The NCAA Tournament is finally here, and brackets around the world are being filled out to try and predict the right Final Four, and the right National Champion. Our writers here at N2K wanted to voice their opinions on the tournament, so without further adieu, here are our picks for the Final Four, and our National Champions.
My Final Four consists of Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas and Oklahoma. Each squad has a great head coach and has a ton of leadership on their rosters. Seniors Buddy Hield of Oklahoma, Denzel Valentine of Michigan State and Perry Ellis of Kansas will rule this entire tournament, as they have owned college basketball all year long. Kentucky is a relatively young team compared to these squads, but John Calipari has done more with less and this team is clicking at the right time.
Perry Ellis, who has been at Kansas since 2005, or so it seems, has led Kansas all year. Ellis has a solid supporting cast of Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden and DeVonte’ Graham to help spread the wealth. The Jayhawks are in the toughest bracket, making their run to the Final Four the most difficult. With Kansas’ experience and Bill Self roaming the sidelines, the Jayhawks should maneuver their way through the South region and make it to Houston.
The Kentucky Wildcats have been one of the hottest teams in the nation, in no small part to their dynamic backcourt duo of Tyler Ulis and stud freshman Jamal Murray. Before an overtime win over Texas A&M in the SEC Championship game, Murray scored over 20 points in 12 straight contests. An X-Factor for this team could be Derek Willis of all people, as Kentucky has really taken off since coach Cal inserted him into the starting lineup.
Oklahoma is led by a group of three seniors including Buddy Hield, the best scorer in college basketball. The Sooners love to get out and run and pop the three ball. Hield, Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard all shoot north of 37% from deep, and when they’re on, they’re a tough group to stop. Oklahoma will have to get through Kansas to get to the championship game, but as the old saying goes, “the third time is the charm”, so the Sooners will finally knock off Kansas to get to the National Championship Game.
The final team in my Final Four is Michigan State, who also happens to be my pick for National Champion. Denzel Valentine is a triple double threat each time he steps on the court and has a solid supporting cast of Deyonta Davis, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the legendary Tom Izzo on the sidelines, and with this groups experience, efficiency and competitiveness, they’ll be the ones to cut down the nets in Houston.
For my final four I picked Kentucky, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Michigan State. Star seniors who each have built convincing cases for the Wooden Award lead both Michigan State and Kansas. Buddy Hield has been phenomenal all season scoring at will and leading Oklahoma to one of their of greatest seasons. He also has a fairly easy path to the Final Four where he will not face any opponent that can contain him on the defensive end. Denzel Valentine, who in my mind is the best all around player in college, has led Michigan State.
Michigan State as a whole is also very deep and will be able to outlast most opponents without having to even rely on their star player. The fact that they did not receive a one seed is kind of ridiculous and they should prove that as they make their way to the Final Four.
Kentucky my third team in, who I also have making it to the championship, is hitting its stride at the perfect time. Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray might be the best court in college and both of them can light it up when they start getting hot. What makes me think Kentucky can make it this far though is the recent play of Skal Labissiere. He seems to finally be developing and getting accustomed to the college game which should really scare teams. If Kentucky can keep up its level of play they might be the deadliest team in the tournament.
Just Like President Barry O I have Kansas winning it all. They are the only team that has managed to separate themselves from the field and really look like the best team in the country for extended periods of time. Between Perry Ellis (the oldest man in college basketball), Frank Mason III, and Wayne Selden they have a big three as well as some serious depth. The Jayhawks have been playing great recently and have proven time and time again this season that they’re the tops in the country and I refuse to pick against them. They also have the greatest hype man of all time in Uncle Anthony and his reactions to Selden’s dunks alone are enough to win a championship. Rock Chalk Jayhawk baby!
My Final Four consists of two pretty common picks, Michigan State and Oklahoma, and two dark horses, in Maryland and Indiana. I think that both #5 seeds are among the best teams in college basketball when they’re clicking (I think Maryland is THE best team when they play to their potential). Both are deep and can attack from many different areas. Melo Trimble and Yogi Ferrell are two of the best point guards in the NCAA, and they’re the biggest reasons their teams will make it that far.
My championship game is a showdown between Oklahoma and Michigan State. Truth be told, I haven’t watched a ton of games involving either team. Both are deep teams led by two of the best all-around players in college ball, in Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine. Ultimately, you just can’t go against Coach Tom Izzo, who, save Coach K, is the best coach in college sports… not just basketball. I like Michigan State in a thriller.
Just since I’m a Xavier fan and student, I had to throw this disclaimer in…
DISCLAIMER: When clicking, I completely believe that X is capable of winning a National Championship. I have them losing in the Elite Eight to the Hoosiers, but I’ll happily take an incorrect bracket if it means seeing the Musketeers in Houston. LET’S GO X!
Kansas: Big 12 regular season and tournament champions are one of the hottest teams in the country. They have experienced guards, big men and shooters. Bill Self is one of the best in the country. I believe they are the best team in the country and hope they can shake off previous NCAA tournament letdowns. I think they do and end up taking home the trophy.
Texas A&M: Kind of a sleeper headed into the tourney. They have beat Baylor, Iowa St., Texas and Kentucky. They are a physical team and really strong defensively. Daniel House is a star that few know about and I think they can advance out of the weaker West bracket.
Xavier: Without a ton of bias here, Xavier is arguably the deepest team in the country and has talent at every position. Scorers, shooters, defenders, playmakers, big men, you name it, Xavier has it. They play a 1-3-1 zone which can stall offenses who aren’t 100% prepared. They rebound and shoot the ball well and will be tough to be in March.
Michigan State: Tom Izzo is one of the best in coaches in the country. Denzel Valentine would get my vote for player of the year. He runs their offense and stuffs the stat sheet and his importance was shown when he missed time due to injury. The key for Michigan State is their 3-point shooting, in particular Bryn Forbes. This is the best shooting team Izzo has ever had and I think their efficiency in both ends will lead them to the championship game.
Miami: The U is an underrated three seed in the South since many people have already penciled Kansas in as National Champions. But the Hurricanes mix a strong defense with a tournament proven track record thanks to wins this season over UVA, Duke, ND, and Utah. Miami has also been able to earn an ACC Conference record of 13-5 in one of the toughest divisions in college basketball. If the Canes get rolling lookout because they’ll roll all the way to Houston.
Oklahoma: Buddy Hield as a senior will take over this tournament run a la Shabazz Napier in 2014 and carry a sound Sooners roster into NRG Stadium. Oklahoma’s wins against Nova, West Virginia and thrilling losses to Kansas made me give the nod in the West to the Sooners. The veteran leadership of Hield will be invaluable to this team and they will go as far as he can take them.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers I feel are a bit of an overlooked team for this tournament. They play a strong press defense that holds opposing offenses to around 66 points per game while putting up close to 80 points on the offensive side. WV has beaten both Kansas and Oklahoma but are fortunate that they are in a weaker area of the bracket (aka not the Midwest or the South). I have West Virginia as my eventually champion over Oklahoma since I like picking teams that are typically overlooked but are strong defensively. The Mountaineers could get it done this year using the press and being consistently strong on the glass.
Michigan State: Michigan State is one of the few hyped teams that I actually buy the hype for. Denzel Valentine is more or less the player of the year paired with one of the best coaches in the NCAA in the form of Tom Izzo. A team propelled with experience from last year’s Final Four run doesn’t have aspirations of getting to Houston, they want to get there and to cut down the nets and they very well could accomplish just that. Regardless of what happens, this year’s March Madness looks to be a strong and competitive one so gear up for some upsets, some madness and some basketball.
I think Michigan State is the front runner in cutting down the nets in the NCAA March Madness tournament this year. Michigan State and Kansas were early on contenders. The Spartans took down the Jayhawks back in November. And Kansas has done what they always have by winning the Big 12 for the 12th straight season in a row. They face a soft Midwest region with Dayton, Seton Hall, and Utah. Denzel Valentine has been playing great recently and they would look to ride his play going forward. And, they have only had one overtime loss since mid January. Making a claim for the Spartans, number 1 seed Virginia has lost to Michigan State the past two times and in my mind it will happen again.
Cover Photo via VisitHoustonTexas.com