Teel Time: Picking Final Four of Kentucky, Florida State, Marquette, Kansas

College BasketballKentucky WildcatsCollege SportsKansas JayhawksFlorida State SeminolesNorth Carolina Tar HeelsNorth Carolina State Wolfpack

Connecticut defeated Butler in last season’s national championship game. My bracket had the Huskies losing to Bucknell, the Bulldogs to Old Dominion — both one-and-done.

Suffice to say I had no pool winnings to report to the IRS.

In my defense:

Since both my godchildren played lacrosse at Bucknell, I was obligated to pick the Bison. Alas, UConn nudged them by 29.

And taking ODU over Butler wasn’t far-fetched. The Monarchs lost by two at the buzzer.

My projected Final Four — Kansas, Ohio State, Duke and Florida — came up empty as well, though at least the Jayhawks and Gators reached a regional final.

Moreover, the Daily Press archives — why did I torture myself by looking? — show my 2010 Final Four barren, too. Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse and Villanova seemed like good ideas at the time, but only the Wildcats survived beyond the Sweet 16.

The last time I had multiple teams in the tournament semifinals? Way back in 2007 with Georgetown and eventual champion Florida.

The only time I went 4-for-4: North Carolina, Oklahoma State, UCLA and Arkansas fattened my wallet in 1995 — thank you, Tyus Edney.

All of which gives you every reason to dismiss what follows.

Last year marked only the third time in 33 years of seeding that no No. 1 seed made the Final Four. A fourth would not surprise.

As dominant as Kentucky has been, the Wildcats’ abundance of freshmen makes them an annual risk; North Carolina becomes ordinary on defense if John Henson aggravates the left wrist that sidelined him at the ACC tournament; Syracuse has rebounding and 3-point shooting issues, especially with Tuesday's announcement that its top rebounder and shot-blocker, Fab Melo, is ineligible; Michigan State is skittish at the free-throw line.

Let’s go region-by-region.

EAST

Early upsets: Harvard over Vanderbilt, Texas beats Cincinnati and West Virginia bests Gonzaga (the Zags are higher seeds and have to play the Mountaineers in their Pittsburgh backyard?!)

Sweet 16: Syracuse, Ohio State, Florida State, Wisconsin.

Regional final: Florida State over Syracuse in a defensive classic, the Seminoles’ man-to-man against the Orange’s 2-3 zone.

SOUTH

Early upset: VCU over Wichita State.

Sweet 16: Kentucky, VCU, Duke, Baylor.

Regional final: Kentucky beats Baylor.

MIDWEST

Early upsets: California defeats Temple, North Carolina State over San Diego State, Purdue beats St. Mary’s.

Sweet 16: North Carolina, Michigan, N.C. State, Kansas.

Regional final: Kansas over North Carolina, thanks in part to a partisan crowd in St. Louis.

WEST

Early upsets: Long Beach State over New Mexico, Colorado State beats Murray State. Sorry Virginia fans. Just don't see the Cavaliers beating Florida. The Gators are too good and balanced offensively, and I wonder how much reserve Tony Bennett's depleted roster has.

Sweet 16: Michigan State, Long Beach State, Marquette, Missouri.

Regional final: Marquette over Michigan State as Jae Crowder outduels Draymond Green.

That’s three double-digit seeds among the Sweet 16: VCU, Long Beach State and N.C. State. Last year, four busted brackets: VCU, Richmond, Marquette and Florida State.

At least one team seeded 10th or lower has reached the regional semifinals in 29 of the 33 seeded tournament. The average is two per year, fewer than I would have guessed.

My Sweet 16 also includes four ACC teams, counterintuitive in an alleged down season for the conference. But North Carolina and Duke should win two in their Greensboro haunts, and Florida State and N.C. State — I regret not voting Wolfpack point guard Lorenzo Brown third-team all-conference — convinced me with inspired play in the league tournament last week.

Four ACC teams among the regional semifinalists used to be commonplace: seven times in the 11 seasons from 1985-95. The conference hasn’t shown such depth since.

FINAL FOUR

Kentucky defeats Kansas for the national championship in New Orleans, and Bluegrass faithful hope the NCAA doesn’t vacate a third John Calipari Final Four.

I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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