Kentucky Wildcats

Fan-I Bracketology: East Region

March Madness is finally here! 

As the regions were announced, one can not help but to realize how wide open the tournament is. This is not say that a 16th seed has the chance to go to the Final Four, but the top seeds are not locks. Creating the perfect bracket will be harder than ever. 

At first glance the East region look like it would be the toughest but after breaking it down, it seem like North Carolina could be the only #1 seed to make it to the Final Four. 

The Tar Heels are coming into the tournament champions of the ACC regular season and tournament. For coach Roy Williams, this is his 25th trip to NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels have a very deep squad with a stellar guard in Marcus Paige. Paige has been one of the top point guards in college basketball but this season he has relied on his supporting cast to help elevate the Tar Heels to their first #1 seed since 2012. Brice Johnson leads the Tar Heels in points and rebounds and will likely lead them to a Final Four trip. The rest of the cast includes shooter Joell Berry II, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks. The Tar Heels are a for sure favorite to win it all. 

Xavier is coming into the tournament off one the best seasons in the program’s history. For head coach, Chris Mack, he is making his 6th trip to the big dance since taking over as Musketeers coach in 2009. If it wasn’t for their loss to Seton Hall in Big East tournament, Xavier would be a #1 seed in one of the four regions. They have 7 players returning from last years team that made it to the Sweet 16, 3 of which were starters. The Musketeers are a balanced team and have solid guard play, which can compete with any team in the country. It will be interesting to see they can take the program to the next level, never advancing past the Elite 8. 

Kentucky drops to the #4 seed after they entered the tournament last year 34-0 and the #1 overall seed. They also lost 7 players to the NBA from that team. This season Calipari has relied on a new set of “Young Cats” led by Jamal Murray, who is averaging 20 points per contest. The Wildcats haven’t proved to be a dominant team or a solidified Final Four contender but they did win the SEC for the 4th time since 2010. Coach Calipari has once again criticized the selection committee for putting his squad in a tough for a another season, which I find amusing being that he brings in the top recruiting class every season. Oddly enough, I actually agree with Coach Cal. The selection committee didn't do a great job with their seeding process, placing Texas A&M as a #3 seed less than an hour after they loss to Kentucky in the SEC championship. The selection process is rarely consistent but this season it was most obvious. 

West Virginia is bringing their frantic full court press back to the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers reached the Elite 8 last season but suffered a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky. West Virginia will rely on big man in the middle, Devin Williams, who is coming off of a 31 points and 10 rebounds performance in the Big 12 championship. For the Mountaineers to really jump to the Final Four they will need their guards and depth to step up. 

  • Everyone is a fan of Indiana but I think they will disappoint a lot of people. Stay away from picking them to go deep your bracket.
  • The #11 seed will be a tough game for Notre Dame with Michigan and Tulsa playing for the spot. Michigan is walking into the tournament with some momentum from Kameron Chatman buzzer beater against Indiana but will it be enough.

Sleeper

Providence: The Friars started the season off 17-3 in their first 20 games with wins over Arizona, Butler, and Villanova. Kris Dunn, who is potentially the best player in the region, will also give the Friars a fair chance against anyone. 

Players to Watch 

(Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images)

(Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images)

G Kris Dunn, Providence, 16 points, 5 boards, 6 dimes
Dunn decided not to jump for the NBA, coming back for his senior season. The decision turned out to be a good one with his lottery draft stock still in tact. For now, he will look to lead Providence to the promise land. 

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

G Marcus Paige, North Carolina, 12 points, 4 dimes, 2 boards
Paige’s numbers has dropped since his sophomore season but the talent is still there. Paige has been one of the most exciting players in college basketball, and with this being his senior season, expect him to provide a few more memorable moments. 

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

F Devin Williams, West Virginia, 13 points, 9 boards
Williams will have to be the best big man on the floor every night for the Mountaineers to exit out of this tough conference. So far he hasn’t disappointed, with 4 double-digit rebound games in the month of March. 

(Chet White, UK Athletics)

(Chet White, UK Athletics)

G Jamal Murray, Kentucky, 20 points, 5 boards, 45%FG, 42% 3pt
Murray made coach Calipari adjust his dribble-drive offense, in order for Murray to work off of screens and it has made the Canadian one of the best scorers in the SEC. 

Upset to Watch

#12 Chattanooga over #5 Indiana - #12 versus #5 matchups are always a tough one for the team that is supposed to be the favorite. Every season we see a #12 team send a #5 home and this year will be no different. The Mocs defeated Illinois, Georgia, and Dayton early in the season. Indiana has shown vulnerability in their loss to Michigan during the Big Ten Tournament. 

Potential Matchups

  • #4 Kentucky vs #5 Indiana, round of 32 - Last time the Wildcats and Hooisers played it was one of the best game in recent memory. 
  • #3 West Virginia vs #2 Xavier, Sweet 16 - Two teams with very different styles should make for a very interesting matchup. 
  • #1 North Carolina vs. #4 Kentucky, Sweet 16 - Since 2010, both teams have defeated each other twice and have had some memorable games, I would expect this to be the same. 

Fantastic Four 2015

I can't think of one year where I was disappointed with March Madness, and this year was no different. Like always, the first two rounds are very cinematic, but now we are down to the FINAL FOUR teams. It will be an eventful final three games of the 2014-15 College Basketball season. 

#1 Kentucky Wildcats 

Road to the Final Four:

  • 2nd round - #16 Hampton 79-56 
  • 3rd round - #8 Cincinnati 64-51
  • Sweet 16 - #5 West Virginia 78-39
  • Elite 8 - #3 Notre Dame 68-66

The Wildcats are only two games away from completing their pursuit on perfection. For the first time this season, I actually believe that they will do it. The way they ended the Notre Dame game wasn't spectacular, game winning free throws by Andrew Harrison, but the block by Willie Cauley-Stien on the previous possession might have been the biggest play of the tournament. 

All season long people told me that they will finish undefeated and I said I'll believe when it happens, well I think I will have to become a believer. It's not that I don't want them to see complete the pursuit, I just think it is very difficult. The most important thing you need for to go undefeated is defense and the Wildcats are easily the best defensive team in the Final Four round. They got their first dose of a premier offense in Notre Dame, holding them to only 46% shooting. 

Kentucky's experience will also be important. This is Calipari's 4th trip to the Final Four in the last 5 years. The Harrison Twins, Cauley-Stien, and Dakari Johnson will play in their second straight Final Four, obviously looking to get that sour taste UConn left in their mouth. If they can complete this quest for 40-0, I will have to strongly consider if they are indeed the best team ever but as of now, I say no. 


#1 Wisconsin Badgers 

Road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd round - #16 Coastal Carolina 86-72
  • 3rd round - #8 Wisconsin 72-65 
  • Sweet Sixteen - #4 North Carolina 79-82 
  • Elite 8 - #2 Arizona 85-78 

While Kentucky is the best defensive team in the Final Four, Wisconsin is the best offensive team, averaging 80 points in the tournament. Just like the Wildcats, this is the Badgers second straight trip to the Final Four, with Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Traeveon Jackson, and Josh Gasser all returning from that Final Four team. 

Sam Dekker went bonkers against Arizona in the Elite 8, scoring 27 points, 20 of them coming in the second half. During the tournament he is averaging 21 points a game while shooting 60% from the field. He is a matchup problem for anyone, and I'm not really sure how Kentucky is going to stop him. (AP Photo) 

Sam Dekker went bonkers against Arizona in the Elite 8, scoring 27 points, 20 of them coming in the second half. During the tournament he is averaging 21 points a game while shooting 60% from the field. He is a matchup problem for anyone, and I'm not really sure how Kentucky is going to stop him. (AP Photo) 

Last year, I think the Badgers were underdogs in the Final Four round, and even though they are going up against the overall favorite, I don't think we can consider them underdogs. They have the experience, the possible Player of the Year in Kaminsky, and to me, one of the best players in the country, Sam Dekker. 

Last year the Badgers lost to UK thanks to Aaron Harrison game winning trey ball, which I'm sure they have not forgot about. Zach Aguste of Notre Dame scored 20 points against the Wildcats' BIGS which should give Kaminsky great confidence going into this game. Kaminsky best attribute for this game is that he can always bring one of those trees outside of the paint because he can shoot the ball. Stretching the floor is a must against UK, along with shooting the rock effectively. 

Against Arizona in the Elite 8, the Badgers were 12-18 from the three point line. I'm not sure if they will be able to match that again vs. Kentucky, but it's not impossible. 


#1 Duke Blue Devils 

Road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd round - #16 Robert Morris 85-56 
  • 3rd round - #8 San Diego State 68-49
  • Sweet 16 - #5 Utah 63-57
  • Elite 8 - #2 Gonzaga 66-52 

The Blue Devils are probably the quietest team in the Final Four and what I mean by quiet is that not much have been said about them, mainly because they did everything they were supposed to do. No one really gave the Blue Devils a scare, except for maybe Utah, but I never got the feeling they were going to lose the game. 

Justice Winslow in his hometown of Houston led the Blue Devils to another Final Four appearance, Coach K's 12th. While Tyus and Jahlil are the two household freshmen, sometime people forget how talented of a freshman Justice. (Getty Images) 

Justice Winslow in his hometown of Houston led the Blue Devils to another Final Four appearance, Coach K's 12th. While Tyus and Jahlil are the two household freshmen, sometime people forget how talented of a freshman Justice. (Getty Images) 

I actually think the Blue Devils could beat the Wildcats becuase they have the big man in the middle Jahlil Okafor. Jahalil dropped 21 and 26 in the first two games of the tournament but has only scored a combined 15 points in the last two games. Along with Kaminsky, I think Okafor can handle the four trees UK has in the paint because he has a post game. For some reason people want to say Karl Anthony Towns is the better player, but I don't see it and I like Towns. When it comes to footwork and fundamentals, Okafor is by far the better player. Towns has him beat on the defensive end, but I don't see him stopping Okafor when it matters. It will be fun to watch though, if it happens. 

Coach K will have his hands full preparing his team for Michigan State but it shouldn't be too hard. I thought this was one of the better Gonzaga teams they had in recent memory and Duke held them to 52 points and 44% shooting, both tournament lows for the Zags. If its a team that could match the Wildcats on talent, Duke is the one. Tyus Jones and Quin Cook are one of the best backcourts in the country and probably second to only the Harrison Twins. One thing they can't do is sleep on Michigan State. 


#7 Michigan State Spartans 

Road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd round - #10 Georgia 70-63
  • 3rd round - #2 Virginia 60-54 
  • Sweet 16 - #3 Oklahoma 72-66 
  • Elite 8 - #4 Louisville 76-70 OT

The Spartans remind me of how UConn went through the tournament last year. Came into the tournament with low expectations from the outside world, defeated 3 higher seeds in the three straight games, and was the 7th seed. The more they won, the more people started to realize that it's not impossible for them to be in the Final Four, similar to UConn last year. Obviously they are the underdogs but they're not your typical underdog, mainly because of Tom Izzo 

Tom Izzo always makes his mark in the month of March. In 20 seasons at Michigan State, Izzo has reached the Sweet 16 thirteen times out of 18 tournament appearances. (AP/Post-Standard, Kevin Rivoli)

Tom Izzo always makes his mark in the month of March. In 20 seasons at Michigan State, Izzo has reached the Sweet 16 thirteen times out of 18 tournament appearances. (AP/Post-Standard, Kevin Rivoli)

This will be Tom Izzo's 7th trip to the Final Four since he became head coach at Michigan State back in 1995. I don't care what seed his team is, no matter what, Izzo will make sure his team is built and ready for the tournament. I don't like how people try to hop his wagon now that his team is in the Final Four because if you been paying attention, you would know this is nothing new. I said in our bracketology article, that the Spartans are sleepers but with Izzo coaching, don't count them out. Why? Because we go through this every year. 

Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, and Branden Dawson has become a very effective Big 3 this tournament, averaging a combined 44 points a game. Guard play is what wins in the tournament and these three guards together make it tough for any team. The one thing that I admire about this Spartan team is that they have made every team play their style of basketball, which is very physical. None of their games have been pretty nor an up and down battle. It will be interesting to see how they manage, being the smallest team in the Final Four, but it hasn't been an issue for them yet. 

Elite 8 Preview: Midwest region

What I thought was a tough draw for the undefeated Wildcats, has been nothing but a cake walk for them. The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 221-146 in their first three games, while their opponents are shooting 28% from the field. Nothing but domination from the Wildcats in the first three rounds but now they will face the best offensive team they've seen all year; Notre Dame. 

John Calipari told his team to be the aggressors in order to beat the press and that's what they did. In the first half. the Harrison Twins combined for 20 points in the first half, 2 more points than the entire West Virginia team. (AP Photo)

John Calipari told his team to be the aggressors in order to beat the press and that's what they did. In the first half. the Harrison Twins combined for 20 points in the first half, 2 more points than the entire West Virginia team. (AP Photo)

Notre Dame's run to the Elite 8 wasn't as dominant as Kentucky's but it was impressive. After overcoming a tough round of 64 and 32, they gave the Wichita State Shockers their 5th loss of the season, 81-70. Four starters scored in double figures for the Irish, surprisingly enough, Jerian Grant was the only one who scored less than 10 points but he did dished out 11 dimes. The Irish haven't shot less than 45% so far this tournament, proving why they are one of the best offensive teams in the country. 

Of course the Wildcats are the favorites in this game, and rightfully so. Between the 36-0 record and the double digit victories, it look like they will walk into the Final Four for the second straight season. Cincy found a chink in the armor on the rebounding aspect, which help them stay in the game. Notre Dame is ranked 252nd in the country in rebounding, averaging only 33 a game. This will surely go into the Wildcats favor because they have 4 trees that control the paint. 

Notre Dame will have to do what Cincy did and hit the boards hard, even the guards. I don't think the Wildcats will stop the Irish from scoring and hitting the trey ball, which they did well against Wichita State, knocking down 47% of there threes. The Irish will have to make this an end up and down to keep those trees out of the paint, but play some exceptional transition defense too because UK can play that style too. Demetrius Jackson could be the most important player in the game which his dribbling and ability to run the fast break. If he can score like he did against the Shockers, going 4-5 from behind the arc, the Irish will be in good shape.

Demtrius Jackson became the third different player this tournament to lead the team in scoring. I'm not sure if that is a record but it is an impressive team stat. (AP Photo) 

Demtrius Jackson became the third different player this tournament to lead the team in scoring. I'm not sure if that is a record but it is an impressive team stat. (AP Photo) 

It is in the Irish favor that the Wildcats have not seen an offensive team of their caliber. I don't know anyone that would question how good UK is defensively, but I'm curious to see how they will try to stop the Irish. The Wildcats also have't seen a player like Jerrian Grant none this season and I'm curious to see how they will stop him. I'm not sure if they have anyone that could contain him, so I expect them to do it as a team. Also Pat Connaughton, who I think is one of the most underrated players is the country, is due for another big game, dropping a double-double (16 points & 10 boards) against the Shockers. 

The Wildcats depth and length will be the deciding factor. Having those trees down there has been heaven on earth for coach Calipari, and they know how to stay out of foul trouble. Even if one did get in foul trouble, like Karl Anthony Towns did against WVU, Calipari still has another one to rely on, like Dakari Johnson who contributed 24 quality minutes with 12 points, 2 blocks, and 6 boards. The Irish don't have one player taller than 6'11, while the Wildcats have three. Zach Auguste will have his hands full trying to maintain a presence in the paint. Also the Irish don't have 10 players they could out there, running only 7 players. 

If I had to pick a winner in this one, it would be Kentucky just because of the length and depth, but I'm not 100% confidence on that pick. i think the Irish could beat the Wildcats because of their ability to score but they will need to win the rebound the battle. 

Sweet 16 Preview

After a great first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, we are now heading into the nitty gritty of the Big Dance. Before I get into my preview of what should be an entertaining Sweet 16, I want to recap some of my predictions from the earlier rounds. I did miss on a couple, like predicting the Hoyas to exit in the 1st round, but I was right about a few too. I said the BIG 12 was overrated, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Baylor all losing in the first two rounds. I said the ACC was the best conference, 5 teams in the Sweet 16, most out of any conference. And I said that Nova had a tough matchup with NC-State, who is the only 8th seed in the Sweet 16. 

Midwest: #1 Kentucky v. #5 West Virginia, #3 Notre Dame v. #7 Wichita State 

Kentucky is only 4 games away from the record books but from here on out it's not going to be easy. Cincinnati gave them a tough challenge but they manage to still win by 15 even though they were out rebounded 43-35. Cincy couldn't hit their shots reason why they lost by 15 but they did irritate the Wildcats. I think the Mountaineers can do the same thing but they also might struggle to score against this great defensive team. The full court press of the mountaineers will keep them in the game but the size disadvantage in the paint will be the deciding factor for the Wildcats. Towns and Cauley-Stein could have a monster game against the undersized front court of the Mountaineers. If WVU can keep this game in the backcourt, along with knocking down 45% of their shots, they'll have a chance of shocking the world. 

The Battle of Kansas was won by the Shockers. not only is this a big win for the program but a big win for recruiting. (AP Photo) 

The Battle of Kansas was won by the Shockers. not only is this a big win for the program but a big win for recruiting. (AP Photo) 

Notre Dame defeated Northeastern and Butler by a combined 7 points, so their road has yet to be easy. Luckily for the Irish they are Tournament ready. They have their closer in Jerrian Grant and a great supporting cast. In both games, someone other than Jerrian Grant led the team in scoring. Zach Auguste scored 22 points against Northeastern and Steve Vasturia scored 20 points scored Butler. Wichita State will be another tough challenge for the Irish, mainly because of their experience. Not shocked at all that the Shockers beat Kansas because like I been saying all season, they were overrated. This is a tough game to pick because both sqauds are very even. I will give the edge to the Irish just because they have a POY candidate in Jerrian Grant, but I think it will be a instant classic. 

West: #1 Wisconsin v. #4 UNC, #6 Xavier v. #2 Arizona 

The Badgers had somewhat of a scare against Oregon, which I wasn't surprised by. Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker combined for 33 points while Joseph Young of Oregon dropped 30. The Badgers look like they are ready for another run to the Final Four and I'm sure they still remember how Kentucky ended their championship hopes. North Carolina could be a tough matchup depending on which Carolina team show up. Carolina is a very talented team but sometimes doesn't play up to their potential. If Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson can get into an early groove, I think they will be able to beat the Badgers. J.P. Tokoto will be the x-factor in this game, and to me, for the entire tournament. 

The funny thing about this region is that it could possibly be an Elite 8 rematch between Arizona and Wisconsin. Wisconsin defeated Zona in the West region Elite 8. TJ McConnell, Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Rondae Hollis-Jeffereson all return from that 2013-14 Zona squad so I'm sure they are hoping for another crack at the Badgers. First they will have to go through Xavier who hasn't seen a caliber team like Arizona yet. I don't think the Musketeers has what it take to knock off the hungry Wildcats. 

East: #8 NC-State v. #4 Louisville, #3 Oklahoma v. #7 Michigan State 

I don't think anyone got this part of the bracket right. The only region without a #1 or #2 seed in the Sweet 16. I said along with the Midwest, this is the toughest region. The Wolfpack continue their Cinderella run, defeating LSU with a buzzer beater after being down 14 at halftime, then defeated the #1 seeded Villanova WIldcats by three. Next they have Lousiville who they already beat earlier this season, 74-65, while the Cards still had Chris Jones. I'm not really sure if they can knock off the cards again but it's not impossible. Louisville has had moments through out the season where, like Carolina, they don't play to their potential. It hasn't happened in the tournament so far but if it does, the Wolfpack could possible take another win from them. I do think the Cards will actually play well, especially Montrezl Harrell who only scored 7 points in that first matchup. 

Surprised that Oklahoma actually made it this far. I thought the committee was a little too generous with their #3 seed but they are making the committee look right about that decision. Now they have to deal with a totally different beast than #14 Albany and #11 Dayton with the Michigan State Spartans. Three things are for certain in this world, Death, Taxes, and Tom Izzo in the tournament. You can never count out a Michigan State team whenever Tom Izzo is on the sideline. I like the Spartans in this match-up just because I think the Big 12 is overrated and Tom Izzo is on the sideline. 

South#1 Duke v. #5 Utah, #11 UCLA vs #2 Gonzaga 

I said this region would have the most upsets and I was wrong on that prediction, only 1 major upset UAB over Iowa State. I do still think it is the weakest especially when you look at who the two top teams have to play to advance to the elite 8. Duke has Utah, who isn't a bad team, and could possibly give Duke a good run but I don't think they have enough to keep up with the Dukies. Delon Wright is a big guard who score some points but so far in the tournament he is 4-14. The Utes also have a freshman 7'0 center in Jakob Poeltl from Australia, so they could match the size in the paint but I don't if they can match the production, and who is going to stop Tyus Jones. 

I said that this may be the best Gonzaga team in awhile and they're proving me right, scoring 173 points in the first two games, most out of all remaining teams. UCLA is proving to everyone that they do in fact belong in the tournament but that will end when they step on the court against Gonzaga. 

Fan-I Bracketology: Midwest Region

It's finally that time of year again, the best time of the year in my opinion. After two weeks of some great conference tournaments, all 68 teams have been selected for the NCAA Tournament. Similar to last year, the Midwest region is the toughest of the four, also the #1 seed in this region walks in with 0 losses. 

(courtesy of ESPN.com)

(courtesy of ESPN.com)

I am very surprised that the NCAA Selection committee gave the Wildcats the toughest draw out of all of the #1 seeds, but for the sake of entertainment, I am happy that they did this. My guess is that, the committee thought in order to really find out if the Wildcats are the greatest team in college basketball history, put them in the toughest region. Usually the #1 overall seed gets the weakest of the regions but not this year. 

One thing I can say about the Wildcats is they have one of the toughest non-conference schedules. They faced and defeated 7 teams that are in this year NCAA Tournament, two of them being Buffalo and Kansas. Just in case you don't remember, Kentucky defeated the Jayhawks 72-40 in the Champions Classic back in November, which sparked the phenom that is Kentucky. 

Like I said though, this is a tough draw for the Wildcats, who are 6 games away from completing their pursuit on perfection. Purdue, who has two seven footers on their roster, Freshman Issac Haas and junior A.J Hammons give the Boilermakers a chance, matching the Wildcats size in the paint, but can Hammon and Haas match the intensity of Karl Anthony-Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, which I don't think they can. 

In the Sweet 16, Maryland or West Virginia could get an opportunity to end the Wildcats run, unless one of those are shocked in their 2nd round matchups. Maryland will face Valparaiso, who I think they should beat, while the Mountaineers will face Buffalo. Buffalo is the Mid-American Conference champs, entering the tournament 23-9. 6'7 forward, Justin Moss, who averages 18 points and 9 boards with 15 double-doubles this season, could pose a problem for the Mountaineers who struggle to score at times. I think Maryland will get that opportunity to meet the Wildcats in the Sweet 16 but it all depends on how well the Mountaineers can score and how the Terps react to the full court press of the Mountaineers 

In the bottom half of the region, the Kansas Jayhawks look to be the favorite but not for me. Kansas hasn't impressed me too much this season, especially in the final stretch, going 8-5 since February 1st.  People say that the Big 12 is the toughest conference in the country, reason why the committee blessed them with a #2 seed but I disagree with everything about this. For me, the ACC was the best conference this season, and Notre Dame, ACC Champs should have been the recipients of that #2 seed. I like the Irish to come out of this bottom half of the region. I think the Irish are set up perfectly for the tournament with great balance plus they beat Duke twice along with 6 other Tournament teams.

Wichita State is a very tough #7 seed. Their big 3 of Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton all have tournament experience and was apart of that 2012-13 team that made it to the Final Four. It's not to often you see a #7 seed with that kind of experience and only 4 losses. 

Sleepers

  • Buffalo Bulls, 23-9 MAC Champions - The Bulls won't be an easy win for whoever step on the court with them. They have a tournament type of player in Moss, along with Shannon Evans who averages 15 points a game. The Mountaineers will have to score some points in order to advance past the Bulls, who average 75 points a game (28th in the country). 
  • New Mexico State, 23-10 WAC Champions - The Jayhawks are very shaky and I don't trust them in the tournament this year. The Aggies, on the other hand, are on a 13 game win streak and have 4 players that score in double figures. I don't think the Jayhawks can afford to have an inconsistent outing against them. 
  • West Virginia Mountaineers, 23-9 - I think the Mountaineers are a sleeper because people don't think they can score efficiently enough to make a run in the dance. The thing about WVU is they play defense and use a full court press that could really irritate a few teams, and if they do start knocking down shots consistently, watch out. 

Players to Watch 

Potential Matchups 

  • #4 Maryland v. #5 West Virginia, Third Round - It will be fun to watch the guards of the Terps go against the guards of the Mountaineers. 
  • #7 Witchita State v. Kansas, Third Round - Both schools are representing the state of Kansas, which will back heading back home first? 
  • #1 Kentucky v. #4 Maryland, Sweet 16 - A lot of Maryland fans are upset about the Terps being in the same region as the overall number 1 seed but no matter what region you're in, the road to the Final Four is never easy. 
  • #1 Kentucky v. #3 Notre Dame, Elite 8 - If there is a team that could end the Wildcats pursuit, it's the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, who I think cause some matchup problems for Kentucky with their ability to spread the floor and shoot the rock. 

 

College Hoops Fan-i 12: Week 2

Welcome to the 2nd week of the Fan-i 12, where we rank the 12 best college basketball teams in the country. We decided to rank 12 teams because, one, it's a lot more convenient and quicker than 25, and two, this is an indication of who we think will be the top seeds come tourney time. So lets get the ranking.

Here is the AP rankings so you can compare the two. 

(courtesy of NCAA.com)

(courtesy of NCAA.com)

Fan-I 12 

  1. Kentucky (22-0) LW 1 - The Wildcats went through the week 2-0, defeating Georgia and Florida. The Gators gave the Wildcats problems, fighting to the finish, but the Wildcats pulled it out 68-61. 

  2. Virginia (21-1) LW 2 - The Cavaliers went 2-0 last week, defeating Louisville and North Carolina. UVA might have the best defense in the country, similar to last season. Against Louisville, they held the Cardinals scoreless for the final 10 minutes of the first half, Cards only scoring a total 13 points in the half. 

  3. Gonzaga (24-1) LW 3 - Not much competition for the Zags last week, defeating Santa Clara and San Francisco, both of whom are under .500 ball. 

  4. Duke (21-3) LW 4 - Duke finished the week 3-0 defeating Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and Florida State Monday night. Their 30-point victory over Notre Dame was most impressive, redeeming their loss to the Irish January 28th. Justice Winslow and Jahlil Okafor combined for 49 points and 21 rebounds.

  5. Wisconsin (21-2) LW 5 - The Badgers continues to be one of the more consistent teams in the country. They defeated Indiana and Northwestern by large margins. 

  6. Villanova (21-2) LW 6 - Nova finished last week 2-0, defeating Marquette and Georgetown, both at home. Their victory over Georgetown revenged a 20-point loss to Georgetown January 19th. 

  7. Louisville (19-4) LW 8 - The Cards went 1-1 last week, defeating Miami and losing to UVA, both games on the road. Prior to their loss to UVA, Cardinals were on a 4 game win streak. 

  8. Arizona (20-3) LW 7 - In their only game this past week, the Wildcats loss to rival Arizona State on the road for the 2nd straight year. 

  9. Kansas (19-4) LW 10 - The Jayhawks moved ahead of Notre Dame, despite going 1-1 last week, defeating Iowa State and up-setted by Oklahoma State on the road.

  10. Notre Dame (21-4) LW 9 - The Irish went 1-1 last week, defeating Boston College and losing to Duke. The 30-point to Duke loss is one of the worst in school history. 

  11. Northern Iowa (22-2) LW 12 - The Panthers go 2-0 last week, moving up in the rankings due to West Virginia going 0-2. 

  12. Oklahoma (17-7) - The Sooners enters the 12 as one of the hottest teams right now, going 3-0 this past week, defeating two teams in the top 15, Iowa State and West Virginia. 

With West Virginia on a two game losing streak, it opened up a spot for another Big 12 team. Big 12 has 5 teams ranked in the top ten, not including Kansas, creating a log jam for 2nd place in the conference. 

 

Fantastic Four

After two weeks of cinematic like basketball, we are now down to four teams, with 3 games left until that one shinning moment. 

UConn reaches the Final Four after being sanctioned from postseason play a year ago. Life can change in 1 year. ( Al Tielemans/SI)

UConn reaches the Final Four after being sanctioned from postseason play a year ago. Life can change in 1 year. (Al Tielemans/SI)

UConn road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd Round - #10 St. Joseph 89-81 (OT)
  • 3rd round - #2 Villanova 77-65
  • Sweet 16 - #3 Iowa State 81-76 
  • Elite 8 - #4 Michigan State 60-54 

I'm sure 2nd year coach Kevin Ollie doesn't blame Jim Calhoun for him leaving him a sanctioned program. Ollie spent 2 years as an assistant for his former coach & mentor, and I can tell he has Calhoun style down pack. UConn has always had great guards and now we can add Shabazz Naiper to that list. Shabazz and the Huskies defeated the tournament favorites, Michigan State, 60-54, Shabazz leading all scorers with 25, 17 in the second half. Shabazz was apart of the 2010 National Championship, when Kemba put on the best postseason performance we ever seen, so he know first hand what it takes to lead a team to the final four. Shabazz, like Kemba, has a great supporting cast also, with Ryan Boatright, Deandre Daniels, and Niels Giffey. Daniels has been a key player for the Huskies, averaging 16 points in the postseason, also his long 6'9 frame on the defensive end. UConn might not have the most talent in the tournament but I do think they have the best chemistry, like most UConn squads.

Kentucky's road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd Round - #9 Kansas State 56-49 
  • 3rd Round - #1 Wichita State 78-76 
  • Sweet 16 - #4 Louisville 74-69 
  • Elite 8 - #2 Michigan 75-72
Aaron Harrison went 0-4 in the first 32 minutes of the game. For the Final 8 minutes he scored 12 points, going 4-4 from behind the 3-point line, also knocking down the game winning shot with 2.7 seconds left on the clock. (David E. Klutho/SI)

Aaron Harrison went 0-4 in the first 32 minutes of the game. For the Final 8 minutes he scored 12 points, going 4-4 from behind the 3-point line, also knocking down the game winning shot with 2.7 seconds left on the clock. (David E. Klutho/SI)

I have to tip my hat to the young Wildcats of Kentucky. This group did not look as great as they were touted to be entering this season. Against ranked opponents, the Wildcats were 1-6 this year, 3 losses coming against Florida. But something about this tournament has waking these sleeping Cats because they are the last one standing in what everyone claimed to be the toughest region. The talent was always there but now this group with 4 freshman starters finally grew up and at the right time. their last 3 victories were close games that might seem too big of a moment for freshman but coach Calipari had these boys ready. I never been a fan of coach John Calipari but I have to give him his props for what he has done with this team. This will be Calipari's 3rd trip to the Final Four in the past 4 seasons (didn't even make it to the tournament last season). Talent wise, they maybe the best team remaining with the Harrison Twins and James Young on the perimeter, with big bad Julius Randle in the paint, but it is up to Calipari to keep these kids focused, so he can claim his 2nd National Championship in 3 years. 

Wisconsin's road to the Final Four:

  • 2nd Round - #15 American 75-35 
  • 3rd round - #7 Oregon 85 - 77 
  • Sweet 16 - #6 Baylor 69-52 
  • Elite 8 - #1 Arizona 64 - 63 (OT)
The Wisconsin Badgers reaches their first Final Four since 2000, and first since Bo Ryan became coach in 2001. (John W. McDonough/SI)

The Wisconsin Badgers reaches their first Final Four since 2000, and first since Bo Ryan became coach in 2001. (John W. McDonough/SI)

The Badgers are probably the most underrated team in the Final Four. People know that they are good because for one, they are a #2 seed and have 30 wins this season but I don't think anyone has them winning the National Championship. I will let you know that you shouldn't sleep on the Badgers. This is a very good team that is big and versatile. Adam Kaminsky scored 28 points in the overtime win over Arizona in the West Region Finals, causing all types of matchup problems. Kaminsky at 7ft, can spread the floor because of his shooting ability, forcing the opposing team big man to come out on the perimeter. I like this Wisconsin squad because not only can they score but they play defense and have solid guard play with Traevon Jackson and Ben Burst. The Badgers definitley have all the tools you need to win it and they cause matchup problems for all the remaining teams. 

The Gators have looked to be the most dominant team all season but their only 2 losses has came from Wisconsin and UConn.  (Greg Nelson/SI)

The Gators have looked to be the most dominant team all season but their only 2 losses has came from Wisconsin and UConn.  (Greg Nelson/SI)

Florida's road to the Final Four: 

  • 2nd Round - #16 Albany 67-55
  • 3rd Round - #9 Pitt 61-45 
  • Sweet 16 - #4 UCLA 79-68
  • Elite 8 - #11 Dayton 62-52

Florida enters this year's Final Four as the only #1 seed, 3rd time this has happen in the past 4 years. Luckily for the Gators, history is on their side because all three #1 seeds went on to win the championship (Duke '10, UK '12, Louisville '13). I think Florida has the best team from top to bottom, even the best coach. Billy Donovan already has two National Championships under his belt, looking for a third in his 4th trip to the Final Four. I have been asking around, If Billy Donovan win a third title, where does he rank on the all-time list of greatest coaches? A third title should surely put him in the same conversation as Coach K, Bohiem, Pitino, and Izzo. Donovan has done a great job with this squad though. I don't think they are as talented as his Championship teams that included Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford, but they are definitely good. So far, the Gators have been the most dominant team in the tournament, winning by double digits in every game. It will be hard to go against the Gators because everyone that stands in their way is easily swept to the side. NEXT! 

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