Wednesday, March 09, 2005

SPORTS: Gonzaga or Louisville?

A month ago, I 'knew' my final four for the upcoming NCAA basketball championships was Kansas, Illinois, North Carolina and Duke. A week ago, I 'knew' the final four was Illinois, North Carolina, Kansas and UConn.

Today, what I know is that I don't know who to pick to complete my final four with North Carolina, Illinois and UConn. Will it be Gonzaga or Louisville? I think the TarHeels will beat Illinois in a low-scoring final, but I like Charlie Villanueva to get UConn close and I have to choose between Rony Turiaf of Gonzaga and Francisco Garcia of Louisville as this year's Travis Diener. Rick Pitino makes Garcia the pick, draw permitting of course.

Wake Forest? Chris Paul is outta control and will get distracted at a key moment. So many good guards out there means John Lucas will get shut down before Oklahoma State runs the whole race. Duke's short bench means any tightly-officiated game is deadly to my favourite team's chances. Boston College, Syracuse and Pitt all have flaws, although BC's hidden theirs longer.

Kentucky loses with one sub-par Patrick Sparks game. Florida, Alabama and LSU are heartbreakers for their fans. Arizona and Washington will eventually come up against defenders capable of stopping Salim Stoudamire and Nate Robinson respectively. And Utah feels like a cozy pick until you look at the litany of teams they have beaten, and don't recognize anybody other than LSU. Pacific is the terror that wins two and celebrates a good year. Charlotte and Wisconsin are better than their reps, but not good enough. Michigan State isn't as good as Paul Davis et al should be. They'll trip early.

Who's left? Kansas. My pick to win it all a month ago. A competitive team without Wayne Simien, and a top team with him back. Or so I thought. Turns out the team needs now-gimpy Keith Langford to shoot well (hit or miss) and 35 plus minutes from PG Aaron Miles. As a first or second #1 seed, the Jayhawks might very well have gotten what they needed after coasting a round or two. I just see that not happening.

So, here I am, a week before the festivities start, wondering who to take fourth rather than fifth and hoping the injury bug leaves 'my' teams alone.

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