Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NCAA TOURNEY PREDICTIONS: OHIO STATE MAKES IT TO ATLANTA

March Madness is here, and my picks are in ... enjoy!

Note: I know this is strictly a football blog, but it's un-American not to fill out a bracket!

MIDWEST
Round of 64
1. Louisville over 16 NC A&T
9. Missouri over 8. Colorado State
5. Oklahoma State over 12. Oregon
4. St. Louis over 13. New Mexico State
6. Memphis over 11. Middle Tennessee
3. Michigan State over 14. Valparaiso
10. Cincinnati over 7. Creighton
2. Duke over 15 Albany

Round of 32
1. Louisville over 9. Missouri
5. Oklahoma State over 4. St. Louis
3. Michigan State over 6. Memphis
2. Duke over 10 Cincinnati

Sweet 16
1. Louisville over 5. Oklahoma State
3. Michigan State over 2. Duke

Regional Final
1. Louisville over 3. Michigan State
— I absolutely hate picking against Tom Izzo come tournament time, but his Spartans just won't match up well against the Cardinals' backcourt duo of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. 

Spartans' big man Adreian Payne should be able to hold his own against Louisville's 7-foot center Gorgui Dieng, but not enough to counter the backcourt mismatch presented by the Cardinals.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino heads back to the Final Four for the seventh time in his career.

WEST
Round of 64
1. Gonzaga over 16. Southern
8. Pittsburgh over 9. Wichita State
5. Wisconsin over 12. Ole Miss
4. Kansas State over 13 La Salle
6. Arizona over 11. Belmont
3. New Mexico over 14 Harvard
7. Notre Dame over 10 Iowa State
2. Ohio State over 15. Iona

Round of 32
1. Gonzaga over 8. Pittsburgh
5. Wisconsin over 4. Kansas State
6. Arizona over 3. New Mexico
2. Ohio State over 7. Notre Dame

Sweet 16
5. Wisconsin over 1. Gonzaga
2. Ohio State over 6. Arizona

Regional Final
2. Ohio State over 5. Wisconsin
— The Buckeyes, under head coach Thad Matta, always seem to get hot during March and their impressive run through the Big Ten tournament will be enough momentum to power them all the way to the Final Four.

The Buckeyes also benefit from being placed in the weakest region in this year's tournament. That should successfully camouflage their poor shooting until they reach Atlanta.

SOUTH
Round of 64
1. Kansas over 16. Western Kentucky
8. North Carolina over 9. Villanova
5. Va. Commonwealth over 12 Akron
4. Michigan over 13. South Dakota State
11. Minnesota over 6. UCLA
3. Florida over 14. NW State
7. San Diego State over 10. Oklahoma
2. Georgetown over 15. Florida Gulf Coast

Round of 32
1. Kansas over 8. UNC
4. Michigan over 5. VCU
3. Florida over 11. Minnesota
2. Georgetown over 7. San Diego State

Sweet 16
1. Kansas over 4. Michigan
3. Florida over 2. Georgetown

Regional Final
3. Florida over 1. Kansas
— I know Florida has struggled a bit down the stretch after winning 18 of their first 20 games this season. Injuries have been an issue for the Gators for much of the latter part of the season, and now that they are back to good health, they should be able to put their resources to good use.

The Billy Donovan-led Gators are one of the best teams in the nation defensively, and that's essential when playing in the NCAA tournament. The SEC regular season champs — and conference tournament runners-up — will regain the power they had in November, December and January to make a deep run in March.

EAST
Round of 64
1. Indiana over 16. James Madison
8. NC State over 9. Temple
5. UNLV over 12 California
4. Syracuse over 13 Montana
6. Butler over 11 Bucknell
3. Marquette over 14 Davidson
7. Illinois over 10 Colorado
2. Miami (Fla.) over 15 Pacific

Round of 32
1. Indiana over 8. NC State
4. Syracuse over 5. UNLV
6. Butler over 3. Marquette
2. Miami (Fla.) over 7. Illinois

Sweet 16
1. Indiana over 4. Syracuse
2. Miami (Fla.) over 6. Butler

Regional Final
1. Indiana over 2. Miami (Fla.)

FINAL FOUR
1. Louisville (Midwest) over 2. Ohio State (West)
— As previously stated, the Buckeyes' shooting has been less than stellar for much of the season, and have gotten to where they are with great defense and opportunistic offensive play. 

But that combination will not be enough to get to the Monday night showdown, as the Cardinals are able to find scoring from ALL five players on the court, while the Buckeyes live and die with the shooting of Deshaun Thomas. At this stage, one player can't carry a team to victory.

1. Indiana (East) over 3. Florida (South)
— Sure, the Hoosiers lost half of their final six games of the season, but when I look out on the floor and see the likes of 7-foot forward Cody Zeller (16.9 ppg., 8.2 rpg.) and 6-foot-5 guard Victor Oladipo (13.6 ppg., 6.4 rpg.) in Indiana red, I don't see a better one-two punch in America.

While I stated (previously with Ohio State) that a team can't win a title with just one man, you can, however, win with two.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Indiana over 1. Louisville
— What a dream match-up. Two historically basketball-crazed schools — and states — located just two hours from one another, playing for the NCAA title. Wow!

Now, it's hard for me to pick a Tom Crean team over the likes of Rick Pitino, but when the former has Zeller and Oladipo getting his back, the decision to select the Hoosiers becomes far less difficult.

In the tournament, talent rises to the top ... and there's no team in America who can match Indiana's dynamic (future NBA Draft lottery) duo.

The Hoosiers win their sixth national title, and first since 1987 — when the "General" Bob Knight was roaming the Indiana sideline, and Keith Smart was hitting game-winning jumpers in New Orleans.