So now we've reached the Elite Eight. We've made our bracket picks for the first round, second round, and third round (regionals), and now we find ourselves staring down the barrels of eight loaded, NCAA-proven, road-tested teams (allow me the bad metaphor). Time for more off-the-cuff analysis.
Our problem here is that any of the remaining teams could very well win it all--and that's especially true this year, when so many of the top-tier teams have advanced. As we pick our Final Four and National Champion, we have to trust our luck, go with our gut, and back our favorites. Sound good?
We'll tackle the remaining predictions with the same savvy improv that's taken us this far. NCAA bracket glory awaits...first, the Elite Eight games.
#2 Tennessee beats #1 North Carolina. The Tarheels' lack of defense and the Vols' chip on the shoulder meet in a perfect storm. Tennessee wins by 5.
#1 Kansas beats #3 Wisconsin. Wisconsin tries to ugly the game up, but KU's inside beef rises to the challenge, and the Badgers can't stop the Jayhawks from running away in the last ten minutes of the second half.
#2 Texas beats #1 Memphis. Memphis gets caught on the horns of a Longhorn dilemma, and get gored. Conference USA hasn't prepared them for a team with as many weapons and as much composure as Texas--plus, they miss crucial free throws.
#1 UCLA beats #3 Xavier. Xavier can wheel and deal with the best of them, but they can't stop Kevin Love.
All right, we paid our dues to the top dogs by advancing #1 seeds Kansas and UCLA while simultaneously respecting the NCAA upset bug. On to the Final Four.
#1 Kansas beats #2 Tennessee. Bruce Pearl and the Vols are eager to revenge themselves on KU for the theft of the Midwest's #1 seed, but they didn't count on the Jayhawks' stifling defense.
#1 UCLA beats #2 Texas. Texas nabbed UCLA early in the season, and the Bruins have the advantage of the revenge factor. Alternatively, this would make a great last-ditch upset pick, because we know that Texas has the tools to beat UCLA. In my brackets I've been alternating UCLA and Texas in the final game.
And now, the National Championship:
#1 Kansas beats #1 UCLA. The Bruins have the best player in Kevin Love, but in this game, the Jayhawks have the next three best players in Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush. KU's tag team approach to the post (Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, and Cole Aldrich) is enough to wear Love down, and the Jayhawks win the game in the last two minutes.
So there you have it. Two #1 seeds meet in the NCAA tournament championship, which is not an extremely daring prediction, but even as a #1, the Jayhawks would probably be considered a dark horse pick on most brackets (North Carolina and Memphis have had more headlines).
Best of luck making your own bracket predictions. This year, with 5-6 really dominant teams, a good approach will be to respect the elite teams while honoring the underdogs with a handful of strategic upset picks--which is what I've tried to do with my predictions. Whatever happens, back your picks to the last minute--because that's when a lot of these games are won. Hope it works for you!
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