GRADY COUNTY —
I also have Kentucky edging Louisville in the Sweet 16, where Rick Pitino's overconfidence will result in a loss to his former employer in rather dramatic fashion.
Iowa State over Villanova, Sweet 16
It's been a strange season for the Cyclones, but it's all about to pay off. A schedule that includes wins over Iowa, Baylor (twice), Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (twice), Texas, and Michigan has handed them a three seed. Villanova, meanwhile, faced an early exit from the Big East tournament against Seton Hall. That will have hurt their psyche. They'll get some swagger back after beating UConn, but haunting memories will resurface when they fall early to a Big 12-champion Iowa State.
Duke over Michigan, Sweet 16
Both lost in their respective conference finals, so redemption is on the line for these teams in the national tournament. The Wolverines have a 10-point loss to Duke on Dec. 3 hanging over them, along with a B1G Conference final loss to Michigan State.
The Blue Devils are a slightly better three-point shooting team and just manage to outbound Michigan. In the tournament, such slight margins become crevices.
Final Four and Champion:
When the dust settles, Florida-Virginia and Arizona-Duke will be the mouthwatering match-ups left for us to savor. It's so difficult for me to choose between the Gators and the Cavs, two teams that have shown prowess under pressure and defend solidly. With an ace point guard in Scottie Wilbekin leading the way, Florida prevails, but only just.
The Arizona win over Duke will be much more straightforward. At this stage the Blue Devils' reliance on Jabari Parker will be exposed as the Wildcats head to their first final since 2001.
At this stage you'd do just as well to flip a coin in deciding the winner. Two number one seeds, two favorites with solid tournament history; it really is a toss up. The Gators have been on a late tear while Arizona has maintained a fine season with just a few blips. Arizona averages more rebounds per game, more assists per game, and slightly less turnovers per game. The Wildcats will avenge a Pac-12 final loss to UCLA with a national title.