In the middle of the season I made my Final Four picks. I wish I could stick by them, but three of the teams I selected are in the East Region. My picks were North Carolina, Kentucky, Xavier and Oklahoma, but only one of the first three teams can advance to the Final Four. I now have adjusted my picks to be compatible with the bracket.
- Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas will emerge from the South Region with ease. The Jayhawks have not lost since January 25 and have gotten the number one overall seed. They have three really experienced players in Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis. These three can definitely lead Kansas to a Final Four appearance. Kansas won’t face too much of an issue until the Sweet 16 when they will most likely play Cal or Maryland. Both of these teams are very talented, but haven’t fully played up to their potential yet, so the Jayhawks should advance. In the Elite Eight Kansas will likely face Villanova or Miami. Villanova is notorious for not performing in March, while Miami is a solid team that also doesn’t have a lot March success. This means that Kansas will win the South Region and advance to Houston.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
There will be two Big 12 teams in this year’s Final Four. The Big 12 was the best conference in college basketball this season making these two teams battle tested. Oklahoma has the front runner for National Player of the Year in Buddy Hield, but also have great players around him in the starting five. Ryan Spangler is a great offensive big man and Khadeem Lattin provides the defense on the inside. Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard provide a very talented back court to go along with Hield. The Sooners don’t have a great bench, but will be carried by their starting five. The Sooners are in the weakest region in the bracket. Oregon is the weakest number one seed, having their resume boosted by an inflated rpi number. Oklahoma deservedly got the number two seed. Texas A&M should be the only other threat, but they also benefited from getting a better seed than they deserved. In the weakest region, Oklahoma is the best bet to make the Final Four.
3. North Carolina Tarheels
North Carolina is one of my mid-season Final Four picks and I am sticking with them. They have a roster that has a great combination of talent and experience. Point guard Marcus Paige finally looks like he is regaining the form of the last three seasons that made him a great player. The Tarheels also have a great inside presence in Brice Johnson, who emerged as a First Team All-American this season. The rest of their roster is loaded with good players, who can help them win four games in a row to get to the Final Four. North Carolina has a really tough bracket to get out of, but are more than capable of doing so. Their probable Sweet 16 game willl be against Kentucky. The Wildcats have a great back court, but their inside play is inconsistent. Johnson will take advantage of this and lead the Tarheels to a big win. If they play West Virginia or Xavier in the Elite Eight they will have a more talented roster that can beat the Mountaineers’ press and can expose the Musketeers lack of interest in defense. North Carolina can handle the toughest bracket and reach the Final Four.
4. Utah Utes
Utah will claim the last Final Four spot out of the Midwest region. The Utes have one of the most efficient players in the country in Jakob Poeltl, who could be in the NBA next season. He handles the inside play with Kyle Kuzma, while Lorenzo Bonam, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor provide great perimeter play. The Utes will likely play Michigan State in the Sweet 16, where Poeltl will have the advantage on the inside over the Spartans and lead the Utes to victory. In the Elite Eight, Virginia will be the probable opponent, where Poeltl will again to be a force on the inside, leading the Utes to victory. Utah will win the Midwest Region and advance to the Final Four.