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April 3, 2010 at 11:22 AM

My Final Four Picks; Who You Got?

NCAA_Butler_Final_Four_Basketball_FF119.JPG
Photo credit: AP Photo – Michael Conroy
An improbable Final Four has created a mix of opinions on today’s NCAA tournament semifinals.
After watching West Virginia’s dominating defense dismantle Washington and Kentucky to win the East region, I’m taking the No. 2 Mountaineers to shutdown top-seeded Duke in a 73-65 victory.
Not sure if West Virginia can or should use its vaunted 1-3-1 zone against the sharp-shooting Blue Devils, but I’ll take the Mountaineers’ Big Three (Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones) over Duke’s (Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer).
I don’t have any great insight in the other semifinal, but I’m picking No. 5 Butler 68-60 over No. 5 Michigan State.
My rationale: It’s time for a team from a small conference to win the whole thing.
I’m tired of the tease. Tired of the annual first-round upsets. Invariably a No. 12 seed beats a No. 5 seed. Occasionally a mid-major team (sorry Brad Stevens, Butler’s coach, above) cracks the Final Four as George Mason did in 2006.
So what?
It’s time for the NCAA tournament to fulfill it’s promise and prove and for all anyone can win the national championship.
College basketball purists tend to scoff at college football and it’s complicated system to determine a national champion. Well truth be told, the tournament isn’t much better.
Most years only a handful of teams have a realistic chance of winning a national title. Just like college football. (Today’s semifinalists were ranked among the top 11 in the preseason AP poll.)
We all know the highest seed to win a championship, No. 8 Villanova in 1985. And really, how much of an upset was that? The Wildcats played in the Big East and toppled a conference foe.
Give me Butler and it’s 4,000 student enrollment. Give me the Horizon League and its conference of teams you never heard of.
I know the Bulldogs started and finished the season ranked 11th and the Cinderella slipper doesn’t exactly fit.
Still I’m rooting for the little guys. I remember crying when Villanova knocked off Georgetown 25 years ago. That’s a game I’ll never forget.
What if Butler wins today and advances to Monday’s title game. Imagine the memories the Bulldogs would create.
Besides the NCAA needs a feel-good ending after it floated the unpopular idea of expanding the tourney, which created so much strife among its fans.
Give me your picks.

Comments | Topics: top 25

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