Two of the most glamorous and decorated programs in college basketball square off for a trip to Phoenix and the Final Four. Who could ask for anything more than North Carolina vs. Kentucky??
It was an interesting night in Regional Finals, even if the actual games themselves fell a little short of the weekend’s earlier hysteria. Gonzaga faced little challenge from #11 seeded Xavier who appeared to finally run out of gas and was unable to withstand the barrage of Gonzaga three-pointers raining down. The win sends the Zags to the Final Four for the first time in program history, and the first time a WCC school has advanced to such lofty heights in fifty years, and hopefully gets a long-heavy weight off the shoulders of one of the best coaches in the game, Mark Few.
And if Gonzaga took a big step to shed perceptions, than Kansas did an equal amount to reinforce them. It will be labeled another “Kansas choke” after the Jayhawks looked like the best team in the country and EASILY poised to make the Final Four, but for the seventh time in coach Bill Self’s career, came up just short one step away. But to call it a Kansas choke ignores the fact that Oregon, a top ten team and Pac-12 co-champ and a #1-seed in 2016, flat-out BEAT the ‘Hawks in a virtual road game. Rather than chastise Self, we’d be better suited to tip the cap to the Ducks.
The last two spots will be filled this afternoon, and we are guaranteed to have one surprise team; the winner of South Carolina and Florida and one elite Blue Blood, be it in the shade of Carolina or Kentucky.
There’s no getting around it – we’ve been spitting NCAA icicles this week, failing to hit on any picks this weekend. Let’s reverse the curse today and cap off the second weekend of the Tournament in the same fashion we have conducted out business most of the year; winning.
Today’s NCAA Tournament Pick:
#2 Kentucky Wildcats vs #1 North Carolina Tar Heels -2.5
This pick is really simple for me. It has nothing to do with the fact that North Carolina is bigger and longer and the best offensive rebounding team in the country. It has nothing to do with the fact that Kentucky’s 14-game winning streak looks a lot more impressive in light of the March performances from South Carolina and Florida (and the SEC – looks like Calipari was right afterall…)
It is simply – Kentucky’s guards are the fastest, most dynamic, most talented and explosive backcourt in the nation and North Carolina’s Joel Berry isn’t 100%. That is a HUGE HUGE edge for Kentucky, and I think it is enough to make the difference. Fully healthy, I might lean Cats anyhow since the game is a toss up and I can get a few points. Plus, add in the crazy crowd that travels with the Cats everywhere they go to turn “neutral courts” into a laughing sentiment.
And let’s not get it twisted – it isn’t like Kentucky is “small.” Adebayo and Willis give them some size to complement their blur of a backcourt.
I’ll take the edge of health and speed in the UK backcourt, as well as the two-and-a-half-point cushion. Let’s hope we get a game half as fun as the one in Vegas before Christmas.
Today’s Pick: Kentucky Wildcats +2.5