One could argue that this has been the most unpredictable tournament in NCAA history. A fifteen seed, Florida Gulf Coast, made it to the sweet sixteen, numerous double digit seeds won in the first round, and three #1 seeds have been sent packing.
Yet, with the regional finals starting today, plenty of the game’s heavyweights remain. It begins with the final curtain call for the Big East Conference. Fittingly, it will take place in a Big East town, Washington, D.C. The first person that comes to mind in that storied conference’s history is Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim. His famous 2-3 zone defense ended Indiana’s sensational season on Thursday night, and now must beat rival Marquette to get back to the Final Four. The Golden Eagles might be the most battle tested team in the tournament, having beaten Davidson and Butler with miraculous comebacks, and ending Miami’s best season in school history. I am expecting a game that goes right down to the wire, but ends with THE ORANGE CUTTING DOWN THE NETS TONIGHT.
Gregg Marshall is still very well respected in this part of the country. He put Winthrop basketball on the map, and passed up opportunities to take over big programs in the area. Instead, he ultimately left the Eagles for Wichita State, and now he has the Shockers a win away from the biggest moment in the school’s history. But in order to win, they must knock off the most clutch team in college basketball.
Ohio State has hits two buzzer beaters in order to get to this point. Star guard, Aaron Craft, did it to Iowa State last weekend, and LaQuinton Ross hit the last second shot Thursday night against Arizona. THE BUCKEYES HAVE A HUGE ADVANTAGE over the Shockers, in that they have been here before. Last year’s team made it to the Final Four, and I expect a repeat performance tonight in Los Angeles.
The Florida Gators have beaten Northwestern State, Minnesota, and Florida Gulf Coast (three double digit seeds) to get to the Regional Finals. It is not even up for debate, that’s the easiest road to the Elite 8 any team has ever had. Billy Donovan and his team have had another phenomenal year. But not only have they had a cake walk in the tournament, they didn’t face tough opposition in the SEC either. That is why I favor Michigan tomorrow. The Wolverines played in the best conference in America and they are coming off the most amazing win in the tournament. They trailed Kansas by eight points with just over a minute remaining. Before the nations best player, Trey Burke, led a comeback for the ages. I think that performance will carry over, and MICHIGAN WILL RETURN TO THE FINAL FOUR for the first time in twenty years.
The last time Mike Krzyzewski ad Rick Pitino met in a regional final was 21 years ago in Philadelphia. Many feel it was the greatest game in college basketball history, having culminated with the sport’s most famous shot (Laettner).
Coach K has won three more titles since, while Pitino has won one, and switched rival bluegrass programs, turning in his big blue for Cardinal red.
And while the Cardinals are my pick to win it all, Duke’s toughness throughout this tournament is making me start to question my prediction. They have combined brilliant shooting from Seth Curry with tough, gritty defense.
But Louisville is a much bigger challenge than Michigan State or Creighton. This is an excellent shooting team, with the best backcourt in the country (Siva and Smith). Ryan Kelly must find his stroke for the Devils to survive. Kentucky got its revenge against Duke in 1998, but Tubby Smith was their coach. PITINO WILL FINALLY GET HIS TOMORROW NIGHT.