West Region Breakdown: Kyrie Irving is Back for Duke, But How Much Will He Play?
West #2 San Diego State didn’t look impressive in their first two efforts against BYU, but they absolutely slaughtered the Cougars in the Mountain West final. They’ve got three extremely athletic forwards and a great leader in point guard DJ Gay. Their one glaring weakness is their ability to nail threes, but sometimes it’s more about having the right people taking the shots. Connecticut looked incredibly good in the Big East Tournament, but I’m not sure how much energy the team has left. The committee didn’t do them any favors by having them play on Thursday instead of Friday. They’ve got enough talent to make the Final Four, led by the exceptional Kemba Walker, but only one team with a defensive efficiency outside the Top 25 has made the Final Four since 2003 and that was Michigan State last year. Connecticut currently ranks 31st.
Texas is the forgotten team in the bracket. They could’ve had a one seed as of a couple years ago, but four losses in their last eight games handed them a #4 seed. They’ve got talent, but I think they’re a year away from the Final Four because Rick Barnes is going to get severely out-coached by Krzyzewski. No other team poses any kind of threat in the bracket, so it’ll be up to the top three seeds. With Irving involved, you have to lean in Duke’s favor.
First round upset that will happen: Missouri over Cincinnati
Admittedly Missouri’s struggled away from home this year, but their style of play should present major problems for Cincinnati. Cincinnati plays at one of the slowest tempos in the nation and Missouri’s full-court defense will look to change that. The Bearcats don’t do well when sped up and Mike Anderson has advanced past the first round in four of his five tournament appearances. Advantage: Missouri.
First round upset that won't happen: Oakland over Texas
It’s nice to think that this Oakland group is feisty and battle tested after facing Purdue, Illinois, Michigan St., Tennessee, and Michigan. While it’s nice that they played all those teams, the only one they beat was Tennessee, who is as Jekyll & Hyde as they come. That win doesn’t earn credibility and Texas is better than all the teams Oakland lost to. Texas’s top rated defense will shut down Oakland’s offense and the Oakland defense isn’t good enough to match. Sorry Jay Bilas.
Best Not-Bracket Bets:
North Colorado (+15.5) over San Diego St. — The Aztecs are going to be a little sluggish coming off their tournament-title high.
Temple (-2.5) over Penn St. — Penn State had a nice run in the Big Ten Tournament, but they’re not that good and now they’re playing teams who have just as much at stake as they do.
Connecticut (+700) to make the Final Four — The number seems higher than it should be if you want to take a chance on a team who is undefeated in tournament play this season.
Duke (+450) to win the National Championship — If, like AG, you believe in Kyrie Irving, this is easy money.
Final Four Predictions:
it’s a Final Four of Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Duke with Ohio State over Louisville in the Final. Mark it down. Final answer.