OK, so Kentucky is a mortal lock to go undefeated, 40-0, and win the national championship. Instead of analyzing all of the different ways in which they are going to pulverize their competition for the remaining 240 minutes — before they all rush off to the NBA — LEO wanted to take a different approach to the bracket analysis. So here is the perspective of a UK fan (Willie Davis), a UL fan (Aaron Yarmuth) and a former college player (Ashley Miller).
Pick for National Champion
Ashley Miller: Kentucky
Willie Davis: Kentucky
Aaron Yarmuth: Kentucky
AM: Kentucky, Arizona, Louisville, Duke
WD: Kentucky, Arizona, Virginia, Duke
AY: Kentucky, Arizona, Virginia, Duke
What’s the farthest Louisville can go?
AM: Final Four. The Cards have drawn the perfect place in a challenging but not impossible bracket. I’ve said all year on the Weekend Sports Buzz that our offense was bad enough on any given night to lose to ANYONE and our defense was good enough on any given night to beat ANYONE. Which version of the Cards that shows up will determine just how deep this team can go.
WD: Very little will surprise me with Louisville, good or bad. The Cardinals got a pretty nice draw in that they’re paired off with teams that play as slowly and methodically as they do. I can’t say that I’ve studied the particulars of UC-Irvine (though I can say they rejected me from grad-school) but if Louisville holds its seed and beats a directional school from a state whose main skill is caucusing, then I have more faith in Rick Pitino than Jay Wright. I could see them winning each game in their region, but I can’t see them winning all the games in their region. They play great defense and the press will lead to points, but Rozier can’t shoot them out of every tough situation. Farthest they can go? The Elite Eight.
AY: Elite Eight. The Cards got the perfect draw if they were going to make a run to the Final Four. It’s never easy for anyone, but UL could be better than the first two teams they will play, and Pitino is a great Sweet 16 coach because he has a few extra days to prepare and Louisville’s defense is very difficult to prepare for. That being said, this team has only amounted to the king’s of mediocrity — dominating mediocre teams and not being able to beat the top tier teams.
Who got the biggest shaft from NCAA, seeding, matchup, etc?
AM: UK definitely was shafted. Hardest bracket in the tourney for the overall #1. Maybe the committee still wanted them to prove themselves even more to get to 40-0. Their consolation prize however is playing close to home in Louisville and Cleveland. BBN will be in full effect at every game.
WD: Kansas because they played the hardest schedule in the country and have to play in Kentucky’s bracket. Also, Wichita State because they have to deal with Indiana fans.
AY: Tough question because this year seems to be a very dramatic case of haves and have-nots. In other words, there is a large drop off between the top teams and the rest, so no region is truly a gauntlet. That being said, I would argue Kentucky might have won the NCAA’s annual “joke’s-on-you” seeding. While it shouldn’t matter in the end, they will play the winner of Purdue or Cincinnati in Louisville — a short drive for either fan base. And should it be Purdue, they have two seven-foot centers that could be an interesting matchup. Regardless, U of K Is so much better than anyone they will face, and Big Blue Nation will make it a home game for them anywhere they go.
Most difficult region?
AM: Midwest. See above. I feel like this happened to Louisville in 2013 also.
WD: Wisconsin is maybe the second best team in America. Arizona brings the best momentum. North Carolina boasts some of the tournament’s least educated players, and Ohio State has a scorer who can dominate any game. The West may have the last number 1 seed, but it looks to be the hardest path to Indiana, which in every other circumstance would be an advantage.
AY: Ultimately I’d reiterate the same answer as before. UK could see interesting matchups against either Notre Dame, Wichita State or Kansas, but in the end should not matter.
Who has the easiest path?
AM: Duke…I wish I could say this was surprising. UK should have been in this bracket as the overall #1 seed. Sad face to Iowa and Iowa State in the same bracket. I wish the committee always split in-state rivals.
WD: While I don’t subscribe to the notion that Gonzaga is bound to lose the first weekend because it is a largely white team that has a history of losing to lower seeds (okay, I don’t fully subscribe to it), I don’t think Kyle Wiltjer can guard Jahlil Okafor. Duke always has an easy path just like Duke graduates have an easy path to success in any field they want (except the NBA).
AY: Duke. Every year it is Duke. I don’t know why we even bother discussing this anymore… it is Duke. I don’t know much about Gonzaga, but I know enough to say they were legit contenders approximately one time. Gonzaga is like the Lord of the Rings series: I liked the first one, but after that, each subsequent movie has been more hype for a longer, more painful telling of the same story. I’m not going to see that same old movie again.
First #1 seed to lose?
AM: Villanova … I’m just not convinced that they are worthy. I would have rather seen Virginia as the #1 seed in this bracket. Nova will fall early.
WD: Jay Wright is better known for Dove Shampoo than substantial victories. Villanova.
AY: Villanova. So the most commonly known stat about the tournament is that no number one seed has ever lost their first game. That won’t happen this year either, but they could lose anytime after that.
Most Valuable Player?
AM: Karlito Towns … haven’t heard of him??? Check his national media and Twitter account #BBN!
WD: Aaron Harrison.
AY: Somewhat of a difficult question, particularly since the best team is not dependent on any one of about eight guys. The best player is probably Kentucky’s Anthony Towns. But if it can’t be him, I would guess Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor.
Where Kentucky can lose?
AM: Not gonna happen. If they make it to the Elite Eight, they will play in the final game.
WD: Please. I’m a Kentucky fan. That means that I’m simultaneously feeling conceited and terrified. I bounce back and forth between wondering which Wildcat will be shown cutting down the nets in “One Shining Moment” and worrying whether Calipari is fully ready for whatever Steve Masiello throws at him. Realistically: Maryland can run with them, Notre Dame can shoot with them, Wisconsin matches up best with them big guy to big guy, and if Duke hits their threes, they can be the best team in the country. Short answer: Kentucky cannot lose.
AY: So, you can analyze where they might have interesting matchups, but they really can’t possibly lose before the Elite Eight, and even then it’s really the Final Four. Whoever actually has a chance will need a week to prepare, and they aren’t losing to any of their potential opponents in the Sweet 16, which means it’s the Final Four.
Team to win, not Kentucky?
AM: Duke … they’ve found their stride as of late it seems, but their bracket will give them several easy wins and a chance to rest their stars.
AY: Duke. They have the easiest path and a number of ways to beat opponents.
Party crashers (Cinderella to make a deep run)?
AM: Michigan State could upset some folks and so could Notre Dame.
WD: Davidson resembles Cinderella in that they are a ranked team that has to beat Iowa and Gonzaga to get to the Sweet 16, and also because they have an eating disorder.
AY: If a seven seed can be considered a Cinderella, Michigan State is always dangerous and in the easiest bracket — and don’t count out Izzo ever. Ever! Outside of that I could see 13-seed Eastern Washington, 11-seed UCLA, and 10-seed Ohio State making it to the second week.
AM: UL vs UK for the title LOL
WD: Providence will make the Elite 8. Pitino will retire within two years and Billy Donovan will replace him.
AY: So, probably not going to happen, hence the “crazy” part, but I could conceive a scenario where three ACC teams make it to the Final Four. North Carolina could get top-seed Wisconsin and come out of the West, Virginia and Louisville meet in the Elite Eight and send one more out of the East, and Duke comes out of the South. Crazier things have happened. •