Can ‘Nova recapture the magic of 1985?

Joe Groglio

When looking at this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, one can easily fill in his brackets 100 different ways, based on the views of the talking heads on TV, the so called “experts.” I for one like to handle it a different way, looking at each team myself and making a judgment based on different factors. Things to look at are tendencies, the type of schedule played, and the types of players each team has, even comparing rosters to teams of the past to see how similarly built squad’s fared. After carefully looking at all 65 teams (even Oakland and Alabama A&M), here is how I see it all going down.

I will start in the Syracuse bracket, the home to our own Villanova Wildcats. People talk about how tough this region is, and there is no question it is one of the more loaded brackets in recent memory. But every team in it is also beatable, so don’t rule out a Final Four run for our ‘Cats. New Mexico is a tough team, but a look at their roster shows that they don’t have a single player taller than 6’9, meaning we match up with them perfectly. Expect UNC and UConn to advance easily, along with Kansas. Florida is everyone’s trendy sleeper pick this year, with their amazing run to the SEC championship, but I feel they are playing over their heads and will falter in the second round. This would bring our Wildcats to a match-up with UNC, and although it seems an improbable upset, it is not all that unlikely in this spot. UNC tends to get too confident in big games, as losses to Wake Forest and Duke prove. I like ‘Nova to advance, and waiting for them in the Elite Eight will be the winner of a battle between Wisconsin and UConn. Wisconsin is a true sleeper and I see them handling Kansas, but if UConn shows up to play at the fullest of their ability, they will win and set up a Big East battle.

In the Chicago bracket I love three teams; Illinois, Oklahoma State and LSU. LSU is another sleeper. SEC player of the year, Brandon Bass, paired with a dominant inside game makes them dangerous in the six slot. I see them knocking off a tough Arizona team before losing to an even better OSU squad. Illinois and OSU are both title worthy teams, and if this Elite Eight match-up comes to fruition it may very well be the game of the tournament. I am picking Illinois, but don’t be shocked if Eddie Sutton pulls off the upset en route to his 4th Final Four appearance.

In Austin, I see a major upset in the second round with Mississippi State over Duke. This just isn’t the tough deep Duke team of the past, and an underrated Mississippi State could take this one. Michigan State is an enigma of a team. I see them flopping to Old Dominion in the first round, before Syracuse knocks the Monarchs out. I love Utah’s Andrew Bogut, but he can’t carry his team over Oklahoma, who I see eventually falling to Kentucky. Many say Kentucky is overrated, but you must take a look at the extremely loaded bench on this squad. This combined with a great balance between seniors and underclassmen makes me pick them to knock off Syracuse to get to the Final Four.

Lastly is the Albuquerque bracket, home of the shocker top seed Washington. If they didn’t grab the one seed, many would have picked this team as a major sleeper, but the pressure of the top spot is too much. Don’t be shocked if Pitt gets its act together and knocks them off, but if they don’t, a loaded Louisville team will. Rick Pitino has a very nice team this year, and if sophomore center David Padgett was eligible this season they would have been my pick to win it all. Feel free to jump on the Georgia Tech bandwagon; I don’t like how they never seem to play consistently, and with their injury problems I don’t think they can get past Louisville. Gonzaga seems to choke every time they are ranked high. Expect a fired up Bobby Knight to coach his Texas Tech squad to victory, maybe even a major upset of Wake Forest. Wake is my Final Four pick out of this bracket, but if they revert back to the sloppy team they have been at times I can see them going down to Louisville or Texas Tech.

So now that leaves Wake, Illinois, Kentucky and the winner of the Nova/UConn game. I could also see OK State, Louisville and UNC making serious runs. But I’ll go with my gut, and say Illinois will be playing Kentucky in the Championship game, after a hard fought battle in the Final Four with our Villanova Wildcats.

Sometimes, when you make these predictions, you have to act with your heart and not your head, so I’m going to make the pick as a journalist instead of a ‘Nova fan. Illinois has been destined to take home the title all year, and they have been by far the best team in the nation.

It is time for them to go out and prove it on the biggest stage. One things for sure, it is going to be fun as ever to watch.