March 28, 2012
Last week, after a terrible start, my Elite Eight picks ended up 5-3. I didn’t have time to write an article predicting who would advance to the Final Four, but I am back to predict the Final Four winners and project the NCAA National Champion. The NCAA Tournament is lacking a major Cinderella, but it still has given us our share of upsets. Only one #1 seed, overall top seed Kentucky, has made it to the Final Four, accompanied by two #2 seeds. Louisville is the highest seed left at #4, but when you are coached by Rick Pitino,you aren’t the prototypical underdog. So with all of the teams seeded fairly evenly, let the predictions begin!
Louisville vs. Kentucky
The excitement kicks right off with the Battle for Kentucky. Louisville and Kentucky will be the first teams from the same state to square off in the Final Four since 1962. Louisville upset Michigan State in the Sweet 16 and proved it was capable of taking down a top seed. This won’t be Louisville’s first shot at the Wildcats, though. They played each other on New Year’s Eve and while Kentucky came out on top, Louisville gave them all they could handle. Kentucky has grown a lot since that game and has shown that they are the best team in college basketball during the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats blew out a solid Baylor team to make it to the Final Four, and put 102 points on Indiana in the Sweet 16. I think Louisville peaked at the right time and has played great basketball in the tournament, but Kentucky will be the team advancing.
Ohio State vs. Kansas
This game is also a rematch of an early season matchup. Kansas beat Ohio State earlier in the season 78-67, but Jared Sullinger didn’t play. That will make a big difference this time around, as Sullinger led the Buckeyes in points and rebounds in the regular season. Ohio State dominated their competition in the first three rounds of the tournament, before knocking out #1 seed Syracuse. Kansas has walked a finer rope this tournament, but also knocked out a #1 seed in North Carolina to make it to the Final Four. I think this game could go either way, but I also think both teams have the ability to run away with this game. Ohio State is a very talented team, but I think Kansas will take the opportunity to show that their victory earlier in the season wasn’t only because Sullinger wasn’t in the game.
Kentucky vs. Kansas
Both these teams have been highly ranked all season long, so it is not surprising that they would end up playing each other for the National Championship. Many people have Kentucky in their Championship game, but I don’t think Kansas was a favorite to make it. Nonetheless, this will be a great NCAA Championship game, with two major programs looking to notch another National Championship. In sticking with the rest of these games, Kentucky and Kansas also played earlier this season. In only the second game of the season, Kentucky beat Kansas 75-65 when they pulled away in the second half. Both teams have gotten much better as the season went on, but Kentucky might have grown more than any team this season. I don’t think Kentucky can be stopped and I don’t know what would happen if Calipari loses to Kansas again in the Championship game. I think Anthony Davis leads Kentucky to their first NCAA National Championship in the Calipari era.
April 6, 2010
Last night, Duke beat Butler for its fourth NCAA Championship, making Duke the most frequent NCAA Champion of the last twenty years.
In the past, this would have killed me. Duke, North Carolina, the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, the Los Angeles Lakers — the teams that consistently won, and the teams with national appeal — these were teams I despised. And why wouldn’t I? They had rained on my parade so many times by beating my lowly teams that I believed I was justified in disliking them.
Additionally, I questioned how a team could have national appeal. Shouldn’t you always support your hometown team, even if you move away from your hometown? All those Yankees fans in Iowa surely were not born in New York City.
As I’ve matured, however, I have grown a greater understanding of people and their team loyalties. Many started like mine, born out of proximity to the team’s home field/stadium/arena. I am a Detroit Tigers fan because they were based closer than any other MLB team to the house in which I was raised.
But my parents were also Detroit Tigers fans. What if they were Red Sox fans? Would I be following Boston? Or what if my first baseball game experience was at Wrigley Field? Would the Cubs have a special enough place in my heart that I could be a Chicago fan? I now understand that there are many reasons behind people’s fanship.
Further, I’ve also realized that every game is better because of these relentlessly winning franchises. Without dominant teams like Duke, we would never have wonderful David vs. Goliath stories like we had last night when Butler faced Duke. Sure, last night, Goliath won. But without Goliaths, we would be stuck with a lot of David vs. David stories, which, I think we all can agree, would be so much less fun.
Yes, I used to be a hater. But now I’ve grown to appreciate the big, dominant, national teams. I might never root for one (outside of my hometown Red Wings), but I can respect them and their fans. And I believe that every game is better because of them.