By: Brittani Sahm
Sports Information Assistant
Just so everyone is witness to this, and I can’t get in trouble by Chip, I would like to start off with a big birthday shout-out to Lydia Whipple! She has been nothing but super nice to me since she and Chip have gotten to Lexington and she deserves an awesome day of celebrating.
It is March. It may seem like I’m stating the obvious (and I am), but with this month comes March Madness. One of my most favorite and also least favorite times of the year. There is so much excitement around your team making the NCAA Tournament that we almost forget this means the end of the season. I wouldn’t want it to end any other way, but it is such a bittersweet time, especially because I have been through plenty of disappointing tournaments as a Syracuse fan.
Could this be the year Syracuse takes it all? It has been exactly 10 years since the Orange last won the Championship so who knows. The region brackets are unbalanced this year and I think SU is on the better side of this. The Orange looked much better at the Big East Tournament than they had in the last month of the season with better looks at the basket, more efficient passing and more confidence overall. It also doesn’t hurt that James Southerland decided to break the one-and-only Gerry McNamara’s made three-pointers in the tournament record (19). I don’t project Syracuse to make it further than the Elite Eight, but I am a believer that crazier things have happened and anyone could pull off the win with the right balance of talent and luck.
With all that being said, I’ll list my Final Four predictions. I’m nowhere near an expert and I absolutely do not encourage people to agree with me. As Chip told me yesterday, I will be the only person with this outcome if it happens. All the more bragging rights for me. 🙂
No. 1 Louisville – I am most confident about this pick because the Cardinals are looking unstoppable at this point. The way they tore apart Syracuse’s zone and in the process destroyed all my hopes and dreams in the Big East Tournament was insane. I give them credit, they are really good. I’m not bitter about losing to a team that clearly outplayed the Orange. This was Louisville’s theme throughout the entire tournament though. Our Sports Information Director, Brian, is a big Villanova fan. After the second round game, he came into the office and told us there was no way a team could beat Louisville when it plays well. I figured a team couldn’t hold that up in three-straight games, but I definitely was wrong. About midway through the regular season, they looked a little sloppy and lost three-straight at one point (starting with the memorable Syracuse upset), but the Cards have found their way back and will be the team to beat in this year’s tournament.
No. 1 Kansas – I have no basis for this pick. I just think Kansas has the best advantage in its matchups which will lead it to make it this far. The Jayhawks may have a tough second round, where they’ll face either Villanova or North Carolina. Both teams have had an up-and-down season, but they can perform in the tournament. Once that round is over, the next big challenge is Florida, who should make it to the Elite Eight. I know that’s not guaranteed, but the Gators had some nice wins in the SEC Tournament before falling to a surprisingly put-together Ole Miss team. Because of the inconsistencies of the teams in the South Region, I think Kansas has the best chance to make it through.
No. 2 Miami – I don’t really trust Miami to make it this far, but like I said before, this bracket is probably the weakest of the four. The teams are obviously talented, the seeds just aren’t as strong when compared to the other regions, in my opinion. The Hurricanes have a pretty smooth road to the Final Four, facing 15th-seeded Pacific in the first round and then either No. 10 Colorado or No. 7 Illinois in the second. I see an upset waiting to happen in that first-round match, with Colorado taking the win. Its’ luck will end there because as iffy as Miami can be, it is ending the year well with an ACC Championship. I’m thinking (or maybe I’m hoping) it will meet Syracuse in the Elite Eight. SU’s zone is tough on those who aren’t used to it and the Hurricanes aren’t a great team from distance, but with the hectic end of the year the Orange has had, they may just be tired and fold under pressure. Miami takes it and advances to the Championship game.
No. 5 Wisconsin – This is kind of a long shot. You gotta have some fun when the Tournament comes around. You know there’s always going to be some team that surprises people. A five seed really isn’t that big of a surprise, but I thought an upset over top-seeded Gonzaga seemed to spice things up. In all seriousness, I really have no statistical data to back up this decision. A rematch of the Big 10 Tournament could happen in the Elite Eight, where the Badgers redeem themselves with a win over Ohio State. Now that would be exciting. The choice is not completely off base, as Wisconsin just beat Michigan and Indiana in the conference tournament. Yes, its season has been up-and-down, but whose hasn’t? It’s the Badgers’ time to shine, but they unfortunately face Louisville in the next round.
Final Prediction: Louisville and Miami. No doubt Louisville continues its awesome run and wins it all, 74-68. That is the minimum Miami would lose by.
My picks may be crazy and largely unsupported with real data and evidence of what could/should happen. We’re all just having fun anyway. Until the Syracuse game is on, then I’m all business. In some aspect, I would like to be wrong because I want SU to make it all the way. Not only would it quiet the critics, I’d get to see my favorite player of all time win a Championship. That’s right, Brandon Triche, I’m looking out for you. I’ve been an avid fan of his since he set foot on the court, and the day he parts ways with Syracuse will be tough on me. You may not see me for a few days. Hopefully that’s much later in the Tournament. LET’S GO ‘CUSE!