Brian Batty breaks down the final two regions of the NCAA Tournament. You can find part one here.
Joel Embiid’s back is probably the most important body part in the entire tournament. With a healthy Embiid, Kansas has the most talented end of game five guys of any team. But I’m just going to assume Embiid isn’t going to be around, because let’s face it, a back injury for a big man is about as debilitating an injury as possible. Even if he comes back, who knows how effective he will be. But here’s my thing with Kansas, Andrew Wiggins came into his freshman season with more hype than any 18 year old basketball player I can remember not named Lebron. Anyone who gets a Michael Jordan based nick name (Maple Jordan) must have something going for him. He hasn’t necessarily lit the world on fire like he was “supposed to” but he’s had an otherwise great year. This is his moment and he knows it. If he has a great 6 game run right now, he’s the number one pick. Dating back to high school, Wiggins has always played best when he has something to prove. This is his time, Wiggins is about to have a Carmelo in ’03 type tournament run.
Florida hasn’t lost a game in what seems like four years, and goes into this weekend with all the confidence in the world. Going undefeated in your conference, albeit in the dumpster fire that is the SEC, is nothing to laugh at. They’re experienced, they have seniors all over the roster, and Scotty Wilbekin may end up being the best player in the tournament. I think they got screwed in their placement though. Not really the best draw for the number one overall seed. Kansas/Syracuse/New Mexico/Ohio State/UCLA is a hell of a field. This is just not the type of year that the number one overall seed wins it. Too much parity all over the country for that to happen.
I know Stephen F. Austin is the trendy upset pick, beating the former trendy upset pick VCU in the first round, but watch out for Tulsa taking down UCLA. Their coach Danny Manning knows a few things about miracles, and don’t be shocked if they mess around and win two games. They’re an athletic team who play with tons of spunk. I love a team with spunk come March, and UCLA is a very anti spunk team. They score a lot of points, but in about as unexciting of a way possible. This bracket is going to be the one with the most chaos in it. Some team from this region is going to lead to torn up pieces of paper in thousands of bars across America. Whether it be Tulsa, Stephen F. Austin, or another weird sleeper team, somebody is going to turn some heads here. That being said, Kansas comes out of this one.
Five thoughts about this field full of land mines
1. The committee sure didn’t do Wichita State any favors here. They set them up for one of two scenarios. They either lose to Kentucky in the second round, effectively killing mid-major hype for a few years. Or they could beat Kentucky, beat Louisville, then beat Duke and gain the ever adoring attention as the little engine that could, and ride the hype train into every Sports Center lead in for three weeks. Regardless, they sure did make the Shockers tournament road interesting
2. Despite all of the great teams in this region, it is set up in a way that it might go 1-2-3-4 in the Sweet 16. There are four elite teams, and then everyone else. Don’t be surprised if the upsets end after Friday here.
3. Duke vs. Michigan (if it happens) will be the game of the tournament. Every year there’s that double over-time game that gets talked about for a few weeks even after the tournament is over with. It’s the classic big school vs. big school, superstar laden, grind it out game that will end up being the highlight of the whole thing. I see a buzzer beater to tie it in regulation, followed by a slow first overtime, with a Rodney Hood three pointer to put Duke ahead at the end. I can’t wait.
4. Kind of strange how Iowa vs. Tennessee in the play-in game for the 11 seed, could end up actually winning a few games. Iowa has been playing absolutely dreadful the last month or so, but don’t count them out just yet. Not too long ago, these guys were a lot of people’s dark horse heading into the Tournament. We all know how that went down the stretch of Big Ten season, but again, don’t count them out. They’re spunky, and we all know I love some good spunk.
5. Give me Duke to come out of this battlefield. Just feels like a Duke year. Jabari Parker hasn’t not won a championship since he was in middle school (Yeah I used a double negative. Suck it. It’s tournament time I don’t care). Winning four state championships, especially going through the Chicago Public School league, is nothing to laugh at. That’s probably the toughest high school league in the country. The kid knows what it takes to win big games. He, along with Wiggins, knows if he has a big tournament he’s playing for the number one overall pick
Check back tomorrow for my Final Four breakdown. In the meantime check out the AWR tournament preview podcast in the podcasts section.