With all this talk about the power rankings of the teams going into this year's NCAA tournament, I had a thought. Great players take their teams to great heights, right? So how about instead of each team bringing their entire squad to the tournament, they send their best player?
I know, it ruins a lot of the fun. No longer would the backup freshman guard come off the bench to score 12 straight points and lead his team to victory. No more pick-and-rolls, no more alley-oops. Just good ol' playground one-on-one. Shoot for ball, ones and twos, make it take it, first player to 21 wins.
It's a very subjective distinction to be a team's "best player" in most cases. Obviously, one would not argue against Kemba Walker being UConn's best player or Keith Benson being Oakland's. But for the purposes of being as objective as possible, I'll assume that each team will send their leading scorer.
To make this easier, I will put four match-ups per slide until the later rounds. That way, you don't need to read my three paragraphs about why Jimmer Fredette would beat Wofford's Noah Dahlman in the first round.
So here it is--March Madness one-on-one style.
Texas-San Antonio vs. Alabama State
Devin Gibson, 6'0" senior guard vs. Tramayne Moorer, 6'5" senior forward
In this doozy of a match-up, the edge goes to Gibson, an athletic guard who,in addition to averaging 17 points, also averaged over 5 rebounds, meaning he can use quickness and surprising strength to beat the bigger Moorer.
Southern California vs. Virginia Commonwealth
Nikola Vucevic, 6'10" junior forward vs. Jamie Skeen, 6'9" senior forward
These two players are actually very similar in that they can stretch defenses with a three-point shot as well as having a strong post game. Both are very accurate shooters for their size, and this would be an excellent match-up. The edge, however, goes to Vucevic, as his length will be slightly more disruptive to Skeen.
Alabama-Birmingham vs. Clemson
Jamarr Sanders, 6'5" senior guard vs. Demontez Stitt, 6'2" senior guard
Another good match-up, with two very talented guards. Both players are experienced, senior leaders of their respective teams, and shoot around the same percentages. Stitt, though, plays excellent defense and can pick the pockets of defenders. His quickness will be enough to counteract Sanders' length, and the Tiger guard wins.
UNC-Asheville vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
Matt Dickey, 6'1" junior guard vs. Solomon Bozeman, 6'0" senior guard
Bozeman seems to have the clear edge here. Not only is he the leading scorer for the Trojans, but he scored almost 25% of his team's points, an incredible rate. He is a great scoring guard and shoots the ball lethally, especially from outside (46.4%). He will have little trouble with the slower, more team-oriented Dickey.
Ohio State vs. UTSA
Jared Sullinger, 6'9" freshman forward vs. Devin Gibson, 6'0" senior guard
This one would be over before either player stepped on the court. This is due to the fact that Sullinger will eat Gibson for lunch before playing the game.
George Mason vs. Villanova
Cam Long, 6'4" senior guard vs. Corey Fisher, 6'1" senior guard
This is the first real test of a mid-major against a power conference. Fisher is a very talented guard and a great playmaker for the Wildcats. Long is the leading scorer for a potent George Mason team, and he is extremely athletic. At a lanky 6'4", he has the length to disrupt Fisher's shots and the shooting prowess to put him away. The mid-major prevails.
West Virginia vs. Clemson
Casey Mitchell, 6'4" senior guard vs. Demontez Stitt, 6'2" senior guard
In this match-up between two leaders and two senior guards, the difference will be quickness. At 6'4", 220 pounds, Mitchell is a very physical and athletic guard. But Stitt, armed with quick feet and quick hands, will be able to pick Mitchell's pocket several times and fly to the rim for a layup. In a close one, Stitt takes it.
Kentucky vs. Princeton
Brandon Knight, 6'3" freshman guard vs. Kareem Maddox, 6'8" senior forward
On the bright side for Maddox, he will get to say that he lost to an NBA lottery pick in a one-on-one game. Knight is simply too quick, too accurate, and just too good for the Ivy League stud.
Xavier vs. Marquette
Terrell Holloway, 6'0" junior guard vs. Jimmy Butler, 6'7" senior guard/forward
This is another intriguing match-up, as Holloway is a quick guard that excels at isolation situations in games. Butler is a large, athletic swingman capable of making shots from anywhere on the court. One would think that Holloway could just scoot past Butler, but Butler is quite capable as a defender. However, Holloway is just too prolific of a scorer for Butler to defeat.
Syracuse vs. Indiana State
Kris Joseph, 6'7" junior forward vs. Dwayne Lathan, 6'3" junior guard
Joseph is an underrated player on a team that could be overlooked in March. He has been a consistent scoring presence for the Orange this season. Lathan averages only 11 points, and is not a particularly accurate shooter. Joseph should have little problem.
Washington vs. Georgia
Isaiah Thomas, 5'8" junior guard vs. Trey Thompkins, 6'10" junior forward
This game would be extremely interesting, especially given the 14 inches separating the two players. Thomas is a classic speedy guard, relying on his quick feet and good handles to beat defenders to the rim. Thompkins is a beast inside, but really does not have much of a shot from outside 18 feet. But because of his athleticism, size, and Thomas' sometimes shaky shooting, Thompkins will win.
North Carolina vs. Long Island
Harrison Barnes, 6'8" freshman forward vs. Julian Boyd, 6'7" sophomore forward
I wonder what life is like in Ames, Iowa.
Ohio State vs. George Mason
Jared Sullinger vs. Cam Long
This one will be slightly closer than Sullinger's first-round game, but will end the same way. Long is a great player, but Sullinger is one of those once-every-five-or-seven-years guys who has quick feet as a big man. He can stay in front of Long and disrupt his shots, while scoring easy buckets in the paint.
Clemson vs. Kentucky
Demontez Stitt vs. Brandon Knight
Stitt had a good run, going from a play-in game to the second round, but his potential Cinderella story ends here. Knight is the best guard in his conference and is definitely top five in the nation. As quick as Stitt is, Knight is two steps quicker. It will be a swift victory for young Brandon.
Xavier vs. Syracuse
Terrell Holloway vs. Kris Joseph
I almost had to flip a coin for this one because I just couldn't decide. Holloway is a tremendous offensive presence, but then again, so is Joseph. But because Joseph is so used to Syracuse's zone defense, he may have issues defending Holloway one-on-one. It will come down to the wire, but Holloway wins.
Georgia vs. North Carolina
Trey Thompkins vs. Harrison Barnes
This one would be awesome to watch. Barnes may be the best player in the country, and Thompkins is absolutely one of the top post men. Both are future NBA studs. Barnes, though, is just such a talented swingman that Thompkins, for all of his size and strength, could not keep up. Barnes is not scared of taking the ball at the rim, and Thompkins is simply not mobile enough to stay with Barnes.
Kansas vs. Boston University
Marcus Morris, 6'9" junior forward vs. John Holland, 6'5" senior guard/forward
I wonder how Markieff feels about his twin getting to play in this one.
UNLV vs. Illinois
Tre'Von Willis, 6'4" senior guard vs. Demetri McCamey, 6'3" senior guard
In a match-up of talented senior guards, it is hard to pick who has the edge. McCamey though, with his combination of quickness and strength, has the athletic advantage. Willis has the quick hands and some serious hops, but struggles shooting from long range. McCamey will win because of his build and his consistent shooting.
Vanderbilt vs. Richmond
John Jenkins, 6'4" sophomore guard vs. Justin Harper, 6'10" senior forward
If Jenkins were smaller, he may have somewhat of an issue. But because he does have some size and athleticism to go along with his sweet shooting stroke, the huge Harper should not pose that much of a challenge. If Jenkins knocks down his shots, he will take care of the big man rather quickly.
Louisville vs. Morehead State
Preston Knowles, 6'1 senior guard vs. Kenny Faried, 6'8" senior forward/center
Another great one, as Faried is by far the most talented player on the Morehead State team and faces a superb senior guard in Knowles. As he is not a great shooter, Knowles relies on penetration to get to the rim. He may have some trouble with Faried, who at 6'8" is very athletic and is also a terrific shot blocker and defender. In another close game, Faried will come out on top.
Georgetown vs. USC
Austin Freeman, 6'4" senior guard vs. Nikola Vucevic, 6'10" junior forward
Freeman may be better suited as an NFL linebacker than a guard in basketball. He is incredibly strong and surprisingly quick considering his build. This bodes well for him against a much taller and longer Vucevic. Freeman can body up and be physical, and because Vucevic is so lanky, the physical advantage goes to the Hoya. Add in a good shooting stroke and a knack for getting to the rim, and this one is all Freeman.
Purdue vs. St. Peter's
JaJuan Johnson, 6'10" senior forward/center vs. Wesley Jenkins, 6'2" senior guard
I'm tempted to give this one to Jenkins simply because his school's mascot is the peacock. I mean, really? You've got to feel kind of sorry for those kids. But in any case, Johnson is huge, athletic, and talented. He will have no issues with the peacock.
Texas A&M vs. Florida State
Khris Middleton, 6'7" sophomore forward vs. Chris Singleton, 6'9" junior forward
Has anyone else ever seen a name spelled "Khris"? Middleton is a good scorer for a very good team, but Singleton is an all-around excellent player. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor, and is extremely strong in the post. He blocks shots, rebounds well, and is good at forcing turnovers. The Seminole seems to have the advantage both in the spelling of his name and basketball ability.
Notre Dame vs. Akron
Ben Hansbrough, 6'3" senior guard vs. Nikola Cvetinovic, 6'8" junior forward
Who do you think would win between Ben and Tyler Hansbrough? I think the Luck of the Irish prevails.
Kansas vs. Illinois
Marcus Morris vs. Demetri McCamey
As I write this, I'm noticing that a lot of the guard vs. forward match-ups are very tough to decide. Very rarely is a team's guard matched up one-on-one with a post player, especially in an isolation situation on the perimeter. In this instance, I think that Morris is just too skilled on the offensive end for McCamey to be able to defend him. And despite McCamey's superior speed, Morris is athletic and fleet-footed enough to defend him both on the perimeter and in the paint.
Vanderbilt vs. Morehead State
John Jenkins vs. Kenny Faried
The problem here for Faried is the offensive versatility of Jenkins. Because he is a lethal shooter, Faried has to creep up on the three-point line. But Jenkins is also dangerous off the dribble and can get to the rim with ease. Faried is athletic, but Jenkins is exceptionally quick for his 6'4 frame. Faried will get some points in the paint, but in the end, the more versatile Jenkins will win.
Georgetown vs. Purdue
Austin Freeman vs. JaJuan Johnson
Because Freeman is such a physical guard, this is almost like a shorter forward going against a tall, lanky forward. Johnson is extremely athletic, and is a good shot blocker and is excellent at altering opponents' shots. Freeman, though, is almost unaffected by contact, and will continuously pound into Johnson off the dribble drive. This one will probably come down to the last shot, but Freeman will outhustle Johnson into a final possession and hit the winner.
Florida State vs. Notre Dame
Chris Singleton vs. Ben Hansbrough
Hansbrough is not exactly cut out to go one-on-one with a 6'9" athletic behemoth like Singleton. Hansbrough relies a lot on off-the-ball movement to get open for his shots. To be fair, he doesn't miss much when he's open, but against Singleton, he would not get much room. Singleton is quick on his feet, and because Hansbrough isn't blinding quick, there will not be much chance for him to get past Singleton. Offensively, Singleton should have his way with the much smaller and weaker Hansbrough.
Duke vs. Hampton
Nolan Smith, 6'2" senior guard vs. Darrion Pellum, 6'6" junior guard
I love Hampton for the sole reason of being the team I would always play on exhibition mode in an NCAA Football video game if I wanted a good 90-point win. This match-up seems to play out a similar way, with Smith running circles around Pellum.
Michigan vs. Tennessee
Darius Morris, 6'4" sophomore guard vs. Scotty Hopson, 6'7" junior guard
Hopson has two things going for him in this one. He sports one of, if not the best hairdos in college basketball. Beyond that, he's a heck of a player, possessing great scoring ability. He is a naturally good defender, and his 6'7" body is great for blocking and altering shots as well as being able to jump out of the gym. Morris is good, but he is not good enough of a shooter to counteract Hopson's length.
Arizona vs. Memphis
Derrick Williams, 6'8" freshman forward vs. Will Barton, 6'6" freshman guard
Memphis loves those tall, lanky guards, don't they? Barton is the latest of them, and what he lacks in a long range shot he makes up for with long arms to wrap around defenders and make tough shots. Williams, though, is one of the elite players in college basketball. He is too big, too strong, and too much of a force offensively and defensively for Barton to have much of a shot.
Texas vs. Oakland
Jordan Hamilton, 6'7" sophomore guard/forward vs. Keith Benson, 6'11" senior center
This game would be thrilling, mainly because we would get to see Benson, an extremely talented big man, play out of his element against an elite swingman. Benson is a surprisingly good shooter, and has the strength and defensive prowess to stop Hamilton. But Hamilton is faster, jumps better, and could counteract Benson's size with pump fakes, hesitation, and crossovers. It would be close simply because Benson is so good, but Hamilton takes it.
Cincinnati vs. Missouri
Yancy Gates, 6'9" junior forward vs. Marcus Denmon, 6'3" junior guard
Gates is an absolute beast when it comes to post play. He is one of the primary reasons Cincinnati was so competitive this year, especially in the Big East. But he is simply too slow to stop the quick guard from Missouri. Denmon is an accurate shooter and will be fast enough to blow by Gates often to get the win.
Connecticut vs. Bucknell
Kemba Walker, 6'1" junior guard vs. Mike Muscala, 6'10" sophomore forward/center
Considering many games UConn plays seem to be Kemba versus the other team, he should be just fine against a slow post man from Bucknell.
Temple vs. Penn State
Ramone Moore, 6'4" junior guard vs. Talor Battle, 6'0" senior guard
If Battle runs his one-on-one game the same way his team runs their offense, this game could take several hours. He is a great scorer, and the fact that he can score 20 points per game in an offense that cannot physically take a shot unless the shot clock is under five seconds is quite impressive. But Moore, at 6'4" is more athletic, and will be able to get up and be physical with Battle. This should be close, but Moore wins.
San Diego State vs. Northern Colorado
Kawhi Leonard, 6'7" sophomore forward vs. Devon Beitzel, 6'1" senior guard
Imagine a football game between these two schools. Man, would that be awful. Fortunately, the Aztecs have a terrific team and a terrific leader in Kawhi Leonard, who looks like he will be an excellent addition to any NBA team. Sorry, Mr. Beitzel, but you are quite overmatched in this one.
Duke vs. Tennessee
Nolan Smith vs. Scotty Hopson
Of all the second-round match-ups, this one might be the toughest call. Smith is a very gifted guard and his ability to penetrate from the perimeter is pretty much unmatched at this level. But Hopson is a world-class athlete and because of his length, very good at stopping penetration. Smith is very aggresive going to the rim, and Hopson is not great at blocking shots. On the other hand, Hopson can get a shot off from pretty much anywhere, and he is accurate. I'm going to give the nod to Smith, just because of his extra year of experience, and his history as a winner at all levels.
Arizona vs. Texas
Derrick Williams vs. Jordan Hamilton
Another very good match-up here. Hamilton is very versatile--imagine Scotty Hopson playing better defense and rebounding better. Williams, though, is so incredibly gifted offensively that it would be hard for anyone to defend him. His offensive game is well beyond his years, and as good of a defender as Hamilton is, he cannot body up the bigger Williams. Though it will be fairly close, Williams will take it eventually.
Missouri vs. Connecticut
Marcus Denmon vs. Kemba Walker
This region has produced some great games, and this match-up of elite scoring guards is no exception. Denmon is bigger, shoots a higher percentage, and gets to the rim very well. But for anyone who has not seen Walker play, he is a special offensive presence. He can take over a game with an ease, and once he finds his rhythm and learns his way around a defender, he is almost unstoppable.
Temple vs. San Diego State
Ramone Moore vs. Kawhi Leonard
This is the only second-round draw that I could make a quick decision on. Moore is very good but Leonard, as much as he is a good scorer is a great defensive-minded player. Though Leonard does not shoot as well as Moore, he is bigger, stronger, and more athletic. Whether he does it by playing big or using his athleticism, Leonard has the clear edge.
Pittsburgh vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
Ashton Gibbs, 6'2" junior guard vs. Solomon Bozeman, 6'0" senior guard
The play-in winner gets the pleasure of facing Gibbs, one of the most complete guards in college basketball. He can run, he can shoot, and he can get physical. Even after hitting a dramatic game-winner to send the Trojans to the dance, Bozeman will have loads of trouble guarding him, and Gibbs should put this away fairly easily.
Butler vs. Old Dominion
Matt Howard, 6'8" senior forward vs. Frank Hassell, 6'9" senior forward
In a great match-up between two senior big men, Howard seems to have the advantage. Hassell is 255 pounds and more of a classic post player. Howard, though, is a good shooter from most places on the floor, and despite being slightly smaller, should be able to defend Hassell well. He is a valuable defender for Butler, and a halfway decent shot blocker. If Hassell can disrupt Howard's offensive game, he could win, but Howard is just a more complete player.
Kansas State vs. Utah State
Jacob Pullen, 6'2" senior guard vs. Tai Wesley, 6'7" senior forward
Another good battle between a quick guard and a big, athletic forward. Wesley is a surprisingly good shooter, and can knock down the occasional three. But Pullen has a knack for making difficult shots against taller defenders, especially when there is contact. He is a born scorer. Wesley, though, will pull off the upset here, and use his excellent offensive game to overpower Pullen.
Wisconsin vs. Belmont
Jon Leuer, 6'10" senior forward vs. Ian Clark, 6'3" sophomore guard
Leuer is a classic Big Ten post player. He does what he's supposed to as a great rebounder and inside presence. But what he adds is some range offensively. He does have a decent shot. Clark is a quality, do-it-all guard for Belmont. Leuer does not move particularly well and could have some trouble guarding the mobile Clark. Add in the fact that Leuer is not an exceptional shot blocker, and Clark will take it.
St. John's vs. Gonzaga
Dwight Hardy, 6'2" senior guard vs. Steven Gray, 6'5" senior guard
This is a match-up between two very different guards with different play styles. Hardy is a prototypical Big East guard--bulky, physical, and not afraid of contact. Gray is a lanky 6'5" and relies more on his ability to get shots off for most of his scoring. But without a very significant height or length differential, the edge goes to Hardy. He will pound the ball into Gray, using his strength and physicality to convert some close shots.
BYU vs. Wofford
Jimmer Fredette, 6'2" senior guard vs. Noah Dahlman, 6'6" senior forward
Fredette wins without even crossing the three-point line.
Michigan State vs. UCLA
Kalin Lucas, 6'1" senior guard vs. Reeves Nelson, 6'8" sophomore forward
I don't know how I feel about a player with two last names. Nelson is a very talented post player, but struggles shooting anywhere from elbow-range out. He is not the fastest player, and although he plays big on the glass, it will be extremely difficult for him to stop the lightning-quick Lucas from getting to the rim. If he does succeed, Lucas is a pretty good shooter. Either way, the Spartan has the edge.
Florida vs. California-Santa Barbara
Erving Walker, 5'8" junior guard vs. Orlando Johnson, 6'5" junior guard
I have watched Erving Walker a lot this season, and I've noticed a few things. One, he is at his very best coming off a ball screen behind the three-point line. Two, he is very prone to getting blocked if he goes to the rim. Three, he tends to make questionable decisions when tightly guarded. Against the much bigger Johnson, Walker is going to have loads of trouble getting a shot off. As small as Walker is, he seems like he could be very tough to guard, but he is not blinding quick. This is a major, 2 vs. 15 upset, as Johnson will take down Walker.
Pittsburgh vs. Butler
Ashton Gibbs vs. Matt Howard
This one will not be very close. Howard is a good, versatile forward, but Gibbs is just too much of a beast. His explosiveness, aggressiveness, and speed will be enough to beat Howard soundly. Remember what Nolan Smith did to Butler in last year's NCAA Championship? Gibbs will bestow a similar fate upon Howard in this one.
Utah State vs. Belmont
Tai Wesley vs. Ian Clark
This one does not look like too exciting of a bracket, does it? This high-profile match-up features the long, athletic Wesley against the sharp-shooting Clark. At 6'3 and not very strong, Clark seems to be at a fairly big athletic disadvantage. Wesley will be able to get off a shot any time he wants, and if he can get into the paint, it's over. Clark will make some shots, but ultimately, Wesley will take the cake.
St. John's vs. BYU
Dwight Hardy vs. Jimmer Fredette
One thing that people forget about Fredette is that he is more than a shooter. He is a very prolific scorer, and attacks the basket better than almost anyone in college. He makes very difficult shots, which bodes well for him against a very physical defender like Hardy. Offensively, Hardy will try to force contact against Fredette, a questionable defender. But ultimately, the very gifted Fredette will outscore Hardy and use his sweet shot to put him to sleep.
Michigan State vs. UCSB
Kalin Lucas vs. Orlando Johnson
Unlike Johnson's first-round match-up, Lucas has not only quickness but decent size and strength. As talented as Johnson is, Lucas is an NBA-caliber guard who excels at getting by defenders and keeping them off-balance with a steady diet of jumpers and lay-ups. For Johnson, who almost never gets to see a guard the quality of Lucas, the Spartan will prove too tough of a challenge.
From the East:
Ohio State vs. Kentucky
Jared Sullinger, 6'9" freshman forward vs. Brandon Knight, 6'3" freshman guard
This one could probably be the national championship. Sullinger is the nation's best post player, and he is matched up against one of the fastest, most accurate, and most talented players in Brandon Knight. It has been widely noted the Sullinger is light on his feet. This does not, however, translate into speed. Knight is so incredibly skilled with the ball, in that he can both dribble around a player and make a tough shot against a taller defender. Sullinger's wide array of post moves will dominate Knight, but the surprisingly good defender will force a few misses and run circles around Sully.
Xavier vs. North Carolina
Terrell Holloway, 6'0" junior guard vs. Harrison Barnes, 6'8" freshman forward
Terrell will run into a brick wall here, as Barnes is far too complete of a player for the smaller, less athletic Holloway. Barnes' ability to score from literally anywhere on the court will be his biggest advantage. He can post up the much smaller and weaker Holloway, and use his very mature offensive game to tear apart the Xavier guard.
From the Southwest:
Kansas vs. Vanderbilt
Marcus Morris, 6'9" junior forward vs. John Jenkins, 6'4" sophomore guard
For those who have not seen Jenkins play, he is very fun to watch. While most people think of him as a pure shooter, he actually can be a very physical guard. He is not overpowering in any sense, especially in the way that Morris is. But he is tough to guard simply because you have to pick your poison. Defending Morris is slightly easier because he is much less of a shooting threat. Jenkins will be able to force some misses and keep Morris off-balance for the win.
Georgetown vs. Florida State
Austin Freeman, 6'4" senior guard vs. Chris Singleton, 6'9" junior forward
This one would be very fun to watch. Freeman, as I've said before, is built like a football player. Singleton is a big 6'9" who can shoot and is a very good defender. But because of how aggressive Freeman is, it could be tough for Singleton to play tight defense. And if Freeman gets his room to shoot, he is very capable of making it rain. Of course, defending the versatile Singleton is no easy task either. But because of Freeman's strength, toughness, and aggressiveness, he will be able to just barely beat the bigger Singleton.
From the West:
Duke vs. Arizona
Nolan Smith, 6'2" senior guard vs. Derrick Williams, 6'8" freshman forward
I really can't wait to see either of these guys in the NBA, especially Williams. The fact that he can be so dominant in the paint and still be able to knock down the mid- and long-range jumpers is very exciting. He is a good defender, but nothing too special. Smith has several advantages here. For one, he plays in a system that depends on perimeter isolation situations. He is very experienced with getting to the rim from the arc, and against a slower player like Williams, he should have little trouble. Williams will make his shots, but some tenacious defense and nifty moves from Smith will give him the win.
Connecticut vs. San Diego State
Kemba Walker, 6'1" junior guard vs. Kawhi Leonard, 6'7" sophomore forward
Walker has firmly established himself as one of the best players in college basketball. He is a fierce competitor with a penchant for hitting the big shot. He is strong to the basket and shoot very well. His body control is exceptional. Leonard, when playing inside 18 feet, is one of the top players in the country. He is strong, and is very capable of controlling the paint. But against the multi-talented Walker, he will have issues, much like Derrick Williams will against Nolan Smith. But in this case, there is a greater disparity between the two players. Walker will win going away.
From the Southeast:
Pittsburgh vs. Utah State
Ashton Gibbs, 6'2" junior guard vs. Tai Wesley, 6'7" senior forward
The Big East is a conference where the recruiting rankings of the teams never really overwhelms you, but the players are gritty, tough, and very talented. Ashton Gibbs is the type of guy I'd expect to see playing at a local court, draining threes and driving on the big guys. Wesley is a well-built player as well, but he lacks the quick feet needed to defend the über-athletic Gibbs. With his leaping ability and variety of offensive moves, Gibbs is going to be too tough for Wesley to guard, ending the Aggies' great run.
Brigham Young vs. Michigan State
Jimmer Fredette, 6'2" senior guard vs. Kalin Lucas, 6'1" senior guard
People seem to forget how great of a player Lucas is. Because of the big drop-off of Michigan State between two years ago and now, Lucas' brilliance has been buried underneath his team's struggles. He has all the qualities of an elite guard, much like Jimmer Fredette. Fredette is not the world's best defender, but he is a smart one. If he can cut off Lucas' drives, Lucas is not a very good shooter off the dribble. Fredette, on the other hand, can score in almost any situation, and is surprisingly good in isolation considering he isn't exceedingly athletic. This is a close one, but The Jimmer takes it.
From the East:
Kentucky vs. North Carolina
Brandon Knight, 6'3" freshman guard vs. Harrison Barnes, 6'8" freshman forward
This is where I'd really like to flip a coin to determine the winner. It almost seems like Barnes is Knight five inches taller. Knight is a slightly better shooter than Barnes, but that is almost negated by Barnes' seven-foot wingspan. It would be very difficult for Knight to get good looks for his jumpshot, as Barnes is also very quick and would be able to stay with him for the most part. Offensively, Barnes is not the best shooter, but he is especially good at pulling up off his dribble and shooting. He has the rare ability to stop on a dime and hit a quick shot. Because of Knight's elite speed, both players have their hands full. But the edge goes to Barnes because of his combination of size, length, and athleticism.
From the Southwest:
Vanderbilt vs. Georgetown
John Jenkins, 6'4" sophomore guard vs. Austin Freeman, 6'4" senior guard
An interesting match-up here, because these players have such different styles. Jenkins is a swift, graceful athlete who can either drill three pointers or use his deceptive speed to get to the rim. Freeman, as I've mentioned several times, is a tank of a guard, daring bigger players to body up and take contact. Usually, I would say that the speedy player wins, but just because Freeman is 235 pounds doesn't mean he can't move. There is a reason he is able to get so much penetration--explosiveness. He has a great first step, and as fast as Jenkins is, he will not be able to hold off the stronger Freeman. For the most part, Freeman will have his way.
From the West:
Duke vs. Connecticut
Nolan Smith, 6'2" senior guard vs. Kemba Walker, 6'1" junior guard
This one would probably be the most intense of any game. Both plays are fierce competitors and leaders on their respective teams. Walker plays with that Big East style--physical, aggressive, and not afraid to take it to the rim. Smith, playing in the ACC, is a very similar player. But what sets these two players apart lies in their feet. Smith is very fast and very good with the ball. Walker, however, is at another level. His incredible ability to change directions sets him apart, as he will be better served to break away from Smith than vice versa. Smith is a great finisher at the rim, and possesses a great floater, but if Walker can cut him off and force him to take jump shots, the game goes to Walker.
From the Southeast:
Pittsburgh vs. Brigham Young
Ashton Gibbs, 6'2" junior guard vs. Jimmer Fredette, 6'2" senior guard
This seems to be a recurring theme--a Big East guard going up against a less-physical opponent. In most cases, I'd give it to the strong Big East player. Here, though, Fredette is just too polished of an offensive player. Gibbs plays great defense, but it's just way too hard for one player to defend Fredette because of his lethal jumper and ability to get to the lane. Play him too tight, he'll run right around you. Play him too loose, he'll pull up and make shots all day. With no help defensively, Gibbs will not be able to outscore Fredette despite the latter's good-but-not-great defense.
National Semifinal #1
North Carolina vs. Connecticut
Harrison Barnes, 6'8" freshman forward vs. Kemba Walker, 6'1" junior guard
Much like each year's SEC football championship, this semifinal is the effective national championship. No offense to Freeman or Fredette, but both Walker and Barnes are probably better one-on-one players. But as for their match-up, neither one has the clear edge. Barnes was able to defeat Brandon Knight in the Elite Eight because of his length and athleticism. The difference between Knight and Walker is that Walker is a much better isolation player. Knight relies a lot on pick-and-rolls and off-ball motion, whereas Walker is in isolation situations a lot more often just by bringing the ball up the court. In this sense, Walker is better suited to one-on-one. If Barnes were a bulkier forward in the mold of Derrick Williams, he would have some trouble. But because of how lanky and athletic he is, Barnes still holds the edge here. The quicker, shiftier Walker still has to manufacture his shots around the seven-foot wingspan of Barnes. I like the Tar Heel in this one.
National Semifinal #2
Georgetown vs. Brigham Young
Austin Freeman, 6'4" senior guard vs. Jimmer Fredette, 6'2" senior guard
This is a great match-up, as Freeman's linebacker frame will face the test of The Jimmer's fancy footwork and space-creating moves. Freeman could very easily attack Jimmer every possession, but Fredette is no whimp. Though he is a poor defender, Fredette takes contact very well and would not be afraid of Freeman. If Fredette holds his ground, he will have success, as much of Freeman's scoring comes from strong drives to the hoop. On the offensive end, Fredette will be able to have his way with Freeman. Freeman is a slower defender who will not be able to react quickly enough to Fredette's flashy moves. This will give Jimmer plenty of room to knock down shots and take this national semifinal.
North Carolina vs. Brigham Young
Harrison Barnes, 6'8" freshman forward vs. Jimmer Fredette, 6'2" senior guard
It's pretty obvious. Barnes is taller and longer than Fredette, and he has the clear edge.
Don't count Fredette out here. On the surface, it's Barnes, but Fredette has great feet and the rare ability to use his body to create space for himself. Barnes is explosive and jumps much better, but does not have the ability to create his own shots to the extent Fredette does. This is a tie.
Fredette by a long shot (see what I did there?). Barnes is pretty good, but Fredette is the best shooter in college basketball.
As noted before, Fredette is actually a very good finisher, something far too many people don't realize. Because Barnes was formerly a post player, he has a great variety of moves once in the paint, and Fredette has no hope of stopping him there. On the flip side, Barnes can hope to stop Fredette on the drive at least a few times. Barnes has the edge.
Again, because Barnes was formerly a post player, he is very physical down low. Fredette is also fairly physical, and has better body control, being able to make off-balance shots and score after contact. This is a tie, because neither player blows you away with his physicality.
This is Barnes. Fredette is a poor defender, and considering he'll be going against a 6'8" athletic freak, he is at a severe disadvantage.
Fredette has this one, but does it matter much? He is a fierce competitor and seems to will his team to victory much of the time. But in a one-on-one match-up, it really all comes down to talent.
This one will come right down to the wire. It may even become whoever has the last shot wins. I'm going to say that whoever is able to keep the other player out of the paint will win. Fredette will hit his fair share of jumpers and make some layups, but Barnes can simply overpower Fredette into the paint on every one of his possessions. Fredette will go ahead early, but once Barnes gets the ball, he'll go on a big run that will put him ahead for good. The winner is Harrison Barnes.
Top Five Conferences:
2. Big East
3. Mountain West
5. Big Ten
Winning Percentage by Height:
6'2" and Below: 55.81% (0.558)
6'2" to 6'7": 45.28% (0.453)
6'8" and Above: 50% (0.500)
Guards vs. Forwards (Centers counted as forwards):
Guards: 47.06% (0.471)
Forwards: 51.81% (0.518)
Winning Percentage by Class:
Freshmen: 76.47% (0.765)
Sophomores: 43.75% (0.438)
Juniors: 51.28% (0.513)
Seniors: 43.55% (0.436)
So there you have it. There will be lots of disagreements about who would win each individual match-up, but that is kind of the point.