On Dec. 26, as we walked into a California movie theater, my dad dropped one of the biggest oh-by-the-ways of all time.
“Oh, by the way,” he said, “I got us tickets to the Final Four.”
He actually forgot to tell me on Christmas and just slid my childhood dream into the conversation as an aside the next day. Welcome to my life.
Naturally, I have since tried to predict whom I’ll see play when I travel to Atlanta in April. While my dream scenario would include Marquette making the Final Four, I know that unless it can commission the NCAA to play its tournament games at the Bradley Center, it’s unlikely to happen.
With so much parity at the top, predicting the 2013 Final Four presents a steeper challenge than in previous years. Nevertheless, here are the four teams I think I’ll see in Atlanta on April 6.
After Tuesday’s impressive road win at Michigan State, it’s hard to leave the fighting Creans off this list. They have the best big man in the country in Cody Zeller and the most complete player in America in forward Victor Oladipo. They also have a bevy of supporting shooters surrounding their two stars, including point guard Jordan Hulls, Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Christian Watford. It has six wins against the top-25 this year and will likely win the toughest league in the country, the Big 10. Indiana is the closest thing to a lock to play in Atlanta that college basketball can offer.
Florida brings a wealth of experience to the table, starting with senior guard Kenny Boynton. Senior Mike Rosario and junior Scottie Wilbekin support Boynton in the backcourt, while senior stretch-4 Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young complete the starting five. Notice a pattern? Three seniors and two juniors. Couple that with coach Billy Donovan who has two national championships on his resume, and this team has Atlanta in the cards.
Most coaches can only dream of a backcourt combination like Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, and the offensive force of Chane Behanan and defensive prowess of Gorgui Dieng forms one of college basketball’s most well-rounded interiors. If Siva plays well and Smith plays under control, Lousiville could hit its stride at just the right time like last season, when it made the Final Four. Hey, the Big East tournament champion has made the Final Four the last two seasons, so why not?
Want to guess what Brad Stevens’ record is in March in his last three seasons? How about 14-2? Yeah, Butler turns it on when it counts, and it might have its best team in its four years of national relevance. They have solid big men in Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall, a score-at-all-costs guard in Roosevelt Jones, and one of the nation’s premier shooters, Rotnei Clarke (remember him, Marquette?). Above all, though, I have learned never to bet against Butler in March. In my 2010 and 2011 brackets, I took Butler a total of zero rounds and suffered the consequences. Never again.