Sunday Topic: Who Wins NCAA Tourney?
Every Sunday, HOOPSWORLD’s analysts weigh in on a basketball-related topic. Get in on the debate by leaving your thoughts in the comment section.
Today is Selection Sunday, which means we’ll have an NCAA tournament bracket by the end of the day. March Madness is a lot of fun every year, but this could go down as one of the more exciting tournaments in recent memory due to the parity in college basketball. Every team has looked beatable at some point during this season and the tournament field is truly wide open. We should be in for some thrilling games and shocking upsets over the next few weeks.
While this will make for an interesting tournament, it also makes it incredibly difficult to predict which team is going to win the championship. We asked some of our writers for a prediction and each had a different answer. Here’s this week’s Sunday Topic:
“Which team will win the NCAA tournament?”
In past years, there’s been a team or two that was expected to win it all if they played to their full strength. Take last year’s Kentucky team, for example. That team was so talented, you just knew they could win it all if they got hot and didn’t get in their own way. This year, there isn’t that dominant favorite. Even the top-tier teams have some bad losses on their resume and have looked vulnerable.
Even though I’m not very confident in my prediction, I’m picking Kansas to win it all. I’m a big fan of Ben McLemore and I think he’ll have a coming out party during the tournament. He is extremely talented and can cause a lot of problems. I think he’ll have a great run and solidify himself as a top pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Jeff Withey has turned into a dominant defender in the paint, averaging 3.9 blocks per game this season. He’ll make things very difficult for opposing offenses.
I think Kansas has the talent to win it all, and they have an excellent head coach in Bill Self. They had some losses to unranked teams, but that could describe just about every team this season. I was on the Indiana bandwagon, but three losses in six games concerns me. Give me Kansas.” – Alex Kennedy
However, the Louisville Cardinals may be the hottest team in the country right now, riding a 10-game winning streak. Their last loss came at the hands of Notre Dame in five overtimes. There’s so much to like about this Cardinals team, from the intense brand of defense they play to the experience they have coming off of last year’s run to the Final Four. This year, not only are the capable of getting back, they could win it all.
The only thing that scares me is them playing in close ball games with Russ Smith in charge of running the show. They can live or die by some of the mistakes he makes, and he has a very aggressive mindset, but he has help in the backourt with Peyton Siva. When I just look at this team overall, I see the squad worth banking on the most in a year as unpredictable as this.” – Yannis Koutroupis
“Despite climbing all the way to a number one ranking this season, the Gonzaga Bulldogs still don’t seem to get the attention and credit they deserve from the rest of the nation. All that will change on April 8, when Gonzaga cuts the nets down and claims the first national championship in school history.
The primary reason the ‘Zags have a chance to make a deep run is their powerful power forward Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk is the catalyst of the Gonzaga offense and a rare offensively gifted post-presence on the collegiate scene. Averaging over 17 points and seven rebounds per game this season, he’s proven he can dominate inside and has played well on the big stage. Elias Harris is the Bulldogs’ other big man; while not as skilled offensively, Harris is a beast on the boards. These two give Gonzaga one of the best frontcourt duos in the land.
Nonetheless, guard play is always imperative if a team is looking to make a deep run into the teeth of March Madness. The Bulldogs have a balanced and steady collective of backcourt athletes that are more than capable of controlling the pace, taking care of the basketball, and (most importantly) shooting well from behind-the-arc. It is nearly impossible to be successful in today’s NCAA without a number of knock-down shooters. Starting guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell both shoot over 39 percent from distance, and all take great care of the basketball – averaging fewer than 1.4 turnovers per contest. In addition, Michael Hart is shooting a blistering 55 percent from long range this season. And backup point guard David Stockton (John’s son) is a solid and steadying influence as well.
Last, but certainly not least, Gonzaga has one of the best coaches in America on its bench. Mark Few doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as many other more publicized and “famous” D-1 coaches, but that’s simply because most folks are paying close enough attention. Few’s record speaks for itself. Gonzaga has won over 80 percent of its conference games under Few.” – Tommy Beer
“This is a really hard year to make a serious guess about who wins the NCAA tournament, because no team has come forward as a true number one all season long. It’s changed about a million times, which means just about anybody could win the thing.
Since Vegas currently has Indiana at the best odds (11/2), they feel like the safest bet (so to speak).
Gonzaga is hard to buy into despite the fact that they’re one of the most fun teams to watch in the country, and neither Duke nor Florida has inspired much confidence this season, either. Michigan would be fun (as would any Big Ten team, really), but let’s say the Hoosiers.
Picking anybody else is just entirely too frightening.” – Joel Brigham
“With no clear-cut favorite in this year’s NCAA tournament, the time is ripe for a solid defensive team to get hot and become the Cinderella story that goes all the way, and the 17th ranked Pittsburgh Panthers fits the mold.
In the Big East, Pittsburgh ranked first in opponent’s points allowed at 55.4 points per game, good for sixth overall in D-I basketball. No team has been able to score 70 or more points against the Panthers this season. Pittsburgh also features six players that can hit the three-ball and if this team can get hot from the outside, they will be a very tough out in the single game knockout format of tournament play.
Toronto Raptors center Aaron Gray, who played for Pittsburgh from 2003-2007) provided his completely unbiased confirmation of the Panthers’ chances.
“There is so much diversity in the top tier of college basketball right now, you can’t even pick it,” Gray said. “Obviously, the hometown in me is going to say Pitt, the realistic guy in me says I really like some of those Big 10 schools – Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana. It just depends on who is going to get hot at the right time. Right now they are just fighting their way through their conference tournaments. We will see how those shake out. The Big 10 tournament, the ACC tournament, the Big East tournament usually is a good warm-up. Pitt did themselves a favor by losing the first day, so they get that extra rest. That’s a huge advantage for them. Once you get in, it’s all about who gets hot at the right time. There are probably about 15 teams you could say have a legitimate chance of winning and in years past, I don’t think you could say that.” – Stephen Brotherston
Which team will win the NCAA tournament? Leave your prediction in the comment section below!