ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 11: Ian Miller #30 and Michael Snaer #21 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrate after they won 85-82 against the North Carolina Tar Heels uring the Final Game of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conference Tournament at Philips Arena on March 11, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Kentucky, Michigan State, Kansas, or Florida State? After hours of waiting and watching, the time has finally come: My picks on who wins this whole damn tournament of madness.
Thus far I have laid out each region down to what I like to call, "The Final Four"™
See my predictions here:
As you can see, I've used commonsense, deduction, Kenpom, RPI, snark, common-games, matchups, coaching, poaching, wit (but no banter), and probably darts to reasonably conclude that the "Final Four" will be: Michigan State, Kentucky, Florida State, and Kansas.
These are the teams that will win their regions, with ACC Tournament Champion Florida State being the biggest surprise and Kansas overcoming North Carolina to take the Midwest. That latter reasoning being pretty clear: Kansas... Midwest... Kansas... Midwest... Kansas... I am your huckleberry.
You may doubt me now, but when Belmont goes to the Sweet Sixteen you'll be like "Awww chicken McNuggets, why didn't I listen to Kenneth Arthur? And why didn't I follow him on TWITTER?!" Yeah, I don't have an answer for that other than to say that I warned you.
I warned you about the coming of the Belmont Bruins, about the Seminoles making the Final Four, and about the world collapsing in on itself while John Cusack escapes on a plane. Oh wait, that last one was the Mayans and Woody Harrelson. But give me credit for the first two.
Now it's time to tell you who wins the whole damn thing. The whole enchilada. The giant Jumbaco. Who is going to cut down the nets and who is going to pay for those nets?! We just bought those. They were brand new and shiny because, you know, this is the championship of college basketball.
Let's break. it. down. again.
Final Four Matchup #1: Michigan State versus Kentucky
To me, the strength of the Spartans will be Tom Izzo for as long as he is the coach of the Spartans. No matter what seed they are given, Michigan State is always a threat. Yes, they get good players and they get great college basketball players but they don't quite produce the NBA talent of a North Carolina or a Kentucky.
Izzo gets guys that are committed not only to the program but to the school, with an 81% graduation rate under Izzo. The "NBA names" in recent years are guys like Charlie Bell, Marcus Taylor, Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager and yet since 1997-1998 they have made nine Sweet Sixteens, seven Elite Eights, six Final Fours, finished as runner-up in 2009 and won the whole thing in 2000.
This season, Michigan State finished third in Pomeroy's standings, third in the RPI, had the toughest strength of schedule by RPI, and had wins over Ohio State (twice), Florida State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin (three times), Gonzaga (at THE KENNEL) and Purdue (twice.) How do you argue against that?
The Spartans worst loss was 42-41 to Indiana when both teams shot so badly that it was suggested there was something actually wrong with the basketball, and Draymond Green spent most of the game on the bench with foul trouble. Their other losses were to North Carolina, Duke, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, and Northwestern, with the only loss at home coming to the Buckeyes.
Michigan State will make the Final Four because of Izzo, defense, and Green. Bet against Izzo? Not on your life. Why are you making college basketball bets with your life at stake?
The team they are facing has a pretty sweet resume themselves.
The Kentucky Wildcats are the number one team in all of college basketball and their coach hasn't done bad for himself either. In three years at Kentucky his resume is: Elite Eight, Final Four, and now being the number one overall seed with a shiny 32-2 record.
While Izzo hasn't produced a plethora of NBA talent, Calipari has already sent off John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight and others to the NBA. Not too shabby and not a bad way to try to win a NCAA title. Not much different this year.
Anthony Davis might be the number one overall pick and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist won't be far behind. Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague and Darius Miller? Yeah, they'll be in some NBA camps next year too.
Since 1994-95, Calipari has made eight Sweet Sixteens, seven Elite Eights, and three Final Fours. More impressive when you consider he made the Elite Eight and Final Four with UMass, had an extended break to coach in the NBA, and over the last six seasons with Memphis and Kentucky he's made FIVE Elite Eights and two Final Fours, finishing as a runner-up in 2008.
So what's going to give when the Spartans meet the Wildcats for a chance to play in the last game of the seasons?
When you run all of the specifics, you'll see a very similar resume with both teams boasting highly respectable victories. Kentucky wasn't afraid to face anybody and they only lost two games all year by a total of eight points, one on the road in Indiana and the other in the SEC Tourney against Vanderbilt.
With the coaching, the talent, the record, I have to say so long to the Spartans and welcome Calipari back to the National Championship game for the second time in his career.
Final Four Matchup #2: Florida State versus Kansas
I wouldn't feel right if I went complete "chalk" on my bracket and certain factors have led me to the conclusion that Florida State will be taking advantage of the suspension of Fab Melo on Syracuse and take the East Region on their way to the Final Four. If you think that the "best team" always wins, then welcome to March Madness. It's not called March... Sanity. Boom, look at that clever wordplay.
The Seminoles have only made the Final Four once in their history, finishing runner-up to UCLA in the 1972 championship game. They lost 81-76, playing the Bruins in Los Angeles against John Wooden and Bill Walton. That's all.
That Florida State team was coached by Hugh Durham, the best coach in the history of the program with a 229-96 record. The 2nd best is coaching right now: Leonard Hamilton. In 10 years, Hamilton has gone 200-126, and they're going to the tourney for a record fourth-straight season. Last year they made the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1993.
This season behind Michael Snaer, Ian Miller, Bernard James, Terrance Shannon and Deividas Dulkys, they have gone 24-9 and won the ACC Tournament. The Seminoles can brag about two wins over North Carolina, two wins over Duke, two wins over Virginia and wins against NC State and Central Florida.
There's nothing pretty about losses to Princeton, Clemson, and Boston College, but Florida State can compete and beat any team that they meet, which is pretty sweet. Leonard Hamilton might have what it takes to bring the Seminoles to a place they've never been before.
They'll be facing Kansas, a team that won the Big 12 regular season title over Missouri and Baylor, but fell to a two seed after losing to Baylor in the conference tournament. That won't stop me from picking them to get the last laugh and make the Final Four.
In nine seasons under Bill Self, Kansas is 120-23 in conference play and has made four Elite Eights and won the tournament in 2008 with a record record (not a typo) of 37-3, the most wins of any National Champion. That year they beat two #1 seeds (former Kansas coach Roy William's North Carolina and Calipari's Memphis) and had five players drafted.
This year Kansas is 4th in Kenpom's standings, 6th in RPI, and has beaten Ohio State, Baylor (twice), Missouri, Georgetown, Iowa State, Long Beach State and a pair of wins each over Kansas State and Texas. Their losses were to Kentucky, Duke, Baylor, Missouri, Iowa State, and Davidson.
The Jayhawks feature two stud scorers in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, while center Jeff Withey controls the middle with 3.3 blocks per game. These are the reasons that Kansas will make the Final Four and face the Seminoles for the right to play Kentucky in the title game.
Who takes it?
Some teams are a team of destiny. Sometimes it just feels right. Sometimes random-ass college programs make the title game.....
PICK: Florida State
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Kentucky versus Florida State!
So here we are. 1,400 words later (in just this article, did you read the others? Them's was many words too!) and it all comes down to what will DEFINITELY, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT, I CAN PREDICT THE FUTURE, be the national championship game versus the team everyone expects, KENTUCKY, and the team that few do, FLORIDA STATE.
The Seminoles double dose of wins against the Tar Heels and Blue Devils prove that they belong on the court with anybody. They play tough defense, they're gaining NCAA Tourney experience, and they're playing on house money. Nobody is picking them to make it this far, but me.
The Wildcats? Well, they've got the most talent. The coach that's been there and done that. The nearly blemish-free record. The storied program with multiple titles. Which is all well and good but can that overcome DESTINY? FATE? RANDOM LOVE OF A TEAM THAT I HAVE NO AFFILIATION TOWARDS?
CAN IT OVERCOME THAT, I ASK YOU?!!!
NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: THE KENTUCKY WILDCATS
This concludes my accurate predictions on the 2012 NCAA March Madness Tournament of Champions, Basketball and Such Plus a Highlight Reel of Glory When It's All Said and Done.
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