So none of my predictions came true for the Sweet Sixteen. Frankly, that’s in good keeping with my official bracket, which was ruined by the end of the first round. It’s sad to think this March Madness is almost over, but what a week of basketball. Close games, last second shots, heartbreak and jubilation were the themes, as they always are, for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds. A quick recap of the Elite Eight games and then on to the predictions of the Final Four and the Championship.
Texas Tech (3) beats Gonzaga (1), 75-69
Well, like all the Elite Eight games, this was awesome. Texas Tech has surprised throughout this tournament, showing that they can run with the best. It was classic heartbreak for Gonzaga though, a team that has only made it past the Elite Eight once in school history (they lost the title game that year too). No comments on either team’s performance — both played incredibly.
Virginia (1) beats Purdue (3), 80-75
Was anyone else surprised by this? I had Purdue pegged for the Final Four, and one of the likelier to reach the final game. They had an energy about them, an ebb and flow that transcended the game. Not to mention the fact that Virginia has been universally dubbed the “weakest one” by almost every sports analyst throughout the tournament. It was a classic contest that needed an overtime to decide and saw Purdue’s Carsen Edwards score 42 points, but frankly that may have been the problem. One man cannot do it all, especially in college basketball.
Auburn (5) beats Kentucky (2), 77-71
The fan-favored Auburn Tigers are having what could possibly be the greatest tournament run in March Madness history. They know how to spread the ball, distribute points and not rely on a sole athlete to get the job done. It’s a team sport, college basketball, and the Tigers are playing it so better than anyone. This game also went into overtime and it was a high-scoring one at that; one of the most exciting games of the tournament.
Michigan State (2) beats Duke (1), 68-67
I’m a Blue Devil fan at heart, so this one stung, but Duke practically handed this game to Michigan State. That’s not to take away from MSU, they played amazing, but Duke had 17 turnovers on the game to MSU’s seven. You can’t win a game when you give up the ball that often. Besides that, the Blue Devils and Spartans both played well and the better team won.
Alright, enough of the past, let’s focus on the future. The Final Four features four schools with a unique storyline; Auburn, Virginia and Texas Tech have never won a championship, and Michigan State hasn’t won since 2000. So, either a team will get their first National Championship or MSU will get their first one in almost 20 years. Sounds like the perfect motivation to me. Here are the predictions, which given my track record you should take with a grain of salt.
Virginia (1) vs Auburn (5)
Auburn in a nail-biter. I believe in the Tigers and their dream run; if they can beat Kansas, UNC and Kentucky, arguably three of the strongest basketball programs in the country, then they can hold their own against Virginia. This one isn’t a statistical contest, it’s all heart — I simply want Auburn to win.
Michigan State (2) vs Texas Tech (3)
Michigan State in overtime. Unlike the previous prediction, I have to go with what makes sense rather than what the heart desires. Michigan State just has it all: size, speed, shooting and great defense. They edged out Duke, who I believe was the best team in terms of raw talent, and they did by forcing turnovers and getting steals. As a coordinate, focused team, they are unstoppable.
In order to maximize the relaxation time of this upcoming weekend that will cap off March Madness, I’m going to predict the National Champion in this article, rather than in our Saturday issue.
Michigan State (2) vs Auburn (5)
Auburn will win and complete one of the greatest runs in college basketball history.