Blog Entry

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Posted on: January 1, 2009 1:40 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2009 1:42 pm

I was on a radio station in Arkansas yesterday talking about the Hogs' win over Oklahoma when the conversation turned to postseason aspirations. I commented that Arkansas looked as much like an NCAA tournament team as anybody at this point, and that if the goal was a Sweet Sixteen then that seemed possible to me, if only because any tournament team from a power conference will usually be one of the top 12 seeds in a region, and as long as you're not an eight-seed or nine-seed it's reasonable to hope to advance past the first weekend because all you have to do is win what is typically a winnable first game, then hope the bracket breaks in your favor like it did for Western Kentucky last March, when the Hilltoppers beat Drake and San Diego to advance.

So anyway, that was my main point -- not that Arkansas is necessarily one of the best 16 teams in the country, but that a tournament team from a power league almost always has a chance to advance to the second weekend, and now I'm ready to take it a step farther in light of what we've seen this week and suggest that any so-called top 30 team can reasonably hope for a trip to the Final Four because it's clear multiple flawed teams will get there given that there is only one truly elite squad: North Carolina.

Just this week, No. 2 Connecticut, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 9 Purdue have all gone down while preseason top 10 teams Gonzaga and Louisville took their fourth and third losses, and when you compare what's happening this season to what happened last season it really puts things into perspective. Consider that last season it was easy to identify four elite teams pretty much from the start, specifically Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA. Those schools were ranked first, second, third and fourth in the preseason poll, and on New Year's Day they were a combined 49-1 with the lone loss of the bunch belonging to UCLA, which had fallen only by two points to No. 8 Texas.

This season, the top four teams in the preseason poll were North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville and UCLA, and on New Year's Day they have a combined record of 42-6. North Carolina is great, obviously, but Connecticut lost its Big East opener at home, Louisville has no good wins and three losses to unranked opponents, and UCLA has no good wins to go with its two defeats. Consequently, I submit -- and I've said this before, but now I have the stats to back it up -- that UNC is better than any team from last season, but that nobody else is even close to as good as Kansas, Memphis, UNC or UCLA was last season, meaning that if you combined all the teams from last season and this season your top five would look like this:

1. North Carolina (2008-2009)
2. Kansas (2007-2008)
3. Memphis (2007-2008)
4. North Carolina (2007-2008)
5. UCLA (2007-2008)

Bottom line, dream big Clemson!

And you too, West Virginia!

And you too, Baylor!

Sure, on the surface, none of you look like Final Four teams in the traditional sense. But the thing about the Final Four is that four schools have to be there, and any combination featuring North Carolina and three other teams seems possible this season because there aren't four teams clearly better than the next 30, and that fact has been on display all week, every night.


Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: January 1, 2009 5:46 pm

How to beat the Heels

The Heels have one weakness: they start slow.  Every game this season has had the same pattern: competitive for the first 12 minutes, then double-digit lead by halftime.  The team that goes beyond competitive in the first 12 minutes – knocks them down out of the gate, like Kansas did in the final four last year – will have a chance to win.  I’m not sure what it is, but it looks like they are so confident they can outlast anyone, they don’t worry about getting out of the gate quickly.  A team will come along that can take advantage of their slow starts.

But they sure are deep.  They are dominating everyone with three of their top guys – Ellington, Frasor and Ginyard – playing well below the standards they’ve set in the past.

Since: Aug 19, 2007
Posted on: January 1, 2009 5:24 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

No, the know-nothings will ALWAYS win the tourney pool... until the end of time. Anyone who is actually knowledgeable about college basketball will over-analyze the tournament and finish in last, while the middle-aged mother of three who hasn't watched a game in her life will win basing her picks off of mascots and where he friends went to college.

Since: Aug 19, 2007
Posted on: January 1, 2009 5:19 pm

We won't see four 1 seeds again in the FF

That's for sure.

I think we're getting a little ahead of ourselves with North Carolina, and I'm not talking about you Gary. Of course UNC is the best team in the nation by a wide margin, and they are better than any team from last season.

But they aren't going to go undefeated. Not in today's game. Wake, Duke, Miami or Clemson will knock them off, and heck maybe even Maryland can do it again like last season.

Let me put it this way. As unstoppable as they look, there are some great college basketball players and teams out there. So, even though they are stacked at every position and have incredible depth, it's not like Connecticut isn't stacked either. Is Hansbrough really so good that he's going to take Thabeet to the woodshed, and is Ty Lawson on a completely different level than A.J. Price? I don't think so. Same goes for Pittsburgh, Texas, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Duke, etc. The top teams in the nation all have their question marks (UNC has no question marks, that's the difference), but if they play well and catch UNC on an off night, the Tar Heels are going to go down.

UNC is also going to be "the hunted" for the rest of the season. Everyone's saying this is the best team they've ever seen (Fred Hill of Rutgers is the most recent coach to have said that), but they are far from unbeatable.

Since: Aug 30, 2008
Posted on: January 1, 2009 3:41 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

I don't see why not, they've been in the last three. Ben Howland teaches defense first which tends to lack in  the tournament, especially against teams with so so point guards. The Pac-10 this year looks to be tougher than expected with Arizona and Cal surprising some teams. UCLA should be battle tested when March comes around and finally hoist banner #12 in Pauley.

Go Bruins

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: January 1, 2009 2:44 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Doesn't everyone remember George Mason? I think that shows any team from a power conference can make it to the Final Four.

Since: Feb 9, 2008
Posted on: January 1, 2009 2:22 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

To say the least know-nothings won't fill out office-brackets and end up at the top of the standings by putting all four number ones in the final four not because they have a hunch, but because they just don't know any better. I ended up ahead of those fools anyways but I didn't appreciate the unworthy competition! I say it's still a little early to punify (that should definitely be a word) the non-UNCs of the world, if Pitt somehow cleans house in the Big East then I think most would agree they'd at least bump UCLA out of that top 5 above.  Regardless, March is sure to be as angry if not angrier than ever!!

Since: Jan 22, 2008
Posted on: January 1, 2009 2:21 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Power League, Gary???  I think it's been proven in the past couple of years with Memphis and George Mason that you don't even have to be from a power league.  You just have to get a good draw and have a few things go your way with matchups in your region.  As you mention, WKY is a perfect example of the matchups going their way.

Speaking of that, have you checked Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketbuster?  He has all four Final Four teams from last year going to the SAME REGION.  How tough would that be?  So much for Kansas's chances of a repeat, since UNC looks to be a lock at this point for at least the Final Four - especially since they always have an easy road and hardly ever leave their friendly confines.  Oh well...Go Heels.

Since: Jan 3, 2008
Posted on: January 1, 2009 2:19 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Speaking of Gonzaga and Louisville......they've went from potential #1 seeds to bubble teams at this point. Right now there's one dominant team, North Carolina, and then everyone else.

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