Burlison: Figuring Out the Final Four

Scout.com's college basketball analyst, Frank Burlison, breaks down each bracket of the NCAA Tournament, and projects out game by game, to the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight, The Final Four and picks the team that triumphs over the 65-team field...

It would have been oh-so-easy, in projecting the college basketball teams that will be playing in San Antonio's Alamodome on April 5, to just type in No. 1 seeds North Carolina (East), Memphis (South), UCLA (West) and Kansas (Midwest) and be done with it.

 

That the Tar Heels, Tigers, Bruins and Jayhawks would have earned top seeds on Sunday could have been comfortably predicted nearly a year ago.

 

That's when UNC, Memphis and Kansas lost in regional finals, while UCLA won the West (besting Bill Self's Jayhawks in the final).

 

Each returned the bulk of its key players.

 

So it's anything but surprising, especially considering the play of freshmen Kevin Love (UCLA) and Derrick Rose (Memphis), to see the four clubs combine for 127 wins and only nine losses. And each won its conference's regular-season and tournament titles

 

Each faces at least a couple of obvious potential roadblocks on the way to San Antonio, though.

 

*The Tar Heels could face either Tennessee (a 2 seed that would have been a top seed if not for its SEC Tourney semifinal loss to Arkansas Saturday) or Louisville (a 3 that has played so well over the past couple of months).

 

*Kansas is in a bracket that includes Big East regular-season champion Georgetown, which returns four starters from the team that lost to Ohio State in last year's Final Four semifinals in Atlanta.

 

*The Bruins (after they dispose of Mississippi Valley State in an opener in Anaheim Thursday night) will face either Texas A&M or BYU in the second round, and both teams have a lot of the same personnel that were on the clubs a year ago when they played UCLA down to the wire. And Connecticut and Duke could be Sweet 16 and final opponents in Phoenix.

 

*Memphis could be staring down a Sweet 16 game with Big East Tourney winner Pittsburgh, and a final in Houston against Stanford and its twin towers of Lopez Power, or Texas and its first-team All-America point guard D.J. Augustin.

 

But a Final Four field has never been made up of four No. 1 seeds.

 

And that streak isn't going to be broken in 2008.

 

But you're going to have to scroll down for a while to find out which team (or teams) I decided against moving along to the final weekend of the season, as well as the club whose players and coaches I think will be cutting nets in the Alamodome late-night April 7.

 

EAST (semifinal/final site: Charlotte/March 27-29)

DIVING INTO THE FIRST ROUND

North Carolina over opening-round winner; Arkansas over Indiana; Notre Dame over George Mason; Washington State over Winthrop; Saint Joseph's over Oklahoma; Louisville over Boise State; Butler over South Alabama; Tennessee over American

48 HOURS LATER

North Carolina over Arkansas; Washington State over Notre Dame; Saint Joseph's over Louisville; Butler over Tennessee

WEEK 2/GAME 3

North Carolina over Washington State; Saint Joseph's over Butler

TICKET TO SAN ANTONIO

North Carolina over Saint Joseph's

THE MOST UPSETTING CIRCUMSTANCE

Saint Joseph's (11 seed) over Louisville (3 seed) in second round

REGION'S FIVE BEST PLAYERS

Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina); D.J. White (Indiana); Mike Green (Butler); Tyler Smith (Tennessee); Kyle Weaver (Washington State)

BREAKTHROUGH PLATFORM

Sonny Weems (Arkansas)

 

MIDWEST (semifinal/final site: Detroit/March 28-30)

DIVING INTO THE FIRST ROUND

Kansas over Portland State; UNLV over Kent State; Villanova over Clemson; Vanderbilt over Siena; USC over Kansas State; Wisconsin over Cal State Fullerton; Davidson over Gonzaga; Georgetown over UMBC

48 HOURS LATER

Kansas over UNLV; Vanderbilt over Villanova; USC over Wisconsin; Georgetown over Davidson

WEEK 2/GAME 3

Kansas over Vanderbilt; USC over Georgetown

TICKET TO SAN ANTONIO

Kansas over USC

THE MOST UPSETTING CIRCUMSTANCE

Villanova (12 seed) over Clemson (5 seed) in first round

REGION'S FIVE BEST PLAYERS

Brandon Rush (Kansas); Stephen Curry (Davidson); Shan Foster (Vanderbilt); O.J. Mayo (USC); Michael Beasley (Kansas State)

BREAKTHROUGH PLATFORM

Dajuan Summers (Georgetown)

 

SOUTH (semifinal/final site: Houston/March 28-30)

DIVING INTO THE FIRST ROUND

Memphis over Texas-Arlington; Mississippi State over Oregon; Temple over Michigan State; Pittsburgh over Oral Roberts; Marquette over Kentucky; Stanford over Cornell; Saint Mary's over Miami; Texas over Austin Peay

48 HOURS LATER

Memphis over Mississippi State; Pittsburgh over Temple; Stanford over Marquette; Texas over Saint Mary's

WEEK 2/GAME 3

Memphis over Pittsburgh; Texas over Stanford

TICKET TO SAN ANTONIO

Texas over Memphis

THE MOST UPSETTING CIRCUMSTANCE

Temple (12 seed) over Michigan State (5 seed) in first round

REGION'S FIVE BEST PLAYERS

Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts (both Memphis); Jamont Gordon (Mississippi State); Brook Lopez (Stanford); D.J. Augustin (Texas)

BREAKTHROUGH PLATFORM

Justin Mason (Texas)

 

WEST (semifinal/final site: Phoenix/March 27-29)

DIVING INTO THE FIRST ROUND

UCLA over Mississippi Valley State; Texas A&M over BYU; Drake over Western Kentucky; Connecticut over San Diego; Purdue over Baylor; Xavier over Georgia; Arizona over West Virginia; Duke over Belmont

48 HOURS LATER

UCLA over Texas A&M; Connecticut over Drake; Purdue over Xavier; Duke over Arizona.

WEEK 2/GAME 3

UCLA over Connecticut; Duke over Purdue

TICKET TO SAN ANTONIO

UCLA over Duke

THE MOST UPSETTING CIRCUMSTANCE

Arizona (10 seed) over West Virginia (7 seed) in first round and Purdue (6 seed) over Xavier (3 seed) in second round

REGION'S FIVE BEST PLAYERS

Kevin Love and Darren Collison (UCLA); A.J. Price (Connecticut); DeMarcus Nelson (Duke); Jerryd Bayless (Arizona)

BREAKTHROUGH PLATFORM

Joe Alexander (West Virginia)

 

INVADING THE ALAMODOME

Kansas over North Carolina; UCLA over Texas


THE LAST TEAM STANDING

UCLA



 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.collegehoops.scout.com


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