By Mark F. Gray
After a regular season with more number one teams than President Obama has critics we can now let the real madness begin. The NCAA Men’s Tournament, the premiere sports event in the country is now upon us. This is as wide open a tournament as there has been in years so it’s a year where you should play multiple brackets in the office pool, although we know nobody would ever do that on company time.
However, in the SportsGroove Universe, our motto is “one person one bracket”. We don’t subscribe to the theory of this is my “favorites bracket” or my “hunch bracket”, or better yet my “upset bracket”. We hang our credibility on just one bracket. Good or bad the crack staff steps up and hangs its hat on just one sheet. As March Madness tips off here’s the ‘Groove Theory on how this year’s tournament plays out.
Kansas is the top overall seed in the nation and they were the most dominant team in the best conference this year. Point guard Sherron Collins is this year’s Ty Lawson and the Jayhawks can get a basket at any time from all over the floor. However, they won’t cruise to the Final Four because their region has land mines like Ohio St., Michigan State, Oklahoma St., Maryland, and Georgetown to navigate through. Unfortunately for DMV fans Kansas will get revenge for 2002 beat and the Terps in the Sweet 16 and the Hoyas in the Elite 8 to make the Final Four.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has taken two trips to the Final Four which have been vacated at UMass and Memphis. The Wildcats are by far the most talented team in the region and their freshman class led by guard John Wall is the best first year quartet since Michigan’s “Fab Five“. However, Kentucky has to deal with experienced veteran teams in this region such as West Virginia, Marquette, Wisconsin, and Temple. Al McGuire once said, “The best thing about a freshman is that he becomes a sophomore” and the inconsistency of UK this year can be attributed to their youth. But talent does rule and expect Kentucky to finish in Syracuse as the beast of the east.
Despite their disappointing finish to the regular season Syracuse was the most consistent team in the nation’s second toughest conference this year. To navigate the gauntlet at such a high level for an entire season has to count for something. The Orangemen are solid on the perimeter and inside though down a man due to injury. The road is not easy though with Gonzaga, Butler, and Pittsburgh potentially standing in their way. In the first of two all-Big East Regional Finals look for Syracuse to edge Pitt to punch their ticket to Indianapolis.
Duke seemingly has the least challenging road to the Final Four out of this region. However, the best laid plans of the selection committee will crash and burn when the Blue Devils are eliminated in the second round by a tough Louisville team who has been seasoned by the brutality of the Big East. This is the upset Cinderella region where Richmond makes it to the Sweet 16 and Notre Dame makes up for their dip during the regular season with a run to the Elite 8. The Fighting Irish and the Cardinals will meet in Houston for a chance to play in the Final Four. When the dust settles its Louisville who earns a trip to the Final Four.
KANSAS vs. SYRACUSE – It should be the national championship game but the Jayhawks overall depth and the play of Collins in the backcourt to solve the Orangemen’s zone is too much as Kansas wins to make the title game.
KENTUCKY vs. LOUISVILLE – A bizarre season ends with a bluegrass blood feud. Two coaches with checkered off season’s will meet in Indianapolis to play for the national title. The Cards were toughened by the Big East schedule but down the stretch the Wildcats freshman tandem of Wall and DeMarcus Cousins is too much.
KANSAS vs. KENTUCKY – Depth is equal on both sides with each team able to score inside and out. However, the experience of Collins and Cole Aldrich give the Jayhawks an edge having won the title two years ago. This will validate Bill Self one of the legendary coaches of this era when Kansas wins the national championship.