My Final Four Thoughts and Picks
Before talking about the Final Four which kicks off this afternoon, let’s first talk about the four Elite 8 games which were all very exciting in their own rights. All four teams and coaches that lost will not be able to sleep for the next few months thinking about what could have been…
Michigan State/Louisville- In what I considered to be the worst of the four Elite 8 games this game went to overtime so that in itself makes it exciting. It was definitely a game of runs, and one that neither team could take control of. Michigan State seemingly hit every shot from 3 and was able to stay in the game and in overtime take control based on their 3s. Why is Rick Pitino going to lose sleep? He had one free throw to win the game with one second on the clock and the guy missed it. Was the guy shooting 50% from the line? Yes. Did the first free throw get a ridiculously lucky bounce to go in? Yes. But in the end the game was tied with one free throw to go to the Final Four. And he missed it.
Duke/Gonzaga- Another great game. I love Duke and even I underestimated how good they are. They were outsized across the board (besides Pangos) and were able to score at will against a pretty good Gonzaga defense. I was really worried about the size difference and we did see Gonzaga score most of their points in the paint. But Duke always had an answer. And what was really interesting is that Duke went away from Okafor for most of the game. I knew he was outsized but I didn’t think Duke wouldn’t even really go to him. That was the most surprising thing to me. Why will Mark Few not be able to sleep possibly forever? 3 reasons. 1. His big guys, especially Karnowski were in foul trouble all game. Karnowski couldn’t get comfortable really the whole game because of foul trouble and I thought he would really be able to wear out Okafor with his size. 2. The missed layup by Wiljer. Two point game, probably under 5 minutes to go and he blows a wide open, uncontested layup. That play swung the momentum and I don’t think Gonzaga was ever that close again. 3. Pangos missed 3 wide open threes in the second half. I consider him one of the best shooters in the country and all of those 3s I yelled out when he released them because they were so open and he always makes them, and he missed them all. If any or all of those go it’s a completely different game. On a side note I think Few made a bad coaching error moving Pangos to the point. Instead of being a 17-20 point a game scorer and really being hard to guard and making defenses chase him off a bunch of screens, Few put him at the point and he just facilitated the offense, being more of an afterthought in the offense. I think he had 0 or 2 points at half and Few said he needed to get him more involved, I think he could have done that by running him off screens and making him an active part of the offense.
Wisconsin/Arizona- Another really exciting game to watch and easily could have been a Final Four game. It’s disappointing that Arizona doesn’t get a shot at Kentucky because even though they lose fair and square to Wisconsin, I think they have as good or maybe a better chance of beating Kentucky because of their length and athleticism. Anyway, it was a great game and Wisconsin hit every big shot they needed in the second half. Every time it got close, Wisconsin hit a dagger to keep them at arms distance on the scoreboard. Why will Sean Miller lose sleep? For exactly that reason. His team is known for their defense and I think their defense let them down in the second half. Yes, Wisconsin shot out of their minds in the second half (9/11 from 3), but many, and definitely not all, were pretty wide open. Yes the last two, and especially the Decker moon ball will be the most remembered, but throughout the half guys from Wisconsin were shooting wide open shots. Tarzuski wasn’t able to get out to Kaminsky and it just seemed like Arizona was reacting to Wisconsin’s offense instead of trying to control it and that was the difference in the game.
Kentucky/Notre Dame- Another fantastic game and one that Mike Bray will lose sleep over for a long time. Why? Because they had em. They had em. And they let them off the hook. A six point lead late in the game and after Gerrian Grant hits that insane deep 3 at the shot clock buzzer the game should have been Notre Dames. But what did Notre Dame do on their last 3 possessions? Stand around and hold the ball then ask Grand to hit another miracle shot. Stand around again and ask Grand to hit a miracle step back 3 at the buzzer over Cauley-Stein who is 7 foot and one of the best defenders in the country. And then try and hit a miracle 3 at the buzzer with three guys on him. Speaking of that, he has to pass that ball. As he dribbles down and sees 3 white shirts he has to not try and be the hero. He needs to pass to anyone who was wide open all over the court. I have noticed this a lot in late games in the tournament. Guys want to be the hero. I think it happened to Louisville several times the last couple games where someone wants to be the guy and they end up taking absolutely horrible shots. Anyway, Grant needed to pass that ball and Notre Dame needed to run their offense the last few possessions because that is how they had beaten Kentucky for the first 38 minutes.
On to today…
Duke/Michigan State- This game should be a blowout. It may not be but it if the refs don’t try and keep it close Duke should kill them. Michigan State doesn’t deserve to be here. I hear the arguments already and yes it’s not their fault who they had to play. But let’s look at it. They beat a weak Georgia team in the first round, and who do they play after that? Virginia-can’t score. Oklahoma-had them beat and then stopped playing. Louisville-can’t score and still should have beaten them. I think the run is over. Michigan State is an offensively minded team, and they running into an offensive juggernaut in Duke. When you play a team you want to have an advantage over that team in some way. They don’t. I think Duke is better than them across the board and I think they run away with this game.
Wisconsin/Kentucky- Everyone is giving Wisconsin a great chance and I think they have a great chance. But they have to make perimeter shots, especially early. We assume Towns will guard Kaminsky and Cauley-Stein will guard Decker. If those two guys can hit a couple perimeter shots early it will force those Kentucky bigs way away from the basket. And that opens up everything going to the hoop for the other guy. If they miss and let Kentucky sag a bit then it becomes much tougher on the Wisconsin role players to get any offense going. Side note… I think it would very interesting and possibly effective if Kentucky went zone. That could keep Towns inside and then whoever goes to the perimeter for Wisconsin will be guarded by a guard who will be able to get up in him knowing he has help on the drive and therefore not letting them shoot the 3.
Duke wins big
Kentucky wins close