Final Four Field Set
The road to the Final Four is a long and grueling one. It starts back in October with preseason practice. Then in November it is a schedule of one-sided match ups to get the big schools ready for conference play, with an occasional big inter-conference game thrown in. Then it is a two and a half month long grind through conference play followed by a single elimination conference tournament.
If you survive all of that and see your name on the NCAA Tournament bracket, then you have a two game road trip to look forward to and if you survive that, another one the next week. You are playing tougher competition each game, where one slip up could cost you dearly.
Only four teams survive this gauntlet to reach their final destination. This year, those four teams are:
Wichita State Shockers– the #9 seed in the West bracket, nobody had this team going this far in the west. They never home the home uniforms throughout the tournament. But with a stifling defense and some timely three-point shooting, they were able to take down the Pittsburgh Panthers, #1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, the other Cinderella of the west, LaSalle Explorers and the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes. Players to watch: Malcolm Armstead, Cleanthony Early, Carl Hall and Ron Baker.
Syracuse Orange– Syracuse ran through the East bracket by shutting down everyone with their stifling defense. The Orange looked to be dead in the water until post-season play began. From limping home losing seven of the last 12 in the regular season, they ran all the way to the Big East Tournament Final before losing to Louisville, and now have won four in a row over the Montana Grizzlies, who they held to 34 points, the Cal Golden Bears who scored only 60 but was the Orange’s best opponent, the #1 Indiana Hoosiers who were held to a season low 50 points and the Marquette Golden Eagles who managed a paltry 39 points. Players to watch: Brandon Triche, James Southerland and Michael Carter-Williams.
Michigan Wolverines- The Wolverines are one of the nation’s best young teams. They start three freshman and a sophomore. Trey Burke is a superstar point guard and likely Naismith Award winner for this year. Mitch McGary is a beast in the middle. Nik Stauskas is deadly from outside and Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr are extremely talented players. The Wolverines marched through to tournament routing the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, the VCU Rams, coming back from the dead to beat the #1 Kansas Jayhawks and then slamming the #3 Florida Gators. Michigan will be tough to beat in Atlanta.
Louisville Cardinals- The Cardinals are the lone #1 seed to survive. They look to be the team to beat as they marched to Atlanta by hammering the North Carolina A&T Aggies, Colorado State Rams, Creighton Blue Jays and Duke Blue Devils. The Cards have not lost since the epic five overtime thriller at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish back on February 9th. They have now won 14 in a row. Players to watch include Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Chane Behannen and Georgi Deng.
Semifinals Prediction: Louisville over Wichita State by at least 12, Michigan over Syracuse by 10.
Finals Prediction: Louisville over Michigan in a classic by less than five points.