Well fans, the basketball gods have spoken. They have spoken in a way that makes fans like me very, very happy. They have spoken in the form of four teams who have traveled very different paths to get to San Antonio, where this year, the basketball gods will once again come together and crown that team who has won their favor this season. For those of you who are wondering and biting your nails over who the gods will choose this year, fear not – for the Oracle Phil will attempt to speculate, as he often does correctly, on who will succeed down the home stretch.
In our first heavyweight bout, Oklahoma State, who some say should have been a one seed, go up against the fast and versatile Georgia Tech. The Cowboys are in San Antonio after downing the “feel good” team of the year, St. Joseph’s. Georgia Tech finds itself in the Lone Star State after pulling out a victory against Kansas in last weekend’s most exciting game.
This match-up will feature excellent offense, especially from the guard position. Both State and Tech have major talents in their backcourt. John Lucas has played clutch basketball all season long for the Cowboys, showing his talents last weekend by sending Jameer Nelson home with a clutch three-pointer. Tony Allen has been the senior leader of the team, and if he’s on, watch out. State can also get it done underneath, with Joey Graham and Ivan McFarlin powering their way to the boards.
Tech counters Lucas with a talent of its own, point guard Jarrett Jack. After posting 29 points in an overtime win against Kansas, Jack has become the toast of the tournament. Not to mention Tech’s leading scorer, B.J. Elder, who was sidelined against Nevada and Kansas with a sprained ankle, will finally be able to play in San Antonio. The question for the Jackets lies underneath the basket, with 7-foot-1-inch Luke Schenscher. If Tech’s big man can play as well as he did against Kansas, Georgia Tech may be playing on Monday.
Both teams know a thing or two about defending the ball too, with both teams allowing less than 70 points a game. Georgia Tech relies on a swarming, fast-paced, confusing style of defense. Oklahoma State plays a physical, in-your-face style of defense. These are two defenses that aren’t easy to play against, and they match up well.
In short, I can’t wait for this fracas. This game, however, will come down to one key facet: depth. The Jackets have shown just how many players can beat you, and this game won’t be any different. In each game they’ve won in the tournament, a different player has been the difference. Tech has found ways to win before, and it will find a way to beat Oklahoma State. Georgia Tech by four.
The next game has no business being a semi-final. This game should be for the National Championship. It’s a contest that will feature the two best teams in the two best conferences in the nation. This game is just way too hard to pick. In fact, it’s just unfair. But, the oracle must pick, and pick he shall.
The Huskies are just plain stacked. They are the deepest, most athletic team in the tournament. On top of that fact, their determination is just plain scary. Ben Gordon has only gotten stronger as the tournament goes on, and Taliek Brown can get the ball to just about anybody. Not to mention some guy named Emeka Okafor underneath the basket, who has been the most dominant center in college basketball this season.
If Okafor stays healthy, the Huskies have no excuse not to win the tournament this year. The only question for the Huskies is their schedule leading up to the Final Four. UConn has yet to play a ranked opponent since the tournament began. The good news? Its average margin of victory has been 17.5 points. The bad news? Those teams did not have the talent that Duke has.
The Duke basketball program is synonymous with winning. They are young and full of fire, and also have a relatively deep bench. Chris Duhon, the senior leader of this Blue Devil team, has been playing as well as ever with painful bruised ribs, and he seems determined to end his Duke career with a ring. J.J. Redick has shown signs of selfishness, but is always a threat to hit a pivotal three-pointer when it counts. Luol Deng has established himself as Mike Krzyzewski’s newest all-around talent, and he’s only a freshman. Sheldon Williams will have fits with Okafor, as everyone does, but is capable of holding his own.
The only problem I see for Duke is not their lack of talent, but UConn’s excessive talent. In order to beat UConn, the Devils will have to hunker down on defense. I think Duke is capable of beating UConn, but it will have its hands full.
What does this game come down to? Fouls. If Duke can stay out of foul trouble and cause UConn to foul Sheldon Williams underneath, the Dukies have a shot at another National title game. Like I said, this game should be the final. I stick to my guns, I said Duke would win before, and I’m going to stick with it. It wouldn’t be honorable to go back on my bracket. Duke by one in overtime.
It wasn’t easy; in fact, the oracle has lost sleep over it.