Collegian sports staff picks this year’s Final Four

MARISA MILLER | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | mnmille1@butler.edu

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the happiest season of all!

No, it’s not Christmas. But it is Christmas in March. The madness has begun.

The staff and I have all decided we know a thing or two about college basketball (we don’t), but hey, let’s give this a shot.

Final Four

No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 4 Kentucky, No. 2 Oklahoma

Runner-up

No. 2 Oklahoma

With Player of the Year frontrunner Buddy Hield, there’s honestly nothing the Sooners can’t do. I think Oklahoma will avenge their earlier losses to Kansas and prove that the third time is definitely the charm.

Champion

No. 2 Michigan State

I still have absolutely no idea why the Spartans were not a No. 1 seed. They are definitely playing with a huge chip on their shoulders and something to prove to the committee. Also, Tom Izzo and Denzel Valentine, need I say more?

Team to watch

No. 6 Seton Hall

Isaiah Whitehead is really, really good people. Absolutely snubbed for Big East Player of the Year. Those starting five sophomores are acting like seasoned seniors, and I don’t see their momentum stopping any time soon.

Team that will disappoint

No. 5 Indiana

I just really don’t want to see them succeed honestly. Hats off to Tom Crean and Yogi Ferrell, but I really don’t think they have the talent to make it past Kentucky. Maybe not even make it past Chattanooga.

 

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ZACH HORRALL | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | zhorrall@butler.edu

Final Four

No. 1 UNC, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 3 Miami (FL), No. 4 Duke

Runner-up

Duke

Duke has had a interesting year for sure. From falling out of the top-25 to the Grayson Allen controversies, Duke has had a lot bad publicity. But they’re the kind of team to thrive off of that. With that, combined with how they ended the year, they’ll be able to make their way through the tournament. It won’t be the easiest run, but they will preserver.

Champion

North Carolina

They came into the tournament No. 1, and they’ll end the tournament No. 1. UNC has had a great year with only six losses. I predict they will have a fairly easy tournament. They won’t face a major challenge until the Elite 8, and even then, it won’t be anything they didn’t see in the regular season.

Team to watch

Hawaii (South)

Hawaii is going places, kids. They have lost just five games in the regular season, three conference games and just two losses in the last 12 games. This team is on fire. They will upset their way to the Sweet 16, but unfortunately they won’t be able to take down No. 1 Kansas.

Team that will disappoint

California (South)

The Golden Bears are going to be making their way back to Berkeley real quick thanks to the team above. They’ve had a pretty decent season. In every way, Hawaii has the advantage over California, but for some reason, they have been given a much higher rank. That No. 4 ranking will get to their heads, and they will underestimate Hawaii’s ability.

 

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GRANT ANSCHUETZ | STAFF REPORTER | ganschue@butler.edu

Disclaimer: Nobody, not even experts, knows what is going to happen in this tournament, so take these picks with a grain of salt.

Final Four

No. 1 Kansas (South); No. 2 Oklahoma (West); No. 1 North Carolina (East); No.2 Michigan State (Midwest)

Not a crazy Final Four here. All four of these teams have talented senior players and that always helps in March. Kansas has Perry Ellis, Oklahoma has Buddy Hield, North Carolina has Marcus Paige and Michigan State has Denzel Valentine.

Runner-up

Kansas

Kansas has already beat Oklahoma twice this year, so they have the ability to make it to the final game, but they ultimately lose in the finals.

Champion

Michigan State

They already beat Kansas 79-73 this year, and they have a player, Denzel Valentine, that can make big plays in big games.

Team to watch

No. 13 UNC Wilmington (West)

Coach K’s Duke Blue Devils fair pretty well in the tournament when they are a number one seed. However, in 2012 and 2014, they were a number two seed and number three seed respectively. They lost in the first round both of those years, and they are a four seed this year. It’ll be interesting to see if UNC Wilmington can pull the upset.

Team that will disappoint

No. 1 Oregon (West)

Oregon was the last one seed, but they seem to have received the easiest side of the bracket. However, it’s the school’s first number one seed in school history. The pressure of the expectations could be their downfall in the first weekend.

 

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PHIL TOR | STAFF REPORTER | ptor@butler.edu

Final Four

Kansas, West Virginia, Michigan State, Texas A&M

Runner-up

Michigan State

The Spartans have led a great 2015-16 campaign and when it comes to coaching in March, there is no one better than Tom Izzo. I think the lack of depth and height will hurt Michigan St. Denzel Valentine will have a great game and a great tournament, but the Spartans will fall to the Jayhawks.

Champion

Kansas

Although I never like the favorite, Kansas is clearly the best team in the tournament. In a field where everyone is virtually equal, Kansas is the team that I believe will stand out among the rest. Their veteran guards and experienced team should make a final four run. Bill Self is a great tournament coach and with the team he has, and what they have shown in the regular season Kansas has the best chance to come out on top.

Teams to Watch

Purdue/Miami

It was hard to pick one so I’ll pick two. Both these teams played Butler during the season, and both have a chance at making a run because of their unique styles of play. Miami is a high paced, high energy team that likes to run and push the ball. If they can make shots and stay fresh they can be a dangerous team that can make some noise. Purdue has another key to success in the tournament which would be their height. Their trio of Isaac Haas, Caleb Swanigan, and A.J Hammons, is as good as any in the country. They dominate the glass and are efficient on the offensive end. If Purdue can force teams to play their style of basketball they are ready to make a Final Four run.

Team that will Disappoint

Duke

Although Duke has a great pair of players in Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen, they lack the depth and height needed to be successful in March. For example their ACC tournament loss vs Notre Dame, they were exposed on the glass and surrendered a 16 point lead late in the second half. They could very likely be upset in their first matchup with UNC-Wilmington, who owns the height advantage over the Blue Devils.

 

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JIMMY LAFAKIS | STAFF REPORTER | jlafakis@butler.edu

Final Four

Kansas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Michigan State

In a year dominated by parity, I expect some blue bloods to remain unscathed.

Runner-up

Kansas

This is going to be one heck of a championship game. Roy Williams against the Jayhawks… The storylines write themselves.

Champion

North Carolina

Marcus Paige is good at basketball. #analysis

Team to watch

Seton Hall

Isaiah Whitehead does everything. He puts the team on his back… Word to Marshawn Lynch.

Team that will disappoint

Indiana

In a perfect world, we get the IU-Kentucky matchup. If that happens, I think the crimson and cream will walk away disappointed for yet another year.

 

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DANA LEE | STAFF REPORTER | delee1@butler.edu

I’ve given up when it comes to brackets. It’s quite drastic, really. My hands are thrown in the air grasping a white flag of surrender. It is with great resignation that I accept the reality of the situation: in no way, shape, or form, am I able to make accurate March Madness predictions. It’s called March Madness for a reason. Year after year, I watch my brackets slip into a coma of despair. At the end of last year, I swore off of brackets. 365 days later, I am not only willingly filling out three brackets, but posting my predictions online for all to see. Is my comeback the result of resiliency or stupidity? A little bit of both, perhaps.

I can’t resist. March basketball belongs to the number-crunchers and Cinderella believers. It exists for a nationwide audience of fans ranging from the diehard to the lukewarm. The month is claimed by lifetime fans and appreciated by the fair-weathered ones–who, once a year, can root for their team without being heckled by the lifetimers.

It’s March Madness. Here we go.

Final Four teams

No. 1 Kansas (South), No. 2 Oklahoma (West), No. 1 North Carolina (East), No. 2 Michigan (Midwest)

Nothing too creative here with all four being either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Defense isn’t sexy but it wins games. All of the teams above are ranked in the top 20 most efficient defenses.

Runner-up

No. 2 Kansas

After looking at what I evaluated to be a credible source (Wikipedia), I discovered that basketball was invented by James Naismith. Notably, he was also Kansas’s first basketball coach. That should count for something. Ironically, Naismith is also the program’s only coach with a losing record, but that’s a minor detail.

Champion

No. 1 North Carolina (East)

I’d like to be transparent in terms of my shared history with North Carolina. I owned a baby blue Tar Heels sweatshirt and had a hard time parting when my growth spurt hit. If North Carolina wins it all then I have a good excuse to buy a new one.

Team to watch

Miami (FL)

This is a desperate program facing an unpredictable future and they’re going to make every play count. NCAA sanctions and a post-season ban loom ahead, but until then, this team has the will and talent to make an entertaining run.

Team that will disappoint

No. 9 Butler (Midwest)

Being so attached to this school, any loss will be a disappointment no matter the round. I would love to see the Bulldogs bring the Hinkle magic to my hometown of Chicago in the Sweet 16, but I’m trying to be realistic here.

 

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KYLE BEERY | MULTIMEDIA CONTRIBUTOR | kbeery@butler.edu

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not time for snowflakes, reindeer and screaming parents at Super Stores. It’s time for Cinderella teams, teams you’ve never heard of giving blue bloods a run for their money, and screaming fans losing their minds over buzzer beaters. I might will not have a perfect bracket. But here’s to hoping my obsession with mid-major conference tournaments pays off in my bracket pool.

Final Four

No. 1 Kansas, No. 5 Baylor, No. 3. West Virginia, No. 2 Michigan St.

It would be easy to go chalk. But I’ve always stood by the idea that you can’t go with all top seeds in order to make some noise in your pool. No real surprises here, other than Baylor. The West Regional probably has the most upset potential. Assuming Baylor gets by Yale, they’ll get a short-bench Duke team, then likely a shaky team in Oregon, and possibly a familiar foe in Oklahoma. I like that path.

National Championship

Michigan St. over Kansas.

Mr. March. Need I say more? Izzo’s got a heck of a team that goes about 10-deep. Don’t see them losing.

Team to watch

Other than Baylor, I think there are a few teams that could make an exciting run. UConn is hot, as they always seem to be. Arizona and Iowa are pretty under-seeded teams. But my favorite team to watch is No. 13-seeded Stony Brook. If you don’t know who Jameel Warney is, you will soon. It’s a shame they got Kentucky off the bat, but they could pull an upset.

Team to disappoint

No, it won’t be Villanova this time. They’ve got a team capable of making a deep run. I’ve got to say North Carolina is going to be the biggest disappointment. They have a very tough region, to begin with. Their potential path: a very tough Providence team; Kentucky or Indiana; West Virginia or Xavier. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t make it to the second weekend.

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