Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham
OK, so you want a guarantee as to who will be in San Antonio at the end of this so-called March Madness, which for some reason is this year extending well into April.
Ahem. Here goes.
Duke will be there.
And that’s all I can guarantee.
Duke is the #2 seed in the West Region, looking up at #1 seed UCLA and battling with #3 Xavier and a potential stumbling block in the form of #7 West Virginia or #10 Arizona in round two.
I like this Duke team more than any of Mike Krzyzewski’s recent Blue Devil teams for one main reason. There is nobody clogging up the lane on this team. And for me, the best Duke teams are those that feature dribble-penetrators like Greg Paulus, DeMarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson and guys who can knock down the open threes that result from defenses sagging in to stop the attacks on the inside like Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler.
Plus, this Duke team can play D itself, and I think that will be enough to give the Dukies the edge over UCLA in a head-to-head.
You want another guarantee? Don’t put Memphis in your Final Four, because the Tigers won’t be there. I love John Calipari’s devotion to the dribble-drive-motion offense, but I think the one thing missing from the mix is a three-point shooter who can make teams come out of zones, which is really the only way to stop the DDM. Unfortunately for Memphis, they’re staring down some solid Ds in Mississippi State in round two, Michigan State or Pitt in the Sweet 16 and Texas in the Elite Eight.
I don’t look for Memphis to get past the Sweet 16 this year, honestly.
My pick in the South: Texas, which is deep and talented and can beat you with offense or with defense.
In the Midwest, it’s Kansas all the way, though I have to say here that I look for #10 seed Davidson to make a mess of the lower half of the bracket. I watched Davidson take UNC and Duke to the wire early on this year, and now they’re coming into the Big Dance on a 22-game winning streak that I see getting to the Sweet 16 (knocking off #2 seed Georgetown to get there) before falling to #3 Wisconsin in a game that could end up going either way.
In the East, I’m going with UNC, though I will acknowledge here that I agree with those out there who are suggesting that the Heels are looking a mite bit vulnerable coming into the tourney. And a second-round game against a team that as recently as a couple of weeks ago was being touted as a Final Four possibility in Indiana isn’t going to be a cakewalk. Nor is an anticipated Sweet 16 matchup with #12 seed George Mason (I have the Patriots upsetting #5 seed Notre Dame in the first round and then outlasting #13 seed Winthrop in the second).
Tennessee will give Carolina fits in the East Region final, but it will be a Kansas team in the national semifinals that will finally end UNC’s run at a national title.
In the other national semi, Duke will knock off Texas in a thriller, and then Duke takes it all in a final harkening back to the early 1990s and that Grant Hill alley-oop dunk that you might remember from the highlight reels.
Not bad, huh – an NCAA breakdown in 600 words or less?
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion Show.