For the first time in NCAA history, all four #1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four. In a tournament that has featured many upsets, no cinderella could take down the top seed in each region. Kansas (35-3), UCLA (35-3), Memphis (37-1), and North Carolina (36-2) were all put to the test at some point in the tourney, but they were all able to prevail with some big-time play down the stretch. So now that every #1 seed advanced, how do we determine who the favorite is? In all seriousness, it could go either way. All four teams have what it takes to win it all. The Final Four is really just a toss up. One thing is for sure though. If any of these teams have a sub-par game, their opponent will jump at the opportunity to take over the game. Each team is going to have to play at their best to have a shot.
I know you all aren't reading this to hear me say all the teams are great and the tournament is a toss up. It's pretty obvious from the #1 posted next to their team names on the bracket that these teams are the best. So here's some insight on who I think will prevail. I successfully predicted 3 of the 4 Final Four teams (North Carolina, Kansas, & UCLA) in my bracket. My last Final Four team was Texas (so I only missed by a game). I let history decide for me and picked Texas over Memphis, because no four #1 seeds had ever all advanced to the Final Four. I also liked how Texas played the Elite 8 close to home. But all of that is in the past. The future is what matters.
So here are my predictions:
North Carolina 86 - Kansas 82
Although I consider Kansas to be the most well-rounded TEAM in the tournament, I think they're just overmatched. North Carolina has the nation's leading offense and they can hurt you in so many different ways. With a healthy Ty Lawson, they can run the offense at their up-tempo speed and truly play at their best level. Also, I think the effort and determination of Hansbrough will shine on Saturday night, as him, Lawson, & Ellington carry North Carolina to the National Championship.
UCLA 67 - Memphis 65
Memphis, Memphis, Memphis...I really just cannot decide on Memphis. Aside from free-throw shooting, it's all there (then they go and make 30-36 from the line in the Elite 8 versus Texas). But they had a sizeable lead when they made those free throws & most of them (14-17) came from Douglas-Roberts, their leading free throw shooter at 70% on the year. When the big game has been on the line in recent years, Memphis hasn't answered. When they have absolutely needed to make free throws, they have missed them. On top of that, UCLA is a very experienced team, reaching the Final Four 3 years in a row now. They also have an equally matched freshman superstar (Kevin Love), to match Memphis' Derrick Rose. I think UCLA's experience and relentless defense will be just enough to take down the Tigers. UCLA has been tested a few times in the tournament so far, and Darren Collison & Kevin Love have proven they can answer those challenges. I like UCLA to continue to do the same against Memphis.
Image taken from Yahoo! Sports