With the Final Four drawing near, basketball fans everywhere are making their predictions for who will make it to the finals, and if their brackets are still intact, rooting desperately for their champion to make it to the next round. Though this is one of the most exciting times of the sporting year, this year’s Final Four is a little more mundane than it often is, with three No. 1 seeds making up the majority of the remaining teams.
Based solely on seeding, common sense says that there is an overwhelming chance that a No. 1 seed will become national champion for the third time in the last five years, but that is not necessarily the case. Many are predicting an upset by No. 7 seeded Michigan State, as the Spartans’ resilience and tendency to get hot has drawn many comparisons to the UConn Huskies, last year’s national champions.
Looking at the way that Michigan State has played against some excellent opponents, such a prediction is not necessarily out of the question.
The Spartans were able to handle the high-flying Louisville offense, down an excellent Oklahoma squad and generally handle business against lower-seeded teams, thanks in large part to fine play by Travis Trice and superb coaching by head coach Tom Izzo. Trice has been playing his best throughout the tournament, putting the team on his back when they need him most. Izzo has been no slouch himself, leading the Spartans to his seventh Final Four appearance. It will be up to these two men to continue to take control of Michigan State if they are to have any shot of winning the title.
On the other hand, the remaining three teams are no pushovers themselves.
Duke University, considered by many to be a team full of future NBA players, has one of the most talented squads in the game. Led by top player Jahlil Okafor, this is a team to fear. Adding to this, their head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, has been even more successful than Izzo, making it to 12 Final Fours during his time at Duke. They will not be an easy team to face.
University of Wisconsin is another talented No. 1 seed in this year’s Final Four. The Badgers showed their skills by dispatching a pair of talented teams in University of North Carolina and University of Arizona, and took care of business against their lesser opponents, avoiding any upset losses. Led by head coach Bo Ryan and top scorer Frank Kaminsky, the team has made it to the Final Four two years in a row, and has a good chance to win it all.
The final remaining team in the Final Four is something of an enigma. The uber-talented, undefeated University of Kentucky absolutely annihilated West Virginia University last week, doubling their opponent’s points. However, they almost lost their most recent game (though, to be fair, it was against an excellent University of Notre Dame squad). This scare demonstrated some of the team’s weaknesses, and unless the Wildcats get consistent play from their top players, they are in serious danger of getting their first loss of the season over the next couple of weeks.
I predict that Duke will triumph over Michigan State in the finals, though the sports fan in me hopes that the Spartans can pull the championship off.