Elite 8 Predictions

Finally I had a really good round of picks in the tournament. I correctly picked all eight Elite 8 teams.

Sure I wish West Virginia would’ve beaten Kentucky (or at least stay within 20 points), but being right is nice, too, I guess.

Saturday features top-seeded Kentucky taking on (3) Notre Dame, and (1) Wisconsin playing (2) Arizona.

Then on Sunday, (1) Duke hosts (2) Gonzaga, and in the only Elite 8 matchup this year to not have a one, two or three seed, No. 4 Louisville plays No. 7 Michigan St.

So let’s dive right into it. Here are my predictions for the Elite 8.

Midwest Region

In case you were unaware before Thursday night, Kentucky is REALLY good.

As a WVU student, and Mountaineer fan, it was hard to watch as the Wildcats dominated from the opening tip.

Kentucky opened the game on an 18-2 run and it never seemed to get better for WVU.

In fact, had only Trey Lyles, and Aaron and Andrew Harrison played for Kentucky against the entire West Virginia team, strictly looking at points, the game would’ve went into overtime tied at 39 apiece.

Notre Dame also dominated its Sweet 16 game, winning 81-70 over Wichita St.

The Irish, like most teams, don’t really have the size to matchup well with Kentucky. However, what Notre Dame does have is shooting ability, and a bit of history on its side.

Notre Dame was the team that ended UCLA and John Wooden’s 88-game win streak in 1974. Kentucky’s win streak is only at 37, so this should be no problem, right?

Not quite.

Also, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was an assistant coach at Duke in 1991 when the Blue Devils knocked off undefeated UNLV.

The Fighting Irish, though, do have what West Virginia, for instance, lacked – the ability to shoot the ball effectively. Notre Dame ranks second in the NCAA in field goal percentage, and ranks in the top 20 in 3-point field goal percentage.

Notre Dame has four players shooting above 40-percent from behind the arch and the Fighting Irish will need all four of those players to hit multiple three’s on Saturday.

I think Notre Dame has the ability to stay in the game, but I think the Irish’s luck will run out. Kentucky will just be too much for Notre Dame to handle.

Kentucky improves to 38-0.

West Region

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Wisconsin will win the West Region.

Sam Dekker registered a double-double scoring a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Badgers last game against North Carolina, and Frank Kaminsky dominated the post to the tune of 19 points.

Arizona played well enough to get past Xavier Thursday night, even with Brandon Ashley only scoring eight points and grabbing just two rebounds.

These two teams met last year in the Elite 8. Wisconsin won 64-63 in overtime.

You could argue that both of these teams are better than the teams that met Anaheim last year. Kaminsky and Dekker are another year more experienced, and this time around Ashley will be healthy and on the court.

Last year he was forced to watch his team lose from the sideline, as he did not play due to a broken foot.

Statistically Arizona is the better team in this matchup, the Wildcats score more points and shoot at a better percentage from the floor.

But I think Wisconsin is the better team.

Wisconsin is moving onto the Final Four.

South Region

Thank you Gonzaga for defeating UCLA. Nothing against the Bruins, I was just tired of picking against them and being wrong.

However, even fewer people than normal are saying thank you to Duke for its win Friday night. Quinn Cook’s free throw with 0.7 seconds left on the game clock cost betters millions of dollars since Duke was a five-point favorite and with Cook’s free throw won the game by six.

Somewhere in Vegas, a man with an “I Hate Christian Laettner” t-shirt on probably added Quinn Cook to the list.

Size and height have been a big topic of discussion this tournament. Think Kentucky, Kaminsky and, in this game Jahlil Okafor.

But Gonzaga has the size to guard Okafor with two players who are 7’1” tall and two more that are 6’10”. Okafor stands in at 6’11”.

Gonzaga is in the Elite 8 for just the second time in school history, obviously getting past the first two rounds, which was an area of concern for the Bulldogs coming into the tournament, having not gotten to the Sweet 16 since 2009.

Any other year and I think I would pick Gonzaga in this game. Looking statistically, almost everything Duke does as a team Gonzaga does a little better. The Blue Devils are third in the nation in field goal percentage; the Bulldogs are top dogs in that category.

Again, though, this is a game where I think statistics don’t tell the entire story of how good a team actually is.

Aside from when Gonzaga played Arizona in early December, Duke is without a doubt the best team the Bulldogs have played this season. The Wildcats are a good-shooting team that rebounds the ball well.

So is Duke.

Duke wins, advancing to the Final Four.

East Region

Don’t bet against Tom Izzo. Just don’t.

Izzo’s Michigan St. team is officially this year’s Cinderella after knocking off the final Big 12 team in Oklahoma.

Speaking of Cinderella’s, Louisville defeated the other potential Cinderella story of the tournament, NC State.

Neither of these team’s were the most consistent throughout the regular season, however, both are riding hot streaks. Michigan St. has won 7 of its last 8 games and Lousiville has won 4 of its last 5 dating back to its win over Virginia in its regular season finale.

In both of the two teams’ Sweet 16 games, both Michigan St. and Louisville’s top scorers, Travis Trice and Montrezl Harrell, scored 24 points to lead all scorers. For the Spartans, Denzel Valentine added 18 points against the Sooners, and Terry Rozier contributed 17 points for the Cardinals against the Wolfpack.

Despite their seeding, I think the Spartans are the better, more complete team. They play Tom Izzo basketball, which in tournament play is a proven winner.

It will be a very close game, but I have Michigan St. moving on to the Final Four.

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