The winner of the 2010 NCAA Tournament will not be Syracuse.
Coaches are starting to figure out their 2-3 zone defense, and they are too turnover prone on offense for my liking (though I certainly am impressed by the Orange featuring seven starters who average at least eight points per game).
Kentucky won’t be the winner either, as they may be the most athletic team in the field of 65, but also one who features a freshman point guard, and a reckless freshman point guard at that in John Wall.
And the champion also won’t be Duke, Ohio State or West Virginia, as the Blue Devils still aren’t quite good enough in the low post, the Buckeyes don’t have enough talent around Evan Turner, and the Mountaineers may have size and physicality but lack the finesse on offense that they will need to beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
No, the winner of the Tournament will be the team that was dubbed the favorite in the preseason, the team that we shouldn’t have given up on during the regular season, and the team that has the greatest arsenal of depth from the starting five to the bench.
That team is the Kansas Jayhawks.
Obviously the possibility of Bill Self’s no. 1 overall seeded team winning their second national title in three seasons isn’t surprising, but there are also going to be a lot of people who pin their bracket’s hopes on Syracuse.
I think they are setting themselves up for the same failure felt by those who penciled in Louisville as the champion last year, a team who was overhyped late and ended up not even being able to reach the Final Four.
The Orange might feature a defense that at times looks scarier than Ethan Hawke does in Brooklyn’s Finest, but they leave a little bit to be desired when it comes to taking care of the ball when its in their hands.
Kansas on the other hand is reminding me more and more of a poor man’s version of last year’s North Carolina team.
They have a solid big man in Cole Aldrich who has a knack for blocking shots and grabbing rebounds, a quick and decisive point guard in Sherron Collins, more than capable X-factors in guards Tyshawn Taylor and Xavier Henry, and a deep bench that can contribute led by forward Markieff Morris (Marcus’ brother).
Their leadership (from the head coach Self on down to Collins and Aldrich), experience (both Collins and Aldrich played in their Final Four semifinal and final games against North Carolina and Memphis respectively in 2008), depth (four players average 11 points or more per game and eight players average at least fifteen minutes per game), and momentum (Kansas won the Big 12 Tournament) will be the reasons why they beat Syracuse in the Final Four and Kentucky in the Championship.
Certainly I am not going to argue that Kansas’ 15-1 regular season mark in the Big 12 is as impressive as Syracuse’s 15-3 mark in the Big East, or that they feature a player that is better than Syracuse’s Wes Johnson or Kentucky’s Wall or DeMarcus Cousins.
But the Jayhawks are balanced and rhythmic on offense and are pesky on defense, and obviously Collins, Henry, Marcus Morris and Aldrich can play with anybody.
I’m not going to be fooled by another Big East team that I think will turn out to be a mirage.
Instead, I am going to take my chances with the favorite who has proven to be nothing but consistent since their first game in November.