Final Four 2012: Power Ranking Every Remaining Team of March Madness
There will be a very questionable Final Four in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Aside from one team that stands above the rest, the other three teams are shaky at best. Kansas, Ohio State, Kentucky and Louisville will clash next Sunday to decide who will play in the NCAA Championship.
It isn't that these teams are bad, by any means. There is a lot of talent in the Final Four and all the teams are tough—when they're on their game. For the most part, they have been during the tourney—but I'm still waiting for one of these teams to have a crash-and-burn episode.
I could end up surprised.
For now, I think these power rankings are fairly clear-cut. But you just never know with March Madness—and we may be in for a big surprise. And I may be wrong for the second or third time in my life.
4. No. 4 Louisville Cardinals
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Just because I have Louisville ranked fourth, that doesn't mean they should be overlooked. A fundamentally-sound team can cause trouble for even the most talented—and that's what Rick Pitino brings to Louisville.
Peyton Siva may not take over a game with his scoring, but he plays a solid point. Siva is averaging seven assists per game during the tournament. Louisville has given up the fewest turnovers of the four teams, with an average of nine per game. Siva only collected one against Florida.
Sophomore guard Russ Smith has become one of Siva's favorite targets in the tournament. Smith is 7-of-10 from the arc in the tournament and put up 19 points in the last game. Forward Chane Behanan has also been putting up some numbers, averaging 14 points per game in the tournament.
The Cardinals' 6'11” center Gorgui Dieng is the centerpiece of their defense. Though Dieng didn't have an outstanding game against Florida, he put it on Michigan State with seven blocks and three steals—helping hold the Spartans to just 44 points.
Louisville won't overwhelm with size or talent, but their defense has proven they can play with the best. They have only allowed 58 points per game to their tournament opponents. They also average seven steals per game. Of the four teams, only Kansas has more.
Louisville's defense and 39 percent shooting beyond the arc has produced wins against No. 13 Davidson, No. 5 New Mexico, No. 1 Michigan State and No. 7 Florida. The Cardinals' average opponent seeding is 6.5 and they have won their games by a margin of 6.75 points.
3. No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks
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This Kansas Jayhawks team dominates the boards and has relentless defense. Few teams out-rebound North Carolina, but Kansas finished with 39 rebounds—nine more than the best rebounding team in the country. They also had nine steals in the game.
The Jayhawks' athletic senior guard Tyshawn Taylor has been a major presence on defense, averaging 3 steals per game—including five against Carolina. He finally made his presence felt on offense, leading the team with 22 points on Sunday. Taylor was only averaging nine points per game in the tournament before the Carolina game.
Forward Thomas Robinson has been Mr. Consistency for the Jayhawks' offense throughout the tournament. Robinson has averaged nearly 16 points per game. He also leads the team in rebounding, with 13 per game.
Rebounding will be key for this team if they plan to knock off Ohio State. They will not get it done with the three-ball, that's for sure. Kansas is shooting 24 percent from downtown in the tournament. They're also at the bottom of the list in free throw percentage, shooting 64 percent from the stripe.
This is a very solid, tall and athletic team, but they have their trouble with consistency. All of their tournament games have been tight, slipping by their opponents with an average margin of six points—the smallest average margin of victory between the four teams.
Kansas played their way into the Final Four, with wins over No. 15 Detroit, No. 10 Purdue, No. 11 NC State and No. 1 North Carolina. The Jayhawks' average opponent seeding is 9.25, which is also the worst of the four teams.
2. No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes
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I haven't been much on the Ohio State Buckeyes this season. Going into the tournament, they were a very inconsistent team—despite their talent. I just wasn't buying into them.
I think I am now.
He may not get the airplay of Jared Sullinger, but the Buckeyes' point guard Aaron Craft has played outstanding ball in the tourney. Craft has been unforgiving on defense, snatching six steals against Cincinnati and averaging three per game. He is also averaging six assists and 10 points per game.
Sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas has made a name for himself in the tournament, too. Thomas leads the team with 22 points per game. He was 0-for-2 against Syracuse, but is still knocking down 41 percent of his three-point attempts.
They're still waiting for William Buford to come around with his three-point shooting.
The man that needs no introduction is Jared Sullinger. The sophomore forward was already a big name the day he stepped onto the college hardwood. He has backed up the hype, with 18 points per game. His 265 pound frame also draws a lot of fouls—and Sullinger has knocked down 81 percent from the charity stripe.
This team is tougher than Louisville and Kansas—inside and out. The Buckeyes produce a mismatch at almost every position on the floor, but it's not at the level of Kentucky.
The Ohio State Buckeyes went through No. 15 Loyola, No. 7 Gonzaga, No. 6 Cincinnati and No. 1 Syracuse to reach the Final Four. Their average opponent seeding is 7.25 and the Buckeyes have won their games by an average margin of 12 points.
1. No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats
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Other than North Carolina losing on Sunday, the only thing that really disappoints me about this Final Four is that it seems Kentucky is just too good for the other three teams.
When Syracuse had Fab Melo and North Carolina had Kendall Marshall, one of those teams had a chance to take out Kentucky in the championship. I just don't see that now.
Nobody blocked more shots in the regular season than freshman forward Anthony Davis. For the tournament, he is averaging four blocks per game—half of Kentucky's eight per game. Davis is also averaging 15 points and 11 boards.
Sophomore guard Deron Lamb has also been a nuisance to opposing defenses, scoring 17 points per game. He is even shooting 60 percent from the three-point line.
Darius Miller, Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have all taken turns dominating games. Six Kentucky players averaged double-digits in points this season.
Statistically, they are better than the other three teams in points, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, assists and blocks. They are second in rebounds and turnovers.
The Kentucky Wildcats powered through No. 16 Western Kentucky, No. 8 Iowa State, No. 4 Indiana and No. 3 Baylor. That's an average opponent seeding of 7.75 and they have dominated those games by an average of 13.75 points.
This may be a very young Kentucky team, but I don't see anyone matching up with their talent. It will take a major injury for this team not to come out with a title.