As March Madness comes to as fast as an end as it began with, I am reminded this time of year why I DON’T DO BRACKETS: By the first weekend, usually the play-in games, I am out of contention and have lost any money I put into a pool. I haven’t competitively done brackets in a few years, much to the chagrin of new followers to TSFSG. When confronted with the usual question, “You’re The Sports Girl, I how do you not do brackets”, I quip back, “YA GIRL DON’T DO BRACKETS” and give the above explanation. I think it’s hilarious how people get caught up in brackets. I would rather play fantasy soccer than do brackets.
But it does not stop me from making predictions, which I guess is what doing brackets is, but I don’t like being wrong that many times. Reviews and predictions for The Final Four in New Orleans after the break!
*ALL FINAL FOUR GAMES ON 3/31 (SATURDAY)
4 Louisville (30-9, 10-8 Big East) v. 1 Kentucky (36-2, 16-0 SEC)
|HC John Calipari talks to his starters during a timeout v. Baylor in the South Finals.|
As if the implications for Kentucky to win it all can get no greater this year — another stacked team of presumed one and done lottery picks and a dominant SEC season — Big Blue has to go against perhaps its most fierce rival. Louisville, led by its always competitive head coach Rick Pitino and his team that has played well throughout the tournament. Even though they lost 4 of their last 6 in the regular season and conference tournament, the Cardinals have found some resolve, scraping by to get wins throughout the big dance.
Calipari’s squad has won their last three games by double digits, while Pitino had to beat former player and protege Billy Donovan with late game heroics by freshman guard Chane Behanan to beat Florida 72-68. While the two schools that dominate the Bluegrass state did not play each other this season, their rivalry runs deep: with 43 meetings, Kentucky leads the series 29-14.
Kentucky WILDCATS Starting 5 Louisville CARDINALS Starting 5
Terrence Jones F Kyle Kuric G-F
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist F Chane Behanan F
Anthony Davis F Gorgui Gieng C
Doron Lamb G Chris Smith G
Marquis Teague G Peyton Siva
|Louisville HC Rick Pitino has been down this road before. On this trip, he wants to own Kentucky and run the state.|
PREDICTION: The experience and the age on Louisville’s roster adds a depth of emotion that has carried them through the playoffs. It has forced Behanan, a freshman, to play older than he is. He had the capacity to keep the game within reach against Florida on Saturday. Louisville is a tough team, and will stay competive and tough against a Kentucky team who approached every match-up with a fun type of professionalism that you haven’t found in many other Calipari led teams. While Kentucky is young, they have the most talented and high scoring team that Calipari has had since taking over at Kentucky. Sure, he is pumping out more NBA players than the NBDL, but that doesn’t mean that this year he isn’t coaching these guys to their fullest potential. The Louisville defense will be the toughest Kentucky has faced in several months, and they couldn’t handle Baylor’s Acy with the ease they did SEC big men.
I don’t think that they will win by double digits as they have throughout the tournament, but expect it to be a close win for Kentucky.
Road to The Final Four:
KENTUCKY: Defeated — Western Kentucky, Iowa State, Indiana, Baylor
LOUISVILLE: Defeated — Davidson, New Mexico State, Michigan State, Florida
KENTUCKY 78, LOUISVILLE 72
2 Ohio State (31-7, 13-5 Big Ten) v. 2 Kansas (31-6, 16-2 Big 12)
North Carolina’s collapse at the hands of Roy William’s old school Kansas Sunday creates a match-up of two seeds that defeated number one seeds on their way to the Final Four. Led by standout sophomore and All American Jared Sullinger, Thad Matta and the Ohio State Buckeyes are back to the Final Four for the first time since 2007. They have made it four times since Matta became the head coach. Ohip State’s only household name is the All American Sullinger, but the rest of their squad has played well alongside him. Besides Kentucky, this squad has the best chemistry I have seen of the Final Four teams. KU, led by Bill Self have not made it to a Final Four since they won it all a few years ago.
|Ohio State Buckeyes forward Jared Sullinger celebrates with his team as team wins the East Bracket against #1 seed Syracuse.|
Road to The Final Four:
OHIO STATE: Defeated — Loyola (Md.), Gonzaga, Cincinnati, Syracuse
KANSAS: Defeated — Detroit, Purdue, North Carolina State, North Carolina
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES STARTING 5 KANSAS JAYHAWKS STARTING 5
William Buford G Thomas Robinson F
Jared Sullinger F Jeff Withey C
Aaron Craft G Tyshawn Taylor G
Lenzelle Smith Jr. G Travis Releford G
Deshawn Thomas F Elijah Johnson G
PREDICTION: These two teams have met this season, with Kansas winning 78-67, though OSU was without Sullinger (back injury). It would be an understatement saying that this is a different match-up. KU’s Thomas Robinson, while a tremendous player, National Player of the Year candidate, will have his work cut out for him in this match-up. A showcase of talent, this is a game worthy of following the suspected beating that is Kentucky-Louisville. With premiere defenses, steady and consistent scoring, and an All American on each team, I am calling overtime. A STAT FROM ESPN: Just the 2nd Final Four meeting pairing two No. 2 seeds since the seeding format was reintroduced in 1979 — North Carolina and Arkansas met in 1995’s Final Four.
OSU 82-KANSAS 80 OT
A review and predictions of the Men’s National Championship will come on Sunday! Stay posted!
Information and photos used for this article are from ESPN, The Huffington Post, USA Today, CBS News, The New York Times, Getty Images, US PressWire/ Greg M. Cooper, AP Photo/ Chris Carlson.