NCAA Tourney Preview

Last season when I did the tournament preview, one of the theories I suggested for picking the winner was to look for a team with a strong point guard. The idea being that a good PG is the most essential player to NCAA tournament success. Last year things didn’t turn out that way, as a team without a true PG won their 2nd title in-a-row. After actually researching this theory, I discovered I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not that it’s better to have a bad PG, but teams with strong frontcourts have traditionally been a little better at advancing to the final four.

In looking at players who played on final four teams then later went on to play in the NBA, the breakdown since the 1979 tournament is this: 

  • Point Guards: 66
  • Shooting Guard: 68
  • Small Forwards: 94
  • Power Forwards: 74
  • Centers: 66

So defining great college players as those who go on to the NBA, which seems to me the best way of doing it, it appears that great forwards and frontcourt players in general have a bigger impact in getting their teams to the final four than great guards. This played out last year as 3 of the 4 final four teams, Florida, Ohio State and Georgetown, were all loaded at center and forward. So I’m going fill out the brackets with that in mind this year. I guess the way to look at this is take the top 16 teams and look at how the minutes are allocated between guards, forwards and centers. Teams with better balance and more quality frontcourt players would have the advantage. The table below shows how minutes were distributed for the top 16 teams. The backcourt column shows the percentage of minutes given to guards, while frontcourt shows the percentage of minutes each team gave to forwards and centers. I only included players who averaged over 10 minutes per game. 

Team Backcourt Frontcourt


















North Carolina















Washington State















Guard-oriented teams like Texas, Washington State, Duke, Tennessee, Kansas and Memphis could have some struggles against bigger teams. Now common sense tells me that Kansas has 3 quality big guys on their roster, so I doubt this will affect them too much. It would also be huge for Duke if Brian Zoubek could give them some quality time in the tournament. Carolina worries me. A good chunk of their frontcourt minutes are taken up by players who are swingmen and will most likely play guard in the pros. They have no player who could even be called a good inside defender and that’s going to hurt them. My guess is the other teams near the bottom of this list are going to struggle to live up to their seeding. 

Prospect look 

My favorite way of ranking any teams’ chances is to rank their prospects. Last season I did up a quick and dirty method of ranking teams by their pro prospects. It goes like this: 5 points for a likely superstar, 3 points for a solid prospect, 2 points for a good player who may have trouble finding a role at the next level and 1 point for a player who will get an invite to Portsmouth and that’s all. The teams break down like this: 

11 points: North Carolina

10 points: Kansas

 8 points: Duke, Memphis and UCLA

 7 points: Kansas State

 6 points: Gonzaga and USC

 5 points: Arizona and Tennessee

 4 points: Clemson, Connecticut, Georgetown, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Stanford and Texas 

No surprises here. The top seeds are all well represented, with Carolina and Kansas leading the way. Kansas State has Michael Beasley which makes them somewhat scary. Gonzaga, USC, Arizona, Clemson and Oklahoma should be considered sleepers because of their overall talent. I should note that I went by my own opinion of prospects, rather than what some others might be saying now. So if you feel that a Jerryd Bayless or a Brook Lopez are the high lottery picks some consider them, then by all means add another point to Arizona and Stanford.   


The first round winners will be North Carolina, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington State, St. Joseph’s, Louisville, South Alabama and Tennessee. The biggest upset in that group is South Alabama over Butler. The Jaguars are a good team with some quality wins. Their superior inside game should upend the Bulldogs. Boise St. is a tempting pick over Louisville. As a team with a strong inside game and steady guard play, they do fit the type of team I’m looking for, but I doubt they’ll have what it takes to put away a well-coached team like Louisville.

In round 2, I have Carolina, Notre Dame, Louisville and Tennessee advancing. After that, I like Louisville and Carolina in the final, with the Heels heading to the final 4. I’m guessing the overall talent of Carolina will be enough to beat Louisville’s strong inside game. 


This is by far the strongest and most intriguing regional. The first round winners are: Kansas, UNLV, Clemson, Vanderbilt, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Gonzaga and Georgetown. The big upset here is Kansas State over USC. It’s a tough call, as both teams probably deserved a better opening draw. I’m going with the big guy here though. Michael Beasley is the best player in college basketball and he has a solid sidekick in Bill Walker. My feeling is that will be enough to get by a USC team that’s talented and strong defensively, but a little too erratic on offense. The other matchup I like is Gonzaga-Davidson. This is another one where the two teams deserved a better opener. This might be the most talented Gonzaga team ever, but they really haven’t got things going yet. Davidson is as good a small college team as I’ve seen. Since I decided to go with the talent and the better inside games, Gonzaga gets the nod. Another potential upset is Siena over Vandy. If it were a stronger team than the Saints, I’d go with the upset. Vandy is a poor defensive team that won’t last long this year.

Round 2 winners are Kansas, Clemson, Kansas State and Georgetown. Beasley will also be too much for a Wisconsin team that’s pretty much void of NBA–level talent. Clemson is simply a better team than Vandy right now and should win, though I’m worried their press could work against them here. Gonzaga is tempting as an upset pick over Georgetown, but I doubt the Hoyas will go down that easily. Kansas and Georgetown should advance to the final in what should be the best matchup of that weekend. On paper Georgetown would seem like a good pick. They have the big guy who matches up well against a Jayhawk frontline that’s somewhat overrated, but still good. They’re also able to slow down the game enough to take Kansas out of their offense. The coaching matchup features one coach in Thompson III who has excelled in the tournament, vs. one in Self who has struggled. But I’m going to go with Kansas. Simply put, the Jayhawks are too good. They’re the best team going in and I feel Arthur, Jackson and Kaun will neutralize Hibbert enough that their terrific backcourt will be able to carry them. 


For the first round winners, I’ll go with Memphis, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Stanford, St. Mary’s and Texas. I don’t see to many teams capable of an upset here. The top seeds here got some easy first round draws. Look for the top 4 seeds, Memphis, Pitt, Stanford and Texas to advance to the regionals.

After that things could get a little crazy. I like Pitt to knock off Memphis. The Tigers just aren’t that impressive on closer analysis. They’re too guard-oriented. They’re also a terrible outside shooting team. Like Wisconsin, I just can’t get too impressed over the fact that they dominated a weak conference. Pittsburgh has a well-balanced team that plays a low-mistake style. They have a monster on the inside in Blair and I feel they have what it takes to pull off the upset here. I also like Stanford to upset Texas. I’m just going with the better inside play in this case. In the final, I’ll take Stanford. They’re a little stronger than Pitt and probably played in a tougher conference. I’m not all that positive about the Cardinal here though. They’re more the last team standing after I’ve eliminated the two favorites I didn’t much care for. But this is a flawed region and some team is going to win it. In keeping with the trend here, I’ll go with the best inside game. 


First round winners: UCLA, BYU, Drake, Connecticut, Purdue, Xavier, West Virginia and Duke. In round 2 UCLA should advance and Drake is probably strong enough to get past UConn. Xavier is an easy choice over Purdue. Normally West Virginia would look like a good upset choice over Duke. But I get the feeling that the Blue Devils will come in with a chip on their shoulder after last season’s first round exit. I expect them to show up ready to roll this year. They’ll make the regional final against UCLA. At that point the Bruins’ inside game will be too much for a perimeter-oriented team like Duke to handle. 

Final Four 

We have North Carolina, Kansas, Stanford and UCLA. UCLA is just superior to Stanford and should win that game easily. As for Kansas and North Carolina, I give the Jayhawks the edge here. Their big guys play better defense than Carolina’s and they have more inside depth. I give the Heels a slight edge on the perimeter, but not enough to swing things their way. I’m going to take Kansas to win the championship too. They are the best team. No team has been as dominating as the Jayhawks have been at their best. Their terrific perimeter game is supplemented by 3 strong inside players, giving them a balance few teams can match. They can trot out 6 legit pro prospects. Even though none of the 6 are likely to be drafted as high as the lottery, that’s still a load of talent. They’re hardly a sure thing though. Bill Self has been a chronic tournament underachiever going back to his days at Illinois. The lack of a surefire NBA star also gives me some pause. But picking the winner of this thing is never easy and it’s always best to just go with the best team. That team is Kansas.

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