Picks of the Week (a.k.a. the last column of the regular season)
By Tee Kane
April 4, 2008
Here are just a few of the brilliant predictions I made in last week’s Tee’s Weekly:
“Final Score: North Carolina 72, Washington State 74, Washington State covers” (Who would have thought they would have kept UNC under 80 and still get crushed?)
“Wisconsin – Will probably ruin the tournament by keeping Stephen Curry to 12 points” (I think he scored 84)
“A lot of commentators are saying that this is the year that all four number-one seeds make the Final Four. There’s really no chance of that happening (three would be remarkable),” (though in fairness,I did go on to write…) “but it is true that the number one seeds do seem to possess a different level of class than the remaining teams.”
The Washington Post would give me (along with Hillary’s Bosnia sniper-fire story) four Pinocchios on the first two predictions. On the last prediction it’s also worth noting that in my final Top 10 of the year, I ranked the four number-one seeds as the best four remaining teams. I just simply didn’t believe the odds were that each of them would win their two games. A lot of credit has to be given to the selection committee for getting the seeding right.
I’m not quite ready to make some overly broad statement about the return of the major powers or the decline of parity. I think the more likely cause is the fluke of having four teams (an arbitrary number) that clearly separated themselves. It’s remarkable not only that the four number-one seeds made it through, but that they were almost completely dominant getting there. The only time any of the teams was seriously threatened was in the Kansas-Davidson game.
With Davidson gone, I’m not sure any of the remaining four teams will garner much bandwagon support from the uncommitted fan. UCLA, UNC, and Kansas are just about the three most dominant schools in NCAA history and are unlikely to inspire spontaneous support, while Callapari’s presence at Memphis will make it difficult for many fans to run to their corner. I haven’t heard a single person other than fans of the final four teams express a strong preference for any of the remaining teams.
Another strange aspect of this Final Four is that despite four such high-profile teams making it to San Antonio, there isn’t a dominant story line going into this weekend. There’s has been some understandable backlash against the fawning treatment the national media has given Tyler Hansborough, but it’s unlikely to boil over in the way it did for JJ Reddick or Adam Morrison.
With no obvious bandwagon team and no defining story line, I think the stage is set for the focus to be squarely on the basketball. I’m not saying I wouldn’t enjoy a story like the one that aired on PTI on Tuesday, but the Final Four will always be enjoyable (even if the best teams make it). I also think all three games have the potential to produce dramatic endings.
Memphis vs. UCLA
The first semifinal of the night features two freshmen--UCLA’s Kevin Love and Memphis’ Derrick Rose--that might find themselves next to each other in the NBA lottery draft room. Both freshmen will be defended by more experienced and crafty upperclassmen that should make their lives difficult. If neither freshman is able to dominate, then it likely plays into Memphis’ favor since they have the better supporting cast and more dominant athletes.
Then again this isn’t a regular season game played at some charity tournament in Anchorage and the chance that one of Calipari’s players will end up at Maxim party at three in the morning is such a real possibility that I would hesitate to bet on this game until five minutes before tip-off. I would, however, wager a few quid on Chris Douglas-Roberts as the Outstanding Performer of the Final Four.
Final Prediction: Memphis 76, UCLA 74
Kansas vs. UNC
This seems like the true national championship game. I cannot wait to see how this one plays out over 40 minutes. It’s great to see a team run uninhibited like UNC. To me, they are somewhere in talent level between the 2005 Tar Heel Championship team (one of the truly great teams of the past 25 years) and the Chris Paul-led Wake Forest team that got knocked out in the second round of the tournament because they didn’t have the talent to support Paul. Ty Lawson isn’t quite as good as Paul, but he has a significantly better supporting cast. No team in the country is more relentless (or better) with the ball.
Kansas, on the other hand, is defined by its defense. They don’t rely on defensive gimmicks; they are merely made up of supremely talented defenders. They possess a clinical quality to their defense on par with those great Tampa Bay Bucs and Baltimore Ravens defenses. I’ve been convinced for about a month that Kansas is the best team in the country, but I’ve been wavering slightly since being embarrassed by picking Washington State over UNC. Also, the latest coaching controversy surrounding Bill Self’s possible interest in going to his alma mater, Oklahoma State, is driving the Kansas fans to insanity. Apparently they have a bigger inferiority complex than a Corkman who roots for the Mets. Their fans are still stinging from Roy Williams decision to leave Kansas for North Carolina five years ago. One of their fans was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “I want Roy Williams to be a pallbearer at my funeral. That way he can let me down one last time.” Ouch. Despite these distractions, I’m going to stick to my guns and take the Jayhawk express.
Final Prediction: Kansas 83, UNC 82
Kansas vs. Memphis (though probably not)
It almost seems pointless to discuss a potential final considering my predictive power. The chance of any of these teams winning the championship is all pretty balanced. Here’s how I would handicap it.
I’d probably rank UNC above Memphis in a head-to-head to match-up, but UNC is a smaller chance considering they have to play Kansas first.
This is all a long about way of saying I have no idea what’s going to happen, which is why it’s going to be so entertaining to watch.