Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Sports Kid's NCAA Tournament Guide

NCAA selection Sunday is in two weeks. That's the day when the NCAA selection committee decides who will be in the tourney, and who will be staying home. Although the field of teams have not yet been announced, here is my list of Top-5 championship-contenders in order of their chances of bringing home the storied title:

5. #2 Wichita State Shockers 30-0 

I had to include this season's only undefeated team on my list. Sure they play in a weak Missouri Valley Conference, but they also have another one of the nation's best teams in the form of Evansville [OK maybe that's not true but I do wish it was.] Anyway, although they've only beaten one ranked-team all year [St. Louis,] the Shockers could be a dark-horse. Under veteran coach Gregg Marshal the Shockers shocked the world last year, making the final four as a #9 seed and giving eventual-champion Louisville a run for it's money. Part of Wichita State's success is that while all the big-name schools have seen players come and go after just 1-2 years, the Shockers are made up of mostly Seniors and Juniors. In other words, they have great chemistry. It will be difficult to win against powerhouse schools since they are so used to playing [and winning against] mediocre ones, however don't be too quick to rule out another final four run. 

Prediction: Lose in Sweet 16

4. #5 Kansas Jayhawks 22-6 

I just could't do it. My preseason pick to win the title, I just couldn't leave Kansas off my list. Although it was a down regular season by Kansas' standards, they possess two players [Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins] who, if they catch fire, there is no stopping them. I foresee one of Kansas' two studs going a at least a semi-hot streak in the tournament and leading Kansas AT LEAST back to the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year, and if Wiggins is hitting shot, and Embiid is manning the post like we know he can, then I would not be surprised at all to see coach Bill Self cutting the net in April. 

Prediction: Lose in Elite 8

3. #1 Florida Gators 26-2 

The Gators are back from an improbable Elite 8 run last year, the Gators appear poised for another deep playoff run. They're undefeated in conference play this year at 15-0, and they also swept rival Kentucky in the season-series. Many are hailing Florida the best team in the country, and while I don't quite buy ALL that, they are definitely one of the top contenders. 

Prediction: Lose in Final Four 

2. #18 Michigan State Spartans 22-6

Perhaps the most experienced and best overall team in the tournament, the Spartans are led by [in my opinion] the best coach in College Basketball in Tom Izzo. Michigan State showed flashes of greatness in the regular season, but those flashes came mostly when the team was fully-healthy, and it was not very often that they were fully-healthy. If they did have everyone at full-strength I believe they would win the National Championship with the guidance of Izzo and solid play of Adrien Payne and Gary Harris, however, it is unlikely that they are fully-healthy.

Prediction: Lose in Championship Game 

1. #4 Syracuse Orange 26-2 

The Orange began the season undefeated, and stayed that way a while before finally losing to Maryland. They have one of the best coaches in the game in Jim Boehim, the best player in the game in  Freshman Tyler Ennis, and a more-than-worthy sidekick for Ennis in Forwad C.J. Fair. I think that the Orange will be the ones cutting the net when it's all said and done come April.

Prediction: Win National Championship 

Well that's the list, but there are other powerhouses who could make a serious run at the title [Kentucky, Arizona, Duke, Louisville] and as always there are dark-horses [New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio State, Iowa State, Virginia.] 

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