Final Four time! You ready?
Florida had their turn. Who's next?
After UNC and UCLA won on Saturday night, I went straight into “I’m rooting for Memphis and Kansas tomorrow because I want all the No. 1’s to advance.” We’ve never seen it in the history of the tournament but we finally got it this year! I think it’s great. The seeding is set-up where the four No. 1 seeds should be the four best teams in the land and this year it truly felt like it.
UNC, UCLA, Memphis and Kansas all seemed waaaaaaay better than any other team, so it seems fitting that they’ll be battling it out this weekend. Goliath vs. Goliath vs. Goliath vs. Goliath! Jay Bilas from ESPN and every woman picked all No. 1’s to advance to the Final Four and I can’t believe they were right. So many things can go wrong in a one game format. However, this year just felt like the year that this situation might happen because of the significant drop-off after these four. And then there’s this:
Preseason AP and ESPN/USA Today polls:
1) UNC 2) UCLA 3) Memphis 4) Kansas
Back in November, both of the polls had this exact 1-4. Both polls the exact same? This was destiny! So buckle up because it’s Memphis vs. UCLA and UNC vs. Kansas! Are you f-ing kidding me? Who has wood? Let’s roll baby! (It’s March Madness, so using a Dickie V “baby” is acceptable)
Breakdowns of the first games beyond...
Memphis vs. UCLA
“Third time’s a charm?”-Social phrase
You’ll see the other teams have actual quotes from a stated source but I think this common used phrase fits UCLA the best. This is UCLA’s third straight Final Four appearance so this quote fits perfectly with them. I put the question mark on because the “third time’s a charm” is still well up in the air.
The most experienced Final Four team is looking to finally capitalize on past failures to guide them this year to an NCAA Championship. Players like Collison, Westbrook, Shipp, Mbah a Moute, and Mata Real have all been here before. All those guys are good players but they all bow down to their best player—freshman Kevin Love. Loverboy is averaging 21pts and 11rebs this March Madness. Plus, he had the most ridiculous behind the scene videos of the tourney so far. Tell me you guys saw this? The video showed Love hitting a half court shot, a 3/4 shot and finally a full length court shot...all two handed! Come on! That’s not fair. He’s a beast and will need to carry this experienced team.
Even though coach Ben Howland called this UCLA team his “best by far,” this is the best Final Four of the three years and his squad still has limitations. They don’t have a good perimeter game and one of their “better” players, Josh Shipp, hasn’t done shit all tourney. He’s like the Nick Punto of this team. So UCLA will be relying on the freshman Love, the great Collison and their team experience. They’ll also be used to the hype, the media obligation and the overall schedule that accompanies the Final Four. Nothing will be new for them—this will help.
This could be enough to win it, but with four No. 1 seeds, these games aren’t going to be easy and I think UCLA is the “worst” team out of the four. They’ll play a fast Memphis team and if they win they get the winner of UNC or Kansas! Good luck Chuck. But you could say the same thing about any other teams. Every team is going to have a tough road.
Does UCLA have enough? If you’re looking for a prediction in this line, you’re kidding yourself. I don’t do huge sporting events predictions anymore (Superbowl, March Madness, etc…) I leave that up to TKOT’s own Brandon Lang...Q. He’ll be doing his prediction voicemails on Wednesday this week for all of you subscribers. Read beyond the Memphis part for his expert prediction on this game.
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."—Mahatma Gandhi
This quote fits them well because they were widely ignored by the majority, they were laughed at for their poor free throw shooting, which was a common theme on why they would end up losing early. They were fought in the sense that they had to face the disrespect factor for two weeks and then in the end they ended up winning despite all of this. Gandhi said it well.
Memphis was the No. 1 seed that almost everyone had losing well before the Final Four. You heard it mentioned multiple times by announcers and analysts that they didn’t have what it takes to get to the Final Four. Horrible free throw shooting team, bad shot selection and shaky defense were the things that flew out of these “experts” mouths. Coach Calipari has even gone to lengths of defending his team in post game conferences. They proved that all wrong with a victory over Texas on Sunday, putting them in the Final Four for the first time since 1985.
Memphis made it to the Elite Eight the previous two years, which I believe is what helped them this year, finally get over the edge. That and Derrick Rose. Love this kid. I’ve been pimping Michael Beasley for a while on this site for the Timberwolves in the upcoming draft but I think I need to change that opinion to this stud.
Look, I’m not going to cry if we get Beasley. He’s a scoring machine and is NBA ready but this Rose kid looks like the next star point guard. Star point guards make bad players decent (Pargo in NO), average players good (Marion when in PX) and good players great (Amare in PX). The game is so much easier with a really good PG. The T-pups don’t have one. Foye is still trying to figure out his NBA position and Telfair is alright. Rose would completely change how we do business on the basketball court.
Enough of that NBA stuff and back to this Memphis team. As they proved the last four games, they can play any style with anyone. They love to run but have enough good half-court players to compete with a slow-down team. UCLA is a big, all-around team that will obviously test them. Memphis is a faster team than UCLA, so they will need to use that speed to catch UCLA off guard and get them in foul trouble.
If you can catch a few quick fouls on their guys trying to adjust to Memphis’ quickness, Memphis will win. If the fouls are normal it’s going to be a battle. I had Memphis in my Final Four in my bracket but was still a little skeptical going in. Now? I fell in love with this Memphis team over the first four games, that’s all I’m going to say because only one man’s prediction matters at this point...
Memphis is going to end the dream for Ben Howland's club. Calipari has them flying all over the court and playing with a giant chip on their shoulder. Their athleticism will negate Kevin Love as they head to Monday's championship game. Tigers by eight.
UNC vs. Kansas
“In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.”—Sam Huff
I was looking for a team one, but this will do. This fits well for UNC because most people would agree that they are the best team. When they go up against that “man” the better “man” wins and UNC is the better man...right now.
UNC was the No. 1 team in the land coming in and have beaten their four opponents by a combined score of 372- 271. Their closest game was their last vs. Louisville, which was a ten-point win. They look like your next NCAA Champion the way they are convincingly killing teams and rolling through the tournament so far. But, we all know that is not a guarantee.
They have weaknesses, one being that they aren’t that deep. This is one of their only weaknesses and having a deep bench is an overrated weakness at this time of the year. Every team is going to play their big dogs for 35+ minutes because of the magnitude of the tourney. However, this will come into play if they get in foul trouble. UNC only played eight guys vs. Louisville. If Psycho T or Lawson get in foul trouble, UNC can get beat. Their back-ups in my mind fall off more than any team left.
If you’ve noticed a theme, it’s all nitpicking with these No. 1 seeds. These teams are very good college teams and I’m stretching to find something. Besides the lack of depth, UNC does everything else very well. Great rebounding, good team defense and they have star power for late in the game. You want your studs to have the ball late in the game and they have Tyler Hansbrough—the best player on any team.
I can’t stand watching him for some reason but I have respect for him. His style of play bugs me and I can’t figure it out. It’s like he’s trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. He just doesn’t look like a natural basketball player with the way he plays. That’s the best way I can put it. In a close game however, he is an ultimate weapon. A player that will literally do whatever to win and has shown a knack for stepping up in “the moment.” He’s one of the best hustle college superstars we’ve ever seen. The cliché that no one works harder is so true with him. He’s like a four-year old after 20 cotton candies—full throttle the whole damn game.
You’re going to hear a lot of “I got UNC winning it all” talk this week so if you’re not a UNC fan get prepared for that. I’m not a fan, so I’ve already started to build up the patience for this week’s flood of UNC picks. Read beyond the Kansas part for Q’s prediction.
“All good things come to he who waits.”—Proverb quotes
This quote obviously fits Kansas and Bill self since they have been knocking on the door for a while now and finally made it to the Final Four when in previous years they have choked. Who thought that last second heave was going in? I did.
Bill Self and his squad round out the fourth No. 1 seed to make the Final Four. It wasn’t easy either. They let a Davidson team hang around until the last shot when their main guy, Stephen Curry, shot an abysmal 9-25. (Side note: Read Q’s great write-up about Davidson that was posted on Sunday).
Beside the Davidson game, Kansas has looked really good starting with the Big 12 tourney. They have been winning pretty convincingly but in typical Kansas fashion, looked flat in the Elite Eight game.
The little trigger went on: “It’s a really big game, I have Kansas on my jersey, it’s time to disappear for 40 minutes.” I personally think if they had played a more talented team, they would have gotten beat by 20. They didn’t looked good at all especially since Sasha flipping Kaun was their best player that game. Either way, the monkey is finally off their backs and they will need to capture their pre-Elite 8 magic to knock off UNC on Saturday.
Furthermore, if Kansas plays like they did vs. Davidson, they’ll lose by 25 to the powder blues. They need to play like that balanced, seasoned team that we’re so used to seeing. Their top seven guys are better than any other top seven on the other teams, IMO. Collins, Chalmers, Rush, Robinson, Jackson, Kaun and Arthur are an awesome rotation. They have every type of player you want in that group. They probably lack a true superstar but Chalmers, Collins and Rush aren’t afraid to take the last shot. Especially Chalmers, my favorite player in college basketball by the way.
After I just gave them some good praise, they are about to go up against the favorite. And as you just read, UNC has been smashing teams. Kansas will give them a great test but I don’t know if they’ll have enough but I picked Kansas in my bracket so they fucking better!
Anyways, here is Q’s prediction:
North Carolina-Kansas. Big time marquee matchup here between two dominant squads. In the end, Hansbrough will be too tough for KU's front court trio (Jackson, Arthur, Kaun). The Heels pull away late in what will be an extremely entertaining game. UNC by seven.
Final thought- This tourney hasn’t been too exciting, yet. Western Kentucky, Davidson and West Virginia gave us a little but overall it’s been mellow for March Madness standards. I think that’s all about to change and we’re about to witness something special this weekend. The drama and excitement has been put off until now because these four monsters have just been waiting to get to this point to show the nation whom really is the true No. 1. I don’t think I’ve ever been this jacked for a Final Four in my life and maybe never will after this.
Well, until Tubby gets us there in a couple...
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