An Early Look at the Final Four – From the Bird’s Nest
I was pretty full of myself by the time Saturday morning rolled around.
All four of my Final Four predictions: Syracuse, Ohio State, Florida and Louisville, had made it to the Elite Eight. I can’t tell you the last time that happened, or even IF it had ever happened.
But my thoughts about having all four teams make it to Atlanta ended pretty abruptly Saturday night.
First, Syracuse just dismantled Marquette. The Golden Eagles probably should have gone out in the first round against Davidson. But Buzz Williams’ squad made enough three pointers in their first two games to win. They came up empty Saturday against the Orange stifling defense.
Everyone not from Kansas figured Ohio State would be the second team to qualify. Nobody bothered to tell Wichita State the outcome was predetermined. It got pretty interesting down the stretch and for a moment I thought the Buckeyes were going to be good enough to come back from twenty points down.
I guess my biggest surprise was the way Michigan just manhandled Florida. John Belien is one of the best coaches you don’t hear much about. He’s won everywhere he’s gone. And the Wolverines made it look easy and they’re headed to the Final Four for the first time in 20 years.
I didn’t get to see the Duke/Louisville game, so I didn’t see the incident involving Kevin Ware. But I saw a screen shot. It reminded me of LaRyan Gary’s injury against FIU in the Sun Belt Conference first round game a few years ago. Sometimes a team can rally around an incident like that and Louisville’s performance in the second half showed why they were the overall #1 seed.
So, you have a #1 seed, two #4’s and a #9 battling in Atlanta next weekend.
My first thoughts are Michigan is going to have a devil of a time against Jim Boeheim’s defense. Michigan excels in the open court when they can get up and down the floor. Boeheim is going to make them play a half court game. That is Michigan’s weakness.
Wichita State can really defend and they play awfully hard. But Louisville’s trap is going to trouble them, I think. And if that leads to easy baskets, the Shockers will be done shocking. Louisville is every bit as good as I thought they were.
I reserve the right to change my mind as the weekend draws closer. But right now I think it’s going to be an All-Big East final.