Columnist predictions for March Madness
What's Going Downey
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 00:03
March Madness is here. A few columnists came together and gave a sleeper, bust and champion pick. Of course, these will be printed after the first day of games, so we could all look incredibly foolish, or perhaps brilliant… but probably foolish.
Sleeper: Saint Louis University (SLU)
The Billikens not only won the Atlantic-10 Conference regular season and tournament titles, but did so in a convincing fashion amidst a tough conference. The only conferences with more tournament teams are the Big East and the Big Ten. SLU lost only three conference games, two of which came in overtime, and racked up five wins against top 25 teams. Experience from one of the nation’s top conferences coupled with a top 20 defense will propel SLU to Atlanta.
Bust: Marquette University
Despite its No. 3 seed, the Golden Eagles will land shortly after taking off. Marquette was under .500 on the road this year and four of the team’s eight losses came against top 25 RPI teams. Although the Eagles defeated Davidson College in the first round, they will face a feisty Butler University team in the second round that Marquette lost to in November. Marquette is gassed from a brutal schedule and it will show this weekend.
Champion: University of Florida
To some, the Gators struggled down the stretch, going 6-4 in the team’s last 10 games. At first glance, Florida does not seem like the type of team poised to make a run to Atlanta this year. However, this is an elite offensive and defensive team, as they are fifth in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency. Florida manhandled top teams like Marquette and the University of Wisconsin and won every game by double digits this year. Depth, athleticism and Billy Donovan’s championship experience will make the difference, and the Gators will cut down the nets to earn its third title in the past seven years.
Sleeper: Creighton University.
The Bluejays are 27-7 on the season with quality wins against Wisconsin, Arizona State University, the University of Akron and the University of California. Creighton did face a tough stretch late in the season, dropping three in a row without star junior forward Doug McDermott, but they enter the tourney on a five game winning streak. The Bluejays are first in the nation in shooting percentage, shooting over 50 percent for the season. I’ve got the Bluejays knocking off the University of Cincinnati in the first round and sending Duke University home early, before falling to Michigan State University in the Sweet 16.
Bust: Duke University
As well-coached as the Blue Devils are, with Mike Krzyzewski manning the bench, and as talented as Duke is, this is a team I believe will come in underprepared. Duke has had tough tests, knocking off the likes of Ohio State University, the University of Miami and the University of Louisville along the way, but all of those games were played at a neutral site or at home. This Duke team has not been tested in front of a hostile crowd against a capable team and won. Many fans will want to see the Blue Devils fall early...and fall they will. Duke goes down in the round of 32 to Creighton. Duke always seems to have too high of expectations, and this Duke team hasn’t shown they can win on the road. Even against lesser teams like the University of Maryland or the University of Virginia, Duke could not take care of business and they will fail again this March.
Champion: University of Louisville
Louisville is one of the best coached teams in the nation with Rick Pitino at the helm. Louisville also has an All-American in senior guard Peyton Siva, one of the best point guards in the nation. Louisville has not lost since their five overtime thriller against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and has shown that they can compete with their backs against the wall. Down big against Syracuse University in the Big East tournament championship game, Louisville went on a 27-3 run in the final eight minutes of the game to pull away and win easily. The Cardinals boast an extraordinary frontcourt with junior center Gorgui Dieng leading the way. Dieng has made a major impact for Coach Pitino and the Cardinals. With Siva and Dieng to go along with the likes of junior guard Russ Smith, it’s hard to pick against this Louisville squad.
Bust: The University of Michigan
The Wolverines had a run as number one for a time this year, and have played exceptionally well against out-of-conference opponents. All seven losses have come inside the Big Ten, and five of the seven have been to ranked opponents. But they haven't played a? versatile team like that of number 13 seed South Dakota State University (SDSU). Both teams match up well, but the Jackrabbits are just too dynamic and this opening round game has upset written all over it. Every starter on the floor for SDSU can shoot from behind the arc and senior guard Nate Wolters ranks fourth in the NCAA averaging 27.7 points per game. And, if history repeats itself – and it often does – then Big Blue is in trouble. Last year, the Wolverines were also a four-seed, and guess what happened? They lost to 13-seed Ohio University. Michigan lacks the maturity to make a late game comeback, so if the Jackrabbits jump out in front early, the Maize and Blue's first-round woes will continue.