Archive / College

RSS feed for this section

2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Preview and Prediction

UConn Will Show Everyone They Are “Net Worthy”

The championship matchup between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies is being billed as one of the most unlikely pairings in the history of the NCAA tournament. The Huskies were the seventh seed in the East while the Wildcats were the number eight seed in the Midwest. 

How Kentucky Got to the Title GameKentucky finished the regular season 29-10 and earned an at-large bid into the tournament. They earned a berth in the championship game by:-Defeating Kansas State in the Round of 64-Defeating Wichita State in the Round of 32-Defeating Louisville in the Sweet 16-Defeating Michigan State in the Elite 8

-Defeating Wisconsin in the Final Four

How Connecticut Go to the Title Game

Connecticut finished the season 31-8 and earned an at-large bid into the tournament. They earned a spot in the championship game by:

-Defeating St. Joseph’s in the Round of 64

-Defeating Villanova in the Round of 32

-Defeating Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen

-Defeating Michigan State in the Elite Eight

-Defeating Florida in the Final Four

Why Kentucky Will Win

The Wildcats were rated as the best team in the nation and the overwhelming favorite to win the title when the season started. All five of the Kentucky starters were Mr. Basketball in their home states or led their high school teams to national championships.

Although they fell short of their 40-0 goal at the beginning of the season, they are still one of the most talented teams in the country. There is a good chance that all five of their starters this year could be playing in the NBA as soon as next year.

When you are talking about a team that has that kind of sheer talent and athleticism, it makes it hard for any team to beat them. On top of that, Kentucky has already won two games at the buzzer. While they are a young team, the Wildcats may have finally learned how to believe in their coach and each other enough to overcome any adversity that they will face against Connecticut.

Why UConn Will Win

Connecticut has to feel good about themselves going into the championship game. They just knocked off the top overall seed in the tournament and they have a true leader in Shabazz Napier. He can score at will when his teammates need him to lift them past the opposition.

However, the real reason why Connecticut has been so effective is because of their defense. Regardless of how much talent the other team has, it is easy to win games when a defense can turn them into non-factors. That is exactly what the Huskies have done to just about all of the best players in the NCAA in the past few weeks.

Which Team Wins the National Title?

This is going to be one the best and closest title games in a long time. As the Seattle Seahawks proved just a few short months ago, a dominant defense tends to be able to neutralize a powerful offense. Therefore, it makes sense to predict a Connecticut Huskies victory in this game.

Helpful Links:

  1. NCAA.com
  2. Odds for Winning
  3. Championship Gear from FansEdge (UConn/Kentucky)

2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four Preview

NCAA2014FinalFourbanner

A capacity crowd is expected at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on April 5 and 7th when the annual NCAA Men’s Division 1 Final Four is held. Florida and Connecticut tip off in Saturday’s first semifinal, followed by Kentucky and Wisconsin in the nightcap, with the winners meeting on Monday night for the title.

Billy Donovan’s Gators (South Region) are the only surviving No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four, with Wisconsin advancing out of the West Region as a No. 2. The other two participants weren’t expected to advance this far, with Connecticut coming out of the East as a No. 7 seed while Kentucky, the consensus pre-season No. 1 pick, makes the finals as a No. 8 seed out of the Midwest. All four schools have both appeared in the Final Four and won national titles (Florida- five appearances, titles in 2006 and 2007, Connecticut- five appearances, titles in 1999, 2004, 2011, Kentucky- sixteen appearances, titles in 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1975, 1996, 1998, 2012, and Wisconsin- two appearances, title in 1941).

Florida (36-2) vs. Connecticut (30-8)
Florida, the overall No. 1 seed, comes in with a 30-game winning streak, with their last loss, ironically, 65-64 at Connecticut on December 2nd. In yet another ironic twist, Florida’s only other loss occurred on November 12th to another Final Four participant, Wisconsin, 59-53.

The Gators are extremely experienced, starting four battle-tested seniors and a sophomore, and their regular rotation goes only 8-9 deep at the most. Senior PG Scottie Wilbekin is the floor general for Donovan’s team, adept at distributing the ball, suffocating opposing ballhandlers on defense, and reliable with outside shooting. He’ll have his hands full with UConn’s two-headed tandem of Napier and Boatwright however. Wilbekin’s primary backcourt mate is Michael Frazier II, one of the nation’s most deadly deep marksmen. Operating from the wing is the team’s leading scorer (13.8) Casey Prather, who can sink the perimeter jumper but is more dangerous when he puts the ball on the floor. Up front, what Florida lacks in length it makes up in bulk and intelligent positioning in seniors Patrick Young and Will Yeguette. Both are much better offensively than their misleading stats, and both crash the boards relentlessly. Off the bench, Dorian Finney-Smith provides muscle and energy, while Kasey Hill gives the offense a different approach when spelling Wilbekin. Overall, the Gators won’t overwhelm opponents with explosiveness or physicality, but their experience and intelligence serves them well, while defensively, they lack the shot-blockers, but they blend together impressively all around, and are effective when trapping is required.

In 2011, Connecticut came out of nowhere behind star PG Kemba Walker to hand long-time former coach Jim Calhoun his third championship in a dozen years. In 2013-14, Walker’s successor as floor leader, Shabazz Napier, appears to be following his predecessor’s blueprint. The All-American has carried the Huskies quite a bit in his senior season, including the last-second game-winner against Florida. His backcourt mate, Ryan Boatwright, has similar skills and the duo work well together, combining for 30 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals per game. Up front, UConn employs both offense and defense “by committee,” with DeAndre Daniels capable of putting up regular double figures, while Niels Giffey is a dangerous and streaky three-point threat. Off the bench, the Huskies have a capable shot-blocker in Amida Brimah, although any offense from him is generally a surprise. Philip Nolan has stepped up his frontcourt presence in the postseason, but make no mistake about Kevin Ollie’s Huskies; they are heavily dependent on their backcourt.

Wisconsin (30-7) vs. Kentucky (28-10)
During almost all of Bo Ryan’s dozen-plus seasons as coach of the Badgers, they’ve been a walk-it-up, methodical squad that specializes in smothering defense and crisp passing. This 2013-14 team is still patient and continues to harass opposing ball-handlers, they’ve also become much more adept on offense, led by big man Frank Kaminsky, who has a “Euro-style” inside-out game, but he can also effectively work in the paint. Wisconsin is loaded with sharpshooters, from Ben Brust to Josh Gasser, while Sam Dekker provides a nice mix of perimeter and driving skills. PG Traevon Jackson has a game reminiscent of former Badger star Devin Harris, while Nigel Hayes gives athleticism and hustle off the bench. Bo Ryan has long been considered one of the most unsung head coaches in the nation, and now his low-key style gets a prime shot of exposure on a bigger stage.

Throughout January and most of February, bashing John Calipari’s latest batch of “one-and-done” McDonald’s All-Americans was rampant, but Cal’s “Diaper Dandies” are maturing at the perfect time, knocking off three of last season’s Final Four participants to advance to Arlington. The ‘Cats are loaded, even without the injured Willie Cauley-Stein. Marcus Lee came out of nowhere to become a force in the regional final, while the backcourt of the Harrison twins are playing like NBA veterans. Along with that potent threesome, Calipari can call on freshman All-American Julius Randle, athletic Alex Poythress, scorer James Young and a handful of other future NBAers to insert. If Kentucky gets past Wisconsin (which won’t be easy), they may find themselves matched up with fellow SEC team Florida for the fourth time this season. For the record, the Gators have won all three matchups, giving Calipari plenty of motivational ammo for a title re-re-re-rematch.

Resources:

  1. Championship Gear (Right after the game)
  2. Travel to the Game
  3. TV Schedule

The Five Best Conferences In College Basketball Right Now

BIG-TEN-basketball-top-conference-2013-14

Although it is still early, the college basketball landscape is slowly starting to take shape. A few teams have started to make their case to be considered a favorite to cut down the nets in April. Through two months of play, which conferences are the best in the country?

1) Big Ten

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State are all ranked in the top 10. Michigan State has a signature win against Kentucky while Ohio State and Wisconsin are blowing teams away early. There is a good chance that the conference sends seven or more teams to the tournament this year. Northwestern at 6-5 has the lowest winning percentage in the Big 10.

2) American Athletic

The conference comprised of Big East castaways are having a nice debut season. Louisville and Connecticut are ranked sixth and tenth in the latest polls. Memphis looks to have another strong season for the AAC. SMU, South Florida and Houston are having strong starts that could be a sign of big things to come for all three programs.

3) Big East

The Catholic 7 schools of the original Big East combined with Xavier, Butler and Creighton to create a strong league. Although Villanova is the only ranked team in the league, there are several teams that will contend for NCAA and NIT bids this postseason. Expect Butler, Creighton and Xavier to crack the Top 25 at some point while perennial conference whipping boy DePaul has started 6-4.

4) Pacific 12

Seven teams in the Pac-12 have eight or more wins on the season. Arizona is the top ranked team in the nation thanks to an impressive start. Oregon and Colorado are also ranked. Colorado has been a surprising team this year. The Buffaloes defeated Kansas earlier in December on a last second field goal.

5) Atlantic Coast

Syracuse and Pittsburgh both started the year 9-0. The Orange are ranked second in the nation while the Panthers look to propel themselves into the rankings shortly. North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse are likely to be locks to go dancing in March while Notre Dame is another team likely to get an invite to the NCAA tournament. Virginia Tech leads the league by virtue of their victory over Miami in the first conference game this season.

The top conferences in college basketball are starting to assert themselves as the calendar creeps toward 2014 and the start of league play. Over the next 10 weeks, a lot of teams are going to state their case to keep playing in March. However, only a handful of teams from a handful of conferences have a legitimate shot of being crowned champion in the end.

Analysis Of The 2013 NCAA Mens’ Basketball Tournament

louisville-basketball-champions-mens-ncaa-2013

The Michigan Wolverines and Louisville Cardinals put on a show in the men’s basketball national championship game. It was a game that saw a lot of clutch shots, great defense and two teams that knew that they had to leave it all on the line. Let’s look at how the game unfolded.

First Half Overview

The first half saw Michigan run out to an early 12 point lead. However, Louisville stormed back to briefly take the lead. At halftime, Michigan had a 38-37 lead that they were lucky to have.

Michigan Key Players:

Michigan got a major boost from Spike Albrecht and his 17 points. Not known for being a consistent score, he made all four three point shots that he attempted. Trey Burke had seven points for the Wolverines despite sitting for more than 10 minutes due to foul trouble.

Louisville Key Players:

Luke Hancock was also 4-4 from three point range. His 16 points were equally important in keeping Louisville close until the rest of the team was able to wake up. Gorgui Dieng was a beast on the boards finishing with four rebounds in the first half to go with five assists.

Most Important Play:

After a Luke Hancock three point shot, Louisville forces a quick turnover that leads to a slam dunk for the Cardinals at the other end. That capped a run that saw Louisville take the lead 37-36.

Second Half Overview

Despite playing a clean game, Michigan is unable to keep the Cardinals down. Luke Hancock scored five huge points at the end of the second half to help knock Michigan out when they were down. Although he played an outstanding second half, Trey Burke was not able to will his team back even though he made a miraculous three point shot late in the half.

Michigan Key Players:

Trey Burke played a great second half when he scored 15 points. He made a couple of long three point shots to keep his team in the game until the bitter end. However, 22 points were about seven points short of what he needed to ensure that the Wolverines won the game.

Louisville Key Players:

Luke Hancock hit a three pointer with about six minutes left in the game that extended the Louisville lead at the time to 10 points. Chane Behanan scored the majority of his 15 points in the second half while Peyton Siva also used a huge second half to finish with 18 points. He was also clutch at the line throughout the game. He finished a perfect 6-6 shooting free throws.

Most Important Play In The Second Half:

Luke Hancock knocked down a clutch three pointer to put Louisville up by 10 points with about six minutes left in the second half. It took the wind out of the Michigan sails as they were not able to get any closer than four points the rest of the game.

This was one of the best games played in college basketball all season. It was a fitting way to end what was a great season. Louisville proved that the selection committee was right when they named the Cardinals the top overall seed in the tournament. Most importantly, it gives the Big East the exit that it desperately needed. Although the conference will still exist after this season, fans will never consider the new version of the Big East to be the same as the old one. Overall, it was the perfect way for the Cardinals and the conference to part ways.

Louisville Will Edge Michigan In The National Championship Basketball Game

win-it-for-ware-louisville-basketball-championship

The Louisville Cardinals will take on the Michigan Wolverines for the men’s basketball national championship on Monday night. The Cardinals are the number one overall seed in the tournament while the Wolverines will most likely play the role of the underdog. What are some keys to look at when trying to determine who will win this game?

Michigan Will Have To Continue To Hit Three Point Shots

The biggest reason why Michigan won on Saturday against Syracuse was due to their ability to hit shots from a long distance. This allowed them to overcome many of the obstacles presented by the 2-3 zone defense that the Orange like to run. It also caused Syracuse to deal with some confidence issues as they were not able to hit shots in response. If the Wolverines can rattle Louisville on Monday, it could be enough to get them a victory.

Louisville Needs To Play Pressure Defense Throughout The Game

The Cardinals will need to play consistent defense throughout the game. When they take their foot off of the throat of their opponents, they tend to give up points in bunches. If they are in a competitive game with Michigan as they were with Wichita State on Saturday, they may not be able to grind out a victory. Instead, they need to establish their defensive presence early and run out to an early lead.

Trey Burke Needs To Step Up For Michigan

Burke only had seven points for Michigan against Syracuse. Although he had three steals, he only had four assists during the game. If this is the kind of effort that can be expected from the leader of the team, it probably won’t be enough to get them past Louisville. In fact, everyone on the Wolverines squad needs to play better if they want to win against the Cardinals. It will be difficult to win when the majority of your team is held to single digits in scoring.

Louisville Should Force The Ball To Tim Hardaway As Much As Possible

Hardaway shot 30 percent from three point range and hit only 25 percent of his shots overall for the game. If he is expected to take a lot of shots for Michigan on Monday, that could be another issue that does them in. This is where Louisville can use their pressure defense to force Hardaway to shoot a lot of shots where he may not feel comfortable taking them.

Fouls Could Be A Problem For The Cardinals

Louisville is a deep team that have a lot of guys capable of playing at any time. On the one hand, this helps them overcome their foul issues. On the other hand, foul trouble can take key guys out of the game at the worst possible times. For example, Gorqui Dieng has fouled out of three games this season and has gotten four fouls in multiple other games. If Michigan can get the ball underneath the basket, there is a good chance that he could run into foul trouble. Peyton Siva is another big contributor for Louisville who tends to get himself into foul trouble quite often.

This is going to be a great game between two teams that deserve to play for a national title. Although Louisville will be the favorite, there is no doubt that Michigan will give them everything that they can handle. It will be one of the classic national title games that will most likely come down to the final shot.

Prediction:
Louisville 80
Michigan 78

Be sure to visit our friends at FansEdge right after the game for NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Gear.They will be updating their site with fresh Champions products as soon as the winner is decided.