Breaking news yesterday from the West Regional that impacts the entire tournament. With Coach K confirming that superstar guard Kylie Irving was likely to play pushes Duke into the role of heavy favorite at least in my bracket. Irving who has been out since December 4th with a toe injury is now practicing full bore with the Blue Devils. How good is the kid? How about good enough to be the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft this summer.
Duke fans will have a long way to travel as the West will decide its Final Four entry in Anaheim, California. Early games are in Charlotte, Tuscon, Tulsa and Washington DC.
#1 Duke over #16 Hampton– Play this one 100 times and the result would be the same, especially now (Kylie). Irving and Nolan Smith along with Kyle Singler on the perimeter is flat out scary.
#2 San Diego State over #15 Northern Colorado– The Bears moved up to Division 1 just four years ago, unfortunate match up against the most underrated team with most underrated superstar in the country.
#3 Connecticut over #14 Bucknell– The Bison have won 23 of their last 25 games, but lets face it, its the Patriot league vs the Big East here.
#4 Texas over #13 Oakland– I went with the Longhorns here but the Golden Grizzlies are not afraid of anyone. Oakland played five ranked teams in December, including a win over Tennessee and a narrow loss to Michigan State.
#12 Memphis over #5 Arizona– UPSET ALERT The Wildcats are led by one of the most unknown super stars in the country in Derek Williams. However, going with the Tigers here as Arizona hasn’t beaten a ranked team all season.
#6 Cincinnati over #11 Missouri– The improved play of big man Yancy Gates has made all the difference for the Bearcats. The Tigers are one of the few remaining hectic full court press teams left in the country and are fun to watch.
#7 Temple over #10 Penn State– Please don’t let this be the regional game shown in my market!
#9 Tennessee over #8 Michigan– I’d like to go with the Wolverines here based on the superb “Fab Five” production, but since Michigan doesn’t acknowledge it happened, we go with the Vols!
#1 Duke over #9 Tennessee– Scotty Hobson and Tobias Harris are as a dynamic one-two punch as there is in the country, but hoops is a five man game and the Blue Devils are loaded.
#2 San Diego State over #7 Temple– The Owls closed strong winning 11 of 12 with only loss to Duke. Temple over matched especially with two starters injured.
#3 Connecticut over #6 Cincinnati– Big East battle will be a joy to watch. Honestly anything could happen in this one, but when in doubt go with the Kemba show.
#12 Memphis over #4 Texas– UPSET ALERT The Longhorns were flat down the stretch of the regular season. At least they don’t go down in 1st round like they did last year to Wake Forest.
West Regional Semifinals–
#1 Duke over #12 Memphis- The Tigers start four guards and four freshman, so the magic ends here. Irving’s return gives the Blue Devils incredible depth in the back court with Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry coming off the bench.
#3 Connecticut over #2 San Diego State– UPSET ALERT Hard to go against the Aztecs who will have the home court advantage, but Connecticut made a statement in Big East tourney and Kemba Walker will put on a show.
West Regional Final–
#1 Duke over #3 Connecticut– Duke going with both Plumlee’s in the starting lineup strengthens their only weakness. Ryan Kelly very versatile off the bench with the ability to fill in across the front court. Don’t forget Kelly was the slam dunk and 3 point champion as a high school senior.