This is a great time for basketball.  The NBA is coming down to the play-offs, teams fighting for seeding and home court advantage.  The Euroleague is down to the last 8 teams.  With so many teams evenly matched, it’s going to be an exciting play-off for the Euroleague.  College basketball had its conference championships this past week and weekend.  With so many upsets, there was a lot of talk about who and where teams would be seeded and if they would make the NCAA tournament at all.  If you love basketball, you have to love this time of year.

I love college basketball. The way these kids compete and play with so much heart representing their schools is amazing.  If you missed the Syracuse vs. Connecticut game, you missed a classic.  The game went 6 overtimes.  The way the two teams competed was incredible.  It was sad that one team had to lose.  Syracuse outlasted Connecticut, beat West Virginia in another overtime game but lost the Big East Finals to Louisville.  Louisville was the better team and they just wore Syracuse down.  Syracuse with 10 minutes left in the game was exhausted.  The key players were totally spent but they fought hard to the end.  Pitt – my team – got upset in the quarterfinals to West Virginia.  I have been saying it all year, if DeJuan Blair of Pitt gets in foul trouble, Pitt is finished.  Pitt is good but Blair is the workhorse.  He is the key player insider.  They don’t have anyone to replace his size, rebounding and overall impact on the game.  I am picking Pitt to make it to the NCAA Final Four.  However, if Blair gets in foul trouble it could be trouble.

The ACC tournament had a lot of upsets as well.  I am not a fan of UNC at all but I still think they are a Final Four team.  However, if Ty Lawson, the ultra-quick point for North Carolina is not healthy and not at full speed for the NCAAs, UNC will go down before reaching the Final Four.  Wake Forest has flamed out lately but they are still a very capable team.

Looking at my brackets for the NCAA tournament, I am picking North Carolina, Louisville, Pitt and Memphis to make it to the Final Four.  There are a few teams that I think could shock people and make a run.  Although they have been struggling, I like Wake Forest.  If they meet up against Louisville, watch out – that could be an upset.  I think West Virginia is underrated and can make a run as well.  I picked them to beat Kansas in a possible second round match up.  My dark horse elite 8 team in the West is Missouri.  I would love to see them play Memphis.  It would be a game of contrasting styles.  One team up-tempo and pressing all over the court and the other team, great half court defense and ball control offense. Xavier scares me in the East region.  They play good defense and Coach Sean Miller is a great young coach.  They could give Pitt some problems if they meet in the tournament.

I also like Villanova in the East.  They have very good guards and play solid defense.  North Carolina, in the South region has the easiest road to the Final Four.  It seems as if half the committee might be Carolina alum.  Ha ha.  It’s going to be an interesting tournament.  There is a lot of parity this year and this tournament is wide open for anyone to win it all.

Strive for excellence, both academically and athletically, because the striving is as pleasurable and important as the goal.

~John Thompson




  1. Shavonne says:

    I love college basketball too!~
    My final four pick is/was Louisville, Memphis, Pitt and Syracuse…with Pitt winning it all! we will see!

  2. Jenae says:

    Love your column JR.


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