Two close games in the Sweet 16 (Michigan State/Oklahoma & Duke/Utah) but the rest weren’t even very close. All three of the remaining 1-seeds moved on, some easier than others, to the Elite 8 where the stakes could not be any higher. Winners of this next round get to book their tickets to Indianapolis. Oh, and can anyone stop Kentucky? We’ll soon see.
Here are my revised predictions for the Elite 8…
Wisconsin (1) vs. Arizona (2) – This is the game everyone has been waiting for the entire tournament (unless you’ve been hoping for a Kentucky/Duke championship game) and now here it is. These teams are so evenly matched, but this is a revenge game of sorts for Wisconsin, who lost a close one to Arizona the last time they met. I think they will get that revenge by another narrow margin to advance to the Final 4. Pick: WISCONSIN.
Kentucky (1) vs. Notre Dame (3) – Okay, forget everything I said about the poor defense of Notre Dame. They’ve actually played pretty solid during the tournament, which goes to show that this team has been built to get tougher as the rounds go on. Credit coaching and conditioning for that. They look like a solid contender, the first team so far that might actually be able to challenge Kentucky, especially if the Irish are on with their perimeter shooting. I like them to make this one tough, but I still see no way Kentucky loses, even in a close one. Pick: KENTUCKY.
Louisville (4) vs. Michigan State (7) – Talk about coaching, and here is a prime example of experience taking teams farther than they really had any right to be, and now these two old rivals square off in a battle to get to the Final 4. Both Pitino and Izzo have been here before, and both teams are playing the most consistent basketball of their entire seasons. This one should be a slugfest of heavyweights, and I look forward to seeing it. In fact, I wouldn’t put it past the winner of this game to be able to take out either Duke or Gonzaga in the Final 4. I just think Pitino has more weapons in his arsenal. Pick: LOUISVILLE.
Duke (1) vs. Gonzaga (2) – The last game of the weekend should be the most physical, and most spectacular to watch. I might even stay up late to catch the tail end of what should be an instant classic. Duke has played like a 1-seed during this tournament, but so has Gonzaga. Either team could have headed this region, and both would still be here, I firmly believe that. Gonzaga has just looked a bit sharper in pulling away at the end of its contests, and I think they’re ready to make that next step to the Final 4. It will come down to the wire, but I think the Zags take it in a whisper. Pick: GONZAGA.