Who To Take For the NCAA Tournament

Follow on Twitter @cimini

Two years ago I called it on the UConn Huskies in late February to win the National Championship. Last year was a close call with Louisville who came into the tournament as 40-1 odds and had a shot to beat Kentucky in the final four. This year they came in as favorites and are entering the tournament as so with a strong Big East tournament once again.

I believe this year will once again prove to be a heck of a tournament with some surprise teams to consider.

Top Conferences By Rank
1. Big Ten
2. Big East
3. Atlantic 10
4. Mountain West
5. ACC
6. Pac-12

Syracuse 35-1-
I’m shocked that Syracuse has continued to rise from an odds stand point. Maybe there is insider information on a possible suspension before the tournament like last year with Fab Melo. We know that James Southerland missed some time clearing up an academic issue, hopefully that is 100 percent cleared. At 35-1, Syracuse presents the best overall value from a strong top fifteen to twenty team. The zone defense is always good to have and I truly do not believe teams in their eastern bracket are as strong as perceived. Indiana, Butler, and Miami.

The threat with Syracuse is always if they have to face a Big East team in the tournament. The committee did a great job on making sure that wouldn’t happen in the second round. Those teams know how to attack the zone as they face it year after year. I’ll be shocked if teams do not struggle against their attack zone and trap zone. Offensively they’ve come back to life and are getting sudden strong play from Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita inside.

Do not forget about Brandon Triche. There is no player in the country that has more experience on the big stage than Triche. He is a four year starter at Syracuse, and has been a part of several noteworthy Cuse teams. His freshman year was the season they lost to Butler after Arinze Onuaku went down in the Big East tournament. His sophomore year they suffered a very tough loss on a blown call for a backcourt violation in the final minute to Marquette. Last year they went to the Elite 8. Both Triche and Southerland have been on all of those teams, and CJ Fair (junior) has had a significant role as well. Experience will be key for them as an advantage. It always helps having a former player/coach like Gerry McNamara on the sidelines as well.

Temple- 200-1
I’ve loved Temple’s team all season long, and believe they have underachieved from a talent standpoint worse than any team in the country. They have the depth and strong play from every position to make a big push in the tournament. Check odds on them in your local sportsbook for Sweet 16 and Elite 8 odds. In the tournament you look for that “it” factor player. Khalif Wyatt is that type for Temple. He can create and lead his team to victory when he wants.

During the season Temple had a problem playing down to their competition in some puzzling losses. But they also play up to the higher rated competition as well. Defeating Syracuse at Madison Square Garden and narrowly losing to Kansas at Kansas. Big man Jake O’Brien can stretch teams with his ability to shoot three pointers, and Anthony Lee is a tough nosed lengthy big man that plays hard all his minutes.

Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson can be a tough matchup for several teams. What is another big factor for Temple is their depth especially in the back court. Dalton Pepper a transfer from West Virginia provides solid minutes and on the ball defense. The senior cast of O’Brien, Wyatt, TJ Dileo, Hollis-Jefferson and Scootie Randall are unmatched in the tournament. A strong win in the second round over Indiana could give them the mental edge of belief.

My Overall Favorite: Michigan State—15-1
Sometimes all it takes is the right matchups to get you to the final four. From there coaching and the will to win take over. Michigan State has the coach in Tom Izzo and the nucleus of players to get the job done. They were bounced from their conference tournament early and many have probably cancelled them out as possible champs. When you have a team that plays strong defense like Michigan State game in and game out, you have to give that team an extra star and check mark over other teams.

Coach Izzo will have his team ready and I do not believe any other top four seed has an easier path to the final four.

Other teams to consider
San Diego State- 300-1
Another regular season under performing team, but they have the talent on the court to perform. From this year to next March I do not think there is another team in the country that makes a stronger leap in seeding than SD State. I expect them to be no lower than a three seed next season.

New Mexico- 20-1
Outside the Power Six Conferences no one is getting as much attention as New Mexico. In a tough Mountain West Conference this season they delivered. I have them right below Temple outside the Power Six.


You must be logged in to post a comment.