.
Seed worse than No. 7 most likely to crash the party
Ari Kramer: No. 8 San Diego State
Maybe this is crazy, but isn’t that the point of this superlative? In a region stacked with offensive teams, San Diego State is great a grind-it-out group. They say defense wins championships, and the Aztecs allowed just 88.3 points per 100 possessions (No. 4) this year. They also play at one of the country’s slowest paces. Slow down Duke and make the game ugly? The Aztecs can do that and win. Successfully apply that gameplan to Gonzaga or Iowa State, as well, and San Diego State, which already beat Utah, seems like a solid darkhorse to frustrate just enough people to crash the Final Four.
Martin Kessler: No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes
OK, maybe I just really want this to happen but there’s a non-zero chance D’Angelo Russell (who is averaging 19.3 points per game) goes off and leads Ohio State to four straight wins. Right? Either that or the Buckeyes lose their first game to VCU. It could go either way.
Doric Sam: No. 12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
No real analysis here. I picked SFA to upset Georgetown, which would set up a game against Duke in the Sweet 16. Like most people, I hate Duke (and Christian Laettner, of course), so I’d love to see the Blue Devils get upset. The Lumberjacks would be riding high off such a huge win and use that momentum to be victorious in the Elite 8.
Sam Perkins: No. 9 LSU Tigers
The Tigers are interesting to me because they both rebound and share the ball. The Tigers’ frontcourt of Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey is no joke… NO JOKE – athletic, tough, physical, and relentless on the glass, a good recipe for March Madness success.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs: No. 8 Oregon Ducks
The Ducks have only three losses since late January, two of them coming against Arizona, a team in their region. It will be a tall task for Oregon to take a win-streak deep into March but senior Joseph Young’s performance of late has been enough to turn me into a believer.
Will Kentucky be stopped?
Ari Kramer: I just don’t see that happening, and if you’re going to call me lame, I’ll retort that anyone picking against Kentucky is doing that to be different. There’s no other reason. Sure, West Virginia could frustrate the Wildcats on the glass and with pressure defense. Kansas is a different team than the one Kentucky throttled by 32 points — 32 points! — in November. Arizona’s physical enough and Wisconsin’s versatile enough, and Duke could beat Kentucky in a shootout. At the end of the day, though, the Wildcats have overcome every ounce of adversity. They really look like a team that will go undefeated.
Martin Kessler: Kentucky will reach the Final Four. They’re too big and too deep to be stopped by anyone in the Midwest. But…in the Final Four, the Wildcats could face a huge test in Arizona (more on that below). If they make it to the championship, though, I like Kentucky over Villanova, Virginia, Duke or anyone else from that half of the bracket.
Doric Sam: I am a strong advocate for kids staying in school to develop their games rather than coming out after their freshman year, so I admire someone like Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin. Granted, Kaminsky wasn’t as good as these current diaper-dandies, so staying in college was more of a necessity for him, but I digress. I predict his experience will be able to carry the Badgers over the youthful Wildcats
Sam Perkins: In theory, sure. Walk-on Sam Malone’s headband could snap on the sidelines and knock out the entire starting five… but, honestly, this team is a machine made up of NBA players just biding time before going on to the League. They’re super athletic, deep, far more talented than anyone else in the field and huge.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs: No. That is all.
Matchup you would love to see
Ari Kramer: No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 2 Arizona Wildcats
I think Arizona has the best chance to beat Kentucky, and if John Calipari’s bunch is going to go undefeated, I hope they don’t get to feast on a surprise Final Four team like No. 5 Arkansas. The Wildcats from the desert have the size to compete with Kentucky’s — the 6-foot-1 T.J. McConnell is the only starter shorter than 6-foot-6. Their defense — the third-most efficient in the country, behind Virginia’s and Kentucky’s — is predicated on keeping teams away from the rim, and only 24.5 percent of their opponents’ field-goal attempts are at the tin (No. 9 nationally). So basically I think Arizona has a shot. I’d love to see Kentucky face its stiffest challenge to a perfect season.
Martin Kessler: No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 2 Arizona Wildcats
I think Arizona has a decent chance against Kentucky. Sure, the Pac-12 wasn’t very strong this year, but Arizona took care of business, finishing a dominant 16-2. More importantly, the team is big and athletic: four (four!) of Arizona’s starters are at least 6-foot-7 (6-foot-7!). If anyone can top Kentucky, it’s Zona.
Doric Sam: No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers
I would’ve preferred they be on opposite sides of the bracket so this could be the national championship game, but seeing it in the Final Four will have to do. As I stated above, it would be a matchup of youth vs. experience, and it’s always interesting to see which wins out.
Sam Perkins: No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 2 Arizona Wildcats
Both of these teams are HUGE, Kentucky starts five players 6-foot-6 or above (including 6-foot-11 and 7-foot in the middle), and Arizona counters with four players 6-foot-7 or over including their own 7-footers. These teams are both deep, super athletic and physical, and it could be one highlight after the next.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs: No. 13 Harvard vs. No. 14 Northeastern
Because how awesome would that be for a Cambridge-native reporter who covers the Huskies?