Road to the Final Four: Postseason Projections

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Road to the Final Four: Postseason Projections
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I've posted most of my projections on my Twitter page, but I'm publishing them as well to have something tangible at the end of the season.

If you have any qualms, questions, and/or comments about my projections just leave a comment and you'll get an explanation.

 

Final Four

Kansas—The best team in the country and should win the national title. Since Kansas is the best team and on a similar plane as North Carolina last year, the Jayhawks will reach the Final Four and win it all for the second time in three years.

Texas—The Longhorns are insanely deep and talented; so much so that any issues at point guard should not keep them out of the Final Four.

Purdue—Michigan State is probably the better team than Purdue, but the Boilermakers will be a tougher out in March. E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson trio will be unstoppable and Chris Kramer will provide more than enough defense to interrupt the opposing offense. Purdue will be in the title game and lose to Kansas.

West Virginia—This team has minor issues in the backcourt, but the frontcourt is as good as it gets with Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks.

 

Elite Eight

Kentucky—The Wildcats have as much talent as anybody, but lack experience. That will burn them at some point. For me, that point will be the Elite Eight.

Duke—If the freshman talent comes through and Mike Krzyzewski gets contributions out of his new big men, Duke is almost as good as anybody because of Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer.

Michigan State—The Spartans will fall two steps short of last year's team despite the fact they are almost as good as last year. The top teams are simply better this season.

Georgetown—Someone almost always makes the Elite Eight that doesn't deserve to be here and my pick for that team this year is Georgetown. The Hoyas probably aren't even a top 15 team, but the Austin Freeman, Greg Monroe, Chris Wright trio has the capability to upset some really good teams.

 

Player of the Year

Luke Harangody—Hands down the best college player in the country. The college game just doesn't have the kind of athletes that can consistently slow down Harangody.

Apologies to—John Wall could end up being the player of the year and deserves immediate contention, but I don't want to anoint him the Player of the Year just yet.

 

Freshman of the Year

John Wall—On top of being the most talented freshman, he always walks into the best fit for any of the top freshman.

Apologies to—Derrick Favors will dominate both ends of the floor, but there is a chance his Yellow Jackets will under-achieve leaving him without the necessary publicity to be the freshman of the year.

 

Big 10 Champion

Regular Season and Tournament—Michigan State. The Spartans are barely the better team over Purdue and have more depth to win on consecutive days in the postseason tournament.

 

Big East Champion

Regular Season—West Virginia. The Mountaineers have the best duo in the league with Devin Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler

Tournament—Villanova. The Wildcats' stable of guards will be nearly impossible to stop after two or three days of consecutive basketball.

 

Big 12 Champion

Regular Season and Tournament—Kansas. The Jayhawks are the best team in the country and definitely have the depth to compete with Texas in the tournament.

 

Pac-10 Champion

Regular season—California. The Golden Bears should have no trouble rolling through the Pac-10 regular season because of their ability to out-score everyone.

Tournament—Washington. If Cal struggles defensively like they did last year, Washington will have the advantage in the tournament when offense sometimes goes dry.

 

SEC Champion

Regular season—Mississippi State. The Bulldogs will finish with the best regular season record because of the weakness of the west. Plus, Kentucky might struggle early as the freshman continue to gel together.

Tournament—Kentucky. John Calipari's teams rolled through Conference USA tournaments and will have this team built for success in the postseason.

 

ACC Champion

Regular season—North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a dominate frontcourt that few teams in the conference can match which will translate into a lot of conference wins.

Tournament—Duke has the experience and talent to knock off North Carolina's inexperienced team in March.

 

Atlantic 10

Dayton is clearly the best team in the conference, Richmond will finish second.

 

Conference USA

Tulsa has a dominate duo with Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan. UTEP, Memphis, and Houston all could be good enough to either win the league or even garner an at-large bid.

 

West Coast Conference

Portland has the experience to dethrone Gonzaga who is clearly down this year. Some nice pieces remain in Spokane, but there's no way the Zags are a top 25 team like some suggest.

 

Missouri Valley

Northern Iowa returns all five starters from an NCAA Tournament team. Creighton, Southern Illinois, and Illinois State have the potential to upset the Panthers.

 

Colonial Athletic

Old Dominion should finally end VCU and George Mason's reign atop the league. VCU behind Larry Sanders and Northeastern behind Matt Janning could challenge for the league title.

For more conference winners, check out my preseason bracketology.

 

For the record predictions:

  • I've been touting these five teams during the offseason as sleepers: Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Baylor, Oregon State, and Vanderbilt can all be really good this season. Top five finishes in the Big East aren't out of the question for the Bearcats and Pirates. Baylor can finish fourth or fifth in the Big 12 if the Bears play defense. Oregon State can end up third in a weak Pac-10 and Vandy could finish second in a very strong SEC-East.
  • Florida, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh aren't very good in my book. The Gators lose their best player, but bring in Kenny Boyton and somehow this team goes from NIT to top 25 as some claim? I'm not buying it. Notre Dame isn't much better than last year, if the Irish are even better at all. The defense should be better, but the offense won't be as strong. Pittsburgh loses four starters, but have some talented players waiting in the wings. Those players aren't talented or experienced enough for the Panthers to go dancing.
  • The Mountain West will be only a one bid league this year. The league will be strong again in 2011, but for now Brigham Young should dominate that conference. UNLV has talented newcomers, but this team limped into the NIT last year and loses Wink Adams from last year's team.
  • I'm not completely sold on Butler. There's lots of talent, but not a lot of size. Last year, the Bulldogs repeatedly struggled or lost against more athletic, longer teams (Ohio State, LSU, Cleveland State). We'll see early on if Butler is for real as the Bulldogs have a challenging non-conference schedule.

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