Five Potential NCAA Tournament Games That Could Be Great
The three days before the NCAA tournament (excluding the First Four) are a time of a lot of excitement. People start research college teams that they have not watched prior to a week ago. They are looking for advantages in their brackets and more power to them. I don't have any sleepers or upsets for you. In fact, in my world, the chalk rules. In this world, there are plenty of excellent potential match ups after the Round of 64 (or the Second Round, if you prefer to be in sync with the NCAA and CBS). Here are the five that I am most looking forward to, if the chalk holds.
4. Michigan vs. 5. VCU (South Regional, Round of 32 - Auburn Hills)
The allure of this game is simple: VCU is a team that thrives on creating turnovers via their HAVOC defense. Michigan has one of the best point guards in the nation in Trey Burke. Something has to give. There will be plenty of 3-pointers flying on both sides. While 3-point percentage will likely dictate the winner of the game, it may also come to players in the paint. The Rams have Juvonte Reddic and the Wolverines have Mitch McGary (i.e. advantage VCU). I wouldn't necessarily lean on the fact that Michigan lost six of their last 12 games in the meat grinder that is the Big Ten. VCU lost three games after February 1, but two of those losses were against Saint Louis.
3. New Mexico vs. 6. Arizona (West Regional, Round of 32 - Salt Lake City)
I think I actually watched the Lobos more than the Wildcats this season. Thank you, NBC Sports Channel! This battle of contiguous states will be for bragging rights of the best conference west of the Rockies. New Mexico won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Mountain West. Kendall Williams may be slightly overrated since he scored 46 points on Feb. 23 in at Colorado State. Williams' second highest score was 24 points. Arizona returns to the NCAA tournament after a year away. They made it to the Elite Eight in 2011, but only Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom return from that team.
3. Florida vs. 6. UCLA (South Regional, Round of 32 - Austin)
I've heard a number of people, including Jay Bilas, who think Minnesota is going to beat UCLA in the Round of 64. Even though UCLA will miss Jordan Adams (broken foot), I think they will get past the Golden Gophers and meet Florida in the Round of 32. Florida is a solid team, but they have been overvalued because they destroyed poor competition. I don't think large winning margins should get extra credit. If Shabazz Muhammad is the star player that I think he may be, then the Bruins could pose some problems for the relatively star-less Gators. Florida knocked UCLA out of the tournament in 2006, 2007, and 2011.
2. Duke vs. 3. Michigan State (Midwest Regional, Sweet 16 - Indianapolis)
Wouldn't be it be great for the Blue Devils to get knocked out as a two-seed for the second straight year? Perhaps we'd have to take another look at the Austin Rivers era. Sadly, it probably won't happen, but it could lead to a great a great game in the Sweet 16 between two of the blue bloods of college basketball. The Spartans and Blue Devils have not met in the Big Dance since 2005. Duke is not a strong rebounding team. What they need is Brian Zoubek to return. Michigan State may be able to take advantage of this problem. I would like to see what happens if these two teams meet in Indianapolis.
1. Indiana vs. 1. Kansas (Final Four - Atlanta)
I think these are the best two teams in the nation with all due respect to Louisville and Gonzaga. Both teams have a variety of offensive options, big stars, and play fine defense. The match up between Victor Odalipo and Ben McLemore would be one of the best in the tournament (on paper). Cody Zeller and Jeff Withey would also be interesting. The teams have not met in the tournament since 1993. Kansas beat Indiana in 1993 and 1991, so maybe this will be a chance for the new age Hoosiers to get some revenge and get into the Finals. In my mind, this is the de facto championship game.