Love him or hate, Kentucky head coach John Calipari has his Wildcats making a push for the Final Four again.
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Not going with Duke or Villanova.
Not changing a damn thing from my original bracket, frankly, despite the trendy, cheesy, second-chance reseeding/re-picking way of doing things now that we've completed one weekend of the NCAA Tournament to get down to the Sweet 16.
Why bother? See no need. My national champion pick is alive and well and overall No. 1 Virginia never made it this far in my projections anyway.
Biggest upset of all-time, my arse. Never witnessed such a highly rated squad more ripe to fall off a cliff with just the slightest of nudges, or even the threat of one.
But we digress …
Just gonna continue to roll with Kentucky, the South Region's 5-seed. Ever since taking pen to paper and marking down my selections, have felt pretty good about that.
To me, not a single reason to adjust.
Sure, Duke and Villanova, the popular favorites to win it all at this point, have been impressive thus far. But Duke isn't the most talented team remaining. Kentucky is, and if Kentucky isn't, and that's a big IF, then Texas A&M is – not Duke.
The Aggies toyed with 2-seed North Carolina in the West. Absolutely freakin' toyed with it, while looking like a bunch of 6-10 guys making like Ben Simmons is routine stuff.
'Nova? Gotta be honest, don't envision the Wildcats getting past West Virginia in the East Region Friday night at Boston. The Mountaineers have the tenacity and athleticism to match whatever Jay Wright puts out on the floor, and more length. Yeah, 'Nova has national player of the year candidates in Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. WVU counters with the best defender in the country (Jevon Carter) and a lineup that never has any fewer that three 6-8 or taller gazelles who can jump out of the building on the floor at one time.
Wouldn't mind a second title making its way to Philly's Main Line in the last three years, just not feeling it is going to happen. More of a vibe similar to last season's upending by Wisconsin, another matchup nightmare for 'Nova, than that one from 2016.
Thus far, UK hasn't been dominant at all. Even got lucky with draws, and still struggled a lot with 12-seed Davidson and a little with 13-seed Buffalo. But believe in John Calipari, in his ability coach in game and to motivate heading into a game. His Wildcats were young this season and showed it, and just now are starting to display a toughness and confidence to match their skill.
UK's biggest threat appears to be A&M. Without question. Forget upset wins by University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC to all you acronym loyalists) and aforementioned Buffalo, the former benefiting from Virginia's shakiness and depleted roster and the latter from Arizona's willingness to quit. The most dynamic performance of the tournament was turned in by the Aggies, whose size-skill combo absolutely decimated UNC.
For their efforts, tonight they get Michigan, which posted the most dynamic performance in conference-tournament action just a week earlier with its destruction of Purdue.
Tough draw. So much so that, to me, if the Wolverines prevail they then become the biggest threat to UK. After them, it is Gonzaga, the most overlooked returning national semifinalist this deep in a tournament since fellow mid-major monster Butler.
Duke? 'Nova? The consensus can have them. Not seeing either here, even as threats.
SWEET 16 SLATE
TONIGHT 7:07 (11) Loyola-Chicago vs. (7) Nevada, CBS SOUTH REGION | ATLANTA
7:37 (7) Texas A&M vs. (3) Michigan, TBS WEST REGION | LOS ANGELES
9:37 (9) Kansas State vs. (5) Kentucky, CBS SOUTH REGION | ATLANTA
10:07 (9) Florida State vs. (4) Gonzaga, TBS WEST REGION | LOS ANGELES FRIDAY NIGHT 7:07 (5) Clemson vs. (1) Kansas, CBS 7:37 MIDWEST REGION | OMAHA
(5) West Virginia vs. (1) Villanova, TBS EAST REGION | BOSTON
9:37 (11) Syracuse vs. (2) Duke, CBS MIDWEST REGION | OMAHA
10:07 (3) Texas Tech vs. (2) Purdue, TBS EAST REGION | BOSTON
FROM THIS POINT ON ...
FAVORITE TEAM Clemson BEST TEAM Kentucky FAVORITE COACH Jim Boeheim, Syracuse BEST COACH Jay Wright, Villanova FAVORITE PLAYER Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova BEST PLAYER Jalen Brunson, Villanova FAVORITE STORY Loyola-Chicago BEST STORY Gonzaga MOST OVERHYPED COACH Mike Krzyewski, Duke MOST UNDERHYPED COACH Mark Few, Gonzaga MOST OVERHYPED TEAM Duke MOST UNDERHYPED TEAM Nevada