Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

My Final Four Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 19, 2009

Clearly picking the NCAA tournament is a very inexact science, but it’s one of my favorite times of the year.  This year things are wide open, but I’m also having a hard time seeing a lot of big time upsets.  Nevertheless, we’ll give it a stab.  As always, picks are to be taken with caution.

East Region:

First Round Surprises: I only see one lower seed winning in the first round here.  I’ve got 11 seed VCU upsetting UCLA.  Virginia Commonwealth upset Duke in the first round two years ago, and they hung tough with Oklahoma in non-conference play during the regular season.  The main reason I am making this pick is I am really not sold on UCLA.  I’ve watched the Bruins play several times this season, and they are maddeningly inconsistent.  Plus, they make the cross-country trip to Philadelphia.  I don’t like those odds for the Bruins.

– Second Round: I do have a big shocker here.  I have 7 seed Texas beating 2 seed Duke to move on to the sweet 16.  I think the Longhorns are way too talented to be a 7 seed.  I know they have really underachieved, but when you’ve got the Big 12’s all-time leading three point shooter in A.J. Abrams, a talented swingman in Damion James, a beast inside in Dexter Pittman, and an array of talented guys off the bench, I think the Longhorns are prized for a surprise run.  I also think Duke is way too dependent on the three, and that’s not a good recipe for tournament success.  I also like Florida State to beat Xavier in a 5-4 second round matchup.  The Seminoles have one of the country’s best players in Toney Douglas.

– Sweet 16 and regionals: While I think Texas will take down Duke, I don’t think they have quite enough for Villanova.  The Wildcats, like many Big East teams, are going to prove their worth in this tournament.  The Big East is clearly the best conference this season and it will show.  On that note, I like top seed Pitt to easily handle Florida State, setting up an all-Big East regional final.  Pitt is a dynamite team with great guard play and a tremendous force inside in DeJuan Blair.  I like Pitt to win a close one in the regional final against Villanova and make the Final Four.

The pick: Pitt

South Region: 

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got two here.  I think Western Kentucky, a 12 seed, will beat the 5 seed Illinois.  For the life of me I can’t see how a mediocre conference like the Big Ten has seven teams in.  Western Kentucky has a nice team with good tournament success in the past, and I like them against an overrated Ilini team that will be without its best player in Chester Frazier.  Frazier says he’ll be ready for round two, but that won’t be necessary.  I also like Michigan, the 10 seed, to beat 7 seed Clemson.  I know what I just said about the Big Ten, but Clemson is such an enigma, sometimes they’re awesome and sometimes they’re beyond awful.  I think their performance will be somewhere in the middle, and I like the Wolverines to handle the Tigers.  

– Second Round: I actually have the top four seeds (North Carolina, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Gonzaga) moving on to the Sweet 16 here.  I just think they’re the best teams in this region.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I like the top seeded Tar Heels to hold off Gonzaga.  Ty Lawson will be healthy by then, and even though the Zags are athletic, they won’t pose much trouble for the star studded Heels.  I also like Syracuse to beat Oklahoma, a mini 3 over 2 upset.  I thought Syracuse showed tremendous character in their awesome 6-OT win over UConn in the Big East tourney, and while Blake Griffin gives OU a chance to win any game, I don’t think he’ll be enough against the Orange.  Besides, Oklahoma couldn’t beat either of the top two teams in their own conference, Kansas or Missouri.  In the regional final, I think North Carolina’s athleticism will be too much for Syracuse and their zone defense.

The pick: North Carolina

Midwest Region:

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got three lower seeds winning here, including my biggest shocker of the entire tournament.  I’ve got 13-seed Cleveland State beating the 4-seed Wake Forest Demon Deacons.  I like the Vikings because they proved to be a better Horizon League team than Butler, who was ranked in the top 20 most of the year.  Cleveland State also beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome during the non-conference portion of the year.  Wake Forest has amazing talent, but the Deacons have just been too inconsistent.  I like the upset.  I also have a couple of smaller upsets here based on seeding: USC over Boston College (10 over 7), and Siena over Ohio State (9 over 8).  After Siena made the sweet 16 last year, I’m not prepared to pick against them again.  Many pundits are picking 12 seed Arizona to beat the fifth seed Utah, but I like the Utes.  I don’t think Arizona belongs in the tournament at all after going 9-9 in conference play (in a year where the Pac 10 is down too boot), and I think Utah is better than people are giving them credit for.

– Second Round: I’ve got an upset here, as i like West Virginia (the 6 seed) to take out the three seed and defending national champ Kansas.  I almost picked the Jayhawks to lose in the first round to North Dakota State, but I thought my status as a Mizzou alum may have been clouding my judgement, so I have them losing in round two instead.  In all seriousness, I really like West Virginia, and I think the Jayhawks don’t match up well with the Mountaineers.  West Virginia’s rigorous Big East schedule will pay off and they will not be afraid of Kansas.  I also like top seed Louisville to move on, as well as Utah, who I like to squeeze by Cleveland State.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I think Louisville will be able to handle Utah pretty easily, and I also like the 2 seed Michigan State to beat West Virginia.  The Spartans are a lot better now than they were early in the season, and Tom Izzo’s teams have proved over the years that they’re never an easy out.  That being said, I don’t think they have quite enough to topple Louisville, who just happened to win the rugged Big East Tournament.  Rick Pitino’s crew was under the radar most of the year, but there is a reason why they are the top overall seed in the tournament.

The pick: Louisville

West Region:

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got three of them here, including 11-seed Utah State surprising Marquette, the 6 seed.  Utah State has proven to be a tough out in the past, and while Marquette comes from the Big East, they just haven’t been the same team since Dominic James was shelved for the year to injury.  The Golden Eagles are just 1-5 without him in the lineup.  Plus, this will be a de facto home game for the Aggies in Boise.  I also like Maryland to beat Cal in a 10-7 matchup, while I like Texas A&M to beat BYU and get the mini-upset in the 9-8 matchup.  The Aggies were as hot as anyone before stumbling in the Big 12 tourney, and I think they’ll rebound here.  A&M beat BYU in a 9-8 matchup last year as well.

– Second Round: The only lower seed I have moving on here is Purdue, who I like to beat Washington in a potential 5-4 matchup.  Both teams have struggled against elite competition, so this is more of a hunch than anything else. I like the top three seeds, UConn, Memphis and Missouri to move on.  Mizzou could have a tough second round matchup against Marquette (who is only seeded as low as they are because of James’ injury), but since I have them playing Utah State, the resurgent Tigers move on without too much trouble.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I think UConn will handle their opponent easily whether it’s Washington or Purdue.  I also like Memphis to squeak one out against Missouri.  It is interesting to note the the last loss for Memphis came to UAB when Mike Anderson was the coach.  Anderson of course now coaches Missouri, but I think Memphis has to guard play to answer Missouri’s pressure defense.  I also like the 2-seed Memphis to beat UConn in what would be a great regional final.  I believe Memphis should have gotten a number one seed because of their tremendous defense (the Tigers give up three points less per 100 possessions than anyone in the country).  UConn may have Hashim Thabeet inside, but Memphis will be able to be physical enough to defend him.  I like the Tigers in this region.

The Pick: Memphis

Final Four:

I think if these four teams make it we’re in for some great basketball.  I do like North Carolina to beat Pitt because I think the Tar Heels are more athletic and they have a coach with championship experience in Roy Williams.  I also like Memphis to surprise Louisville, again because of the Tigers’ defense.  A Memphis-North Carolina title game would definitely be interesting.  Memphis lost the title game to Kansas last year, while the Heels are trying to get titles for Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson.  In the end the Tar Heels may have more athletes, but I believe defense wins this event.

That’s why I like Memphis to win the national title.  Take it for what you will.   Enjoy the hoops!

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One Response to “My Final Four Picks”

  1. Doug Baker said

    You got a little scare with Memphis today!

    I have all 1 seeds in the final four, with Pitt winning it all.

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