UCLA will get out of the weak West by beating Duke and then topping Texas in the Final Four. But North Carolina is the one team out there with the answer for Kevin Love: Tyler Hansbrough (the best player in the country). He will be the difference in the game and in the entire tournament. UNC wins it all.
- Written by Adam Hoge
Ben Voelkel and Badgermaniac pick UCLA as its national champion
The Bruins are simply the team with the best chance to win it all. They have the initial advantage of landing in the West — what looks to be the National League Central of the four regions — and not having to travel far from home to make the Final Four.
Location aside, UCLA is a tremendous team on both ends of the court. They are able to stop you from scoring, and at the same time fill the hoop up themselves. According to statistician Ken Pomeroy's final analysis, the Bruins enter the tournament with the fourth most efficient defense (.845 points per possession) and fifth most efficient offense (1.20).
Not only that, UCLA has another essential tournament trait: the ability to win different types of games. The Bruins can adjust to and thrive in various styles of play. They can win faster games — a 71-56 win over Maryland in a 75 possession contest — and they can win slower games — a 57-54 victory against USC in the Pac 10 tournament.
Throw in the fact that the Bruins have experience from having played in the last two Final Fours, and Ben Howland's squad should be cutting down the nets in San Antonio on April 7.
- Written by Ben Voelkel
Eric C. Krueger picks Georgetown as his national champion
Georgetown has all the ingredients necessary to be a national champion:
Quality guards? Jonathan Wallace is one of the best point guards in the country. He has the experience and the basketball IQ to lead a team deep into the tournament. Jessie Sapp leads the team in steals and assists. These two, plus freshmen Austin Freeman, form a dangerous back court. Check.
Dominating post presence? Roy Hibbert is a monster inside. He is averaging team highs in points and rebounds while shooting 60% from the floor. Check.
Senior leadership? Georgetown has four seniors on their roster, three of which see at least 21 minutes per game. Check.
Tournament experience? Last year the Hoyas walked (get it?) past Vanderbilt and beat top-seed UNC to get to the Final Four. That team remained intact, with the exception of Jeff Green jumping to the NBA. Check.
Good coaching within a solid system? John Thompson III is one of the top coaches in the country. He gets players to play within his system, particularly on the defensive end (opponents shoot only 36% from the floor), and although the Hoyas prefer to play a slow tempo game, offensively they can get up and down the floor if need be. Check.
The only thing that may hold Georgetown back is their region. The Midwest is stacked with Kansas, Wisconsin, Clemson, and USC, all of whom could easily reach the final four. It seems likely that this year's national champion will come from the Midwest region, and of those teams, Georgetown looks most ready to end up on top.
- Written by Eric C. Krueger