2011 Final Four Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 2/21/2011
We’re nearing the end of the regular season in college basketball. Within two weeks it’s all about the tournaments before THE tournament. In other words, this is a great, great time of year, and it’s only going to get better as time moves along.
That means one big thing - now is the perfect time to make some Final Four predictions and predictions about the road to the Final Four as well. Here are eight things that I feel confident about right now. Of course, I’m even more confident that several of these predictions will be embarrassingly lousy by the time thee tournament rolls around. Without further ado:
No. 1 seeds are going to be vulnerable - I really like Ohio State, and I’ll talk about them more in a while. Beyond that, though, I think that this is the least top-heavy tournament we have seen in a long while. There isn’t a potential number one out there other than the Buckeyes that is anything less than wildly inconsistent. If the tournament started today then some combination of Pitt, Kansas, Texas, and Duke would probably be the top line teams. The first three teams have lost in the last 10 days, with Pitt and Texas dropping ugly ones on Saturday. They all have the potential to go deep, but I don’t trust any of them as far as I could throw their mascots. I don’t trust Duke any more, either - at least not unless Kyrie Irving miraculously heals in time for the postseason. There are some years where the best teams in the field are clear and obvious and they are marked with the number one. This is not one of those years.
The Mountain West is for real - Outside of the Big Ten and the Big East there is not a conference in the country that has two better teams in it than the Mountain West - and even those two conferences don’t have a huge edge over the MWC. BYU and San Diego State are ridiculously fun to watch, they have top-level talent that is scary, excellent depth, and are very well coached. With two teams that strong - both of which will be very highly seeded barring a disaster between now and tournament time - the conference is really going to roar. I expect both teams to play into the second week, and wouldn’t be surprised at all to see one play in week three as well. On top of that, you can’t forget about UNLV as well.
A-10, Again - I love the A-10, and I especially like them at tournament time. If the tourney started right now I think they would have three teams in - Xavier and Temple are all but locks, and Richmond would be in as well in my eyes. The Spiders have a short tournament shelf life, but I expect solid things from the other two. At least one of those two teams will make the second week, and I really think both of them will. They are exactly the type of team I love in the tournament - a talented top end leading a deep, disciplined squad that never lets up.
Ohio State is going to win - As I write this I am watching Purdue beat up on Ohio State. That makes me nervous. Still, I think the Buckeyes are the best team in the country. Losing to Purdue is not a bad thing - they are a very good team playing in a gym that is going totally insane. Also, there aren’t many players in the country as good or as hot as E’Twaun Moore is in this one, so this is a reasonably unique situation. Despite this result, though, I think that there isn’t a team more talented or suited for a tournament run. Jared Sullinger is a machine, David Lighty is a pure leader, and every player on the team is dangerous in his own way. I don’t completely love this team, but I like them a lot better than anyone else.
I like Long Island - I’m a sucker for 15 seeds. If Long Island lands in the 15 spot - which is where they would be right now - and if they get the right draw (i.e. not a Mountain West team) - then this is a 15 I will be pulling for. They are ridiculously efficient offensively, they rebound very well, they have incredibly balanced production, and they are feisty.
St. John’s will flop - Steve Lavin’s squad will go into the tournament with a ton of hype after destroying the best of the Big East time and time again this year. I like Lavin and respect what he has done with this squad, but I don’t expect the tournament to go well for his squad. They are inexperienced on the biggest stage and I am not convinced that they can handle the pressure. I’m also not convinced that they will shine outside of the Big East as well as they do in it. Yes, that is a bit of a shot at the conference. The St. John’s bandwagon will be crowded heading into the tournament so I am going to step off now to make room.
I have my eye on Florida - The SEC is pretty lousy this year but I still like how Florida is playing. They are handling the challenges with class and they are getting better and better with each passing game. Billy Donovan is as good a tournament coach as there is as well. They will be a very tough three or four seed.
Arizona, too - Sean Miller is a really great coach. He did great things at Xavier and his future is bright here. There have been some growing pains as the Wildcats move beyond a rocky few years and get used to a very different program under Miller. In the last two months, though, it’s become very clear that the team is fully buying what Miller is selling. He has more talent than he is used to because of the conference he is in and he is making the most of that talent. The team won’t get a lot of respect because the Pac-10 is so lousy. That just means that the value will be easier to find.
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