Opinion: University Press staff makes its 2017 final four picks
Three of the UP’s sports brainiac’s give their official predictions for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
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The tourney is set, all brackets are in and everyone is waiting to see which top seed will fall first. Three of the University Press’ sports maniacs make their picks on who will be dancing in the final four and their reasoning of why. If you don’t agree with any of us, hit the comment section and let us know why, and then tell us who you think will be the last four dancing.
Ryan Lynch | Editor-in-Chief
Final Four: Gonzaga, Louisville, Duke and UCLA
One of the best in the final four, will not be a team to mess with in the last round. Playing in a weaker conference, the Bulldogs will have to prove they earned their spot as the No. 2 team in the nation in the big dance.
Don’t sleep on these birds, as Donovan Mitchell is among the top players in the country. It will not be an easy path, but expect the sophomore to carry his team at certain points during the tournament.
After struggling in the early part of the season, Duke looks like it could be one of the most feared teams in the bracket. If Grayson Allen can keep his limbs to himself and focus on scoring, look for the Blue Devils to thrive.
I believe UCLA’s low seeding will benefit them, as I believe either Kentucky or North Carolina will fall before they have to match up with the Bruins. The other remaining team will lose to UCLA in a close game in the elite eight or the sweet 16.
Champ: UCLA over Gonzaga
Why: Combine Lonzo Ball, who is one of the best college players in the county, with a hot team, and you have a unit which was under ranked coming into the tourney. I think they will surprise a few teams and pick up the title.
Hans Belot Jr. | Sports Editor
Final Four: Notre Dame, Oregon, Kentucky and Villanova
West: Notre Dame
The Irish will surprise everyone out of the West because they are are a very well balanced offensive team. They were a few short possessions of defeating Duke in the ACC championship game on March 11th, and they are bound to get hot at the right time.
Apart from their pretty jerseys, Oregon knows how to get it done. The Ducks only lost twice this year in the PAC-12 — one of the more difficult conferences in college basketball — and Dillon Brooks will show everyone why he should be a first round pick if he decides to enter the draft.
Two words: John Calipari. Two more words: Malik Monk. He will be a top-five pick in the NBA draft this summer, he will prove he’s the best player in the region when he and the Wildcats go head to head with Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.
The best thing Villanova could have done this season was stay hungry, and that’s exactly what the Wildcats did. They did not want to talk about Kris Jenkins shot anymore because that was in the past. They’ll be even hungrier to prove they can be the first back-to-back national champions since Florida did it in 2006-2007. Their path should be easy, considering I have Marquette upsetting Duke in the second round.
Champ: Villanova over Oregon
Why: Maybe this time, Kris Jenkins will bring the ball up himself, stare down Dillon Brooks and knock down the game winner from half-court. Or in a high scoring battle between the Wildcats and Oregon, Villanova will come out on top because when the game slows down and it’s crunch time, Villanova’s experience from being there before will be the deciding factor.
Brendan Feeney | Managing Editor:
Final Four: Duke, Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina
I have a bad feeling for Duke about the possibility of having to face Baylor, but if the Blue Devils can advance to the elite eight, I think a trip to the Final Four comes along with it. I have Villanova falling to Virginia, which would open a clear path for the Blue Devils, but even if not, they’re one of the few teams in the country that can outscore the Wildcats.
Gonzaga got the better of Arizona in December, but I don’t see that happening twice in one season. I also don’t expect to see Gonzaga make it that far — I’m looking at you, Notre Dame.
The scariest game on Kansas’ path to the Final Four may be its potential second-round game against Michigan State. If they can get by, no other team looks like much of a threat besides Louisville, who is just lacking the star power to top the Jayhawks.
South: North Carolina
The hardest region to pick has to be the South, but UCLA’s offense will ultimately be too much for Kentucky to keep up with, but the maturity and experience of the Tar Heels will be enough to outdo the Bruins.
Champ: Duke over Kansas
Duke will have a tough time limiting Lauri Markkanen in the Final Four, but its scoring will just be too much to overcome. Meanwhile, Roy Williams will fall to his former employer, setting up a Duke vs. Kansas championship game, and an easy prediction.
The trio of Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen is stronger than Kansas’ trio of Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson and Devonte Graham. Duke’s role players make a bigger impact than the Jayhawks. And there is no debate which team has the better coach.
Ryan Lynch is the editor in chief of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email email@example.com or tweet him @RyanLynchwriter.
Hans Belot Jr. is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.
Brendan Feeney is the managing editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email email@example.com or tweet him @feeney42.