1. Which higher seeded team has a chance to continue to dance: NC State, Wichita State, Xavier, UCLA or Michigan State?
- This is a tough call between Wichita State over Notre Dame or Michigan State over Oklahoma. I’m going Michigan State over Oklahoma based on one man, Tom Izzo. He continues to impress every single season, he constantly gets the MOST out of all his players and somehow it always culminates in March. Point Guard play has been great the first two games behind Travis Trice’s 19 ppg, 4.5 apg, and .43 %fg in the NCAA tourney. NOT TO MENTION, Michigan State has had a tough route to get here already, beating a gritty, athletic Georgia team and then knocking out seemingly everyone’s favorite to come out of the East bracket, the University of Virginia. Michigan State is primed to make a Kemba Walker/Shabazz Napier-UCONN kind of run to the Final Four.
2. Who’s the best players (playing the best right now) left in the tournament?
- Some of these names may come as a surprise, after peeling back the stats and implementing the old-fashioned eyeball test, several names started to come to the forefront (some of which were very unexpected):
Bryce Alford, UCLA – In two games, he’s averaging 24.5 ppg, shooting .57% fg AND .75% from three-point!!!! Son-of-Steve is shooting 50-75-80 (fg%-3p%-ft%) over the first two games of the tournament. WOW! No wonder UCLA has upset SMU and UAB.
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga – No one has been able to stop the silky smooth, long-armed shot-maker from the kennel. He’s already got a championship ring from his time spent coming off the bench at Kentucky (Kyle transferred to Zaga in 2013), now he’s ready to cut down the nets in the name of the Zags. Kyle’s two-game average in the NCAA tournament: 23.5 ppg, .75% fg and .67% three-point in only 28 minutes per game so far. Kyle’s putting in work the second he steps on the floor, he’s a constant threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Jahlil Okafor, Duke – Everyone knows Jahlil’s the best player in the country, he’s the forgone conclusion for the #1 pick in the NBA draft. BUT there’s a reason for all the accolades, the kid can play. He has GREAT hands combined with unbelievable, Olajuwon-ish footwork, AND he seems to be improving his mental toughness and physical play each and every game. He doesn’t shy away from the big plays or the big game lights, he’s ready to lead Duke to an NCAA championship RIGHT NOW. Jahlil’s stats through two games: 23.5 ppg, .78% fg and 5 rpg.
Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State – Having the coolest (but for some reason incredibly hard to say) last name in the tournament should be reason enough to make this list.
Should we call him FVV, FV-squared or FV2 or maybe the Flying V? All good choices, regardless the F-double-V has made his presence known in the NCAA tourney to anyone owning a TV that his Shockers of Wichita are not disappearing softly into the Kansas twilight. Van Vleet is putting up 22 ppg, 5 apg and 4 rpg in the Shockers tourney run. He will lead his Wichitaians (?) to battle once again this weekend against Notre Dame in the Sweet 16.
***Other Post-Season names worthy of note: Myles Davis – Xavier, Yogi Ferrell – Indiana, Sir’ Dominic Pointer – St. John’s, Nimrod Hilliard – North Carolina Central, Isiah Umipig – Seattle and BillyDee Williams – West Virginia.
Travis Trice, Michigan State – Lead his team to wins over the #10 seed and the #2 seed in the East when lots of college hoops pundits were writing the Spartans off in the first round as an upset possibility. Travis Trice has been doing his best Shabazz Napier impression in an attempt to WILL his Michigan State posse to the Final Four. Double T is averaging a gritty 19 ppg on .43% fg and .46% three-point shooting. Michigan State’s Achilles-heel this season has been consistent scoring, but Trice has turned on the big play ability in the NCAA tournament and seems to have his hand on the wheel and isn’t looking back.
Kentucky…..the whole team – Seriously, have you watched them play? They are everything and more that you’ve heard all the “experts” talk about.
- They’re huge. Karl-Anthony Towns is 6’11”, Willie Cauley-Stein is 7’0″, Trey Lyles is 6’10” and Dakari Johnson is 6’10”. They’re ALL athletic, they all can move exceptionally well. They have two point guards who can do EVERYTHING AND THEY’RE 6’6″ (Harrison twins), by the way shouldn’t it be illegal to have twin 6’6″ point guards on the same team? I mean that’s just impossible to match up with and more confusing than David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”.
- They’ve figured out how to play together well and share the ball effectively. Usually when you have 9-10 guys on ONE team that are considered to be NBA prospects and were All-American high school players……wait, that’s NEVER happened before in the NCAA. They have 10 McDonalds All-Americans! Anyway, getting all those egos in check is nothing short of a miracle manufactured by Kentucky-basketball Jesus: John Calipari.
- It’s really, really hard to go undefeated. I mean, really, really hard. No team has done it since the 1976 Indiana University team lead by Bobby Knight and Quinn Buckner. Only seven teams in the history of NCAA Men’s Basketball have gone undefeated, and those teams had names like Alcindor, Walton, Goodrich, Russell and Jones. Give Kentucky credit, what they’re doing this season is an unbelievable accomplishment, and we still have a couple games to go.
3. Final Four (and other) Predictions
- Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan State and Duke in the Final Four.
- Duke and Kentucky in the National Championship, an all BLUE championship game with Ashley Judd sightings (over/under crowd-shots set at 7.5) and hopefully Ken Jeong (he went to Duke Med school) will pop out of the Blue Devil mascot’s gym bag completely naked with a big blue “D” painted on his chest and run around the floor during warm-ups.
- Kentucky wins 78-71, Coach Calipari cries in the post-game interview and then signs 10 more one-n-done freshman for next season before he leaves the locker room.
- Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles enter the NBA draft and are all top 10 picks.
- The Harrison twins stick around for their Junior years to torment every defender in the country with “twin pranks” for another season.
- Kentucky is back in the Final Four in 2016, Karl-Anthony Towns comes to the game and sits behind the bench wearing a Philadelphia 76ers hat, Willie Cauley-Stein wears a Boston Celtics hat and Trey Lyles sports a Sacramento Kings hat. Somewhere the Lakers’ entire Front Office is crying.
You heard it hear first dear readers. Enjoy the rest of the tournament.