The Elite Eight
March 23, 2017
by Chase Gage
MEMPHIS — And then there were eight. After two great days of basketball, we have another two to enjoy before we go back to work on Monday.
You know what the most important thing in journalism is? Transparency. So I am going to be transparent with you all. I have been making picks based on the actual games and the matchups since the second round. The first round was based on my bracket. Picking the game right once its set is one thing. Picking the games correctly in your bracket is a totally different monster. So, I will be displaying who I picked in my bracket (I made a lot of “bold” picks) from here on out along with who actually made it that far. So, without further ado, here is my awful bracket:
|My Elite 8||The Real Elite 8|
|North Carolina||North Carolina|
Bold = Correct Pick
Strikethrough = Incorrect Pick
Yeah, I only got one right. Let’s get to the picks:
Saturday, March 24:
11 Xavier vs 1 Gonzaga
Prediction: I haven’t picked Xavier to win in a while. Since the first round, in fact. Will that change when they take on the Zags in the Elite Eight? Well, maybe. The Musketeers keep proving me (and the rest of America, outside of Bill Murray) wrong as they keep marching through this tournament. Gonzaga is better than most people (including me) realized. Even though they are a top-seed, they are semi-slept-on (is that a real phrase?). I hate to pick against Cinderella for the third time in a row, but it feels like my hands are tied. You’ve made a great run, Xavier, and we’re all proud of you. But Gonzaga moves on to the Final Four.
3 Oregon vs 1 Kansas
Prediction: I have to give Oregon their due credit. I did not think they would make it this far. I didn’t think they would make it through Michigan if they even made it that far. They proved me wrong. And now they’re in the Elite Eight. Kansas, though, looks absolutely unstoppable. That doesn’t mean they are, but it sure looks like they might be. They have yet to have as much as a hiccup in a game thus far, which is no small feat considering they’ve played the likes of UC Davis (a 16-seed, but not a joke), Michigan State (championship contender year in and year out) and Purdue (a solid team with a Naismith Trophy finalist). They won their three games by a combined score of 288-198. They won by 38, 20 and 32. Yeah, that’s an average margin of victory of 30 in the NCAA Tournament. I’m taking the Jayhawks over anyone right now.
Sunday, March 25:
7 South Carolina vs 4 Florida
Prediction: This will be a great matchup with the Final Four, the most coveted event in all of college basketball, on the line. The Gamecocks come in HOT after wins against 2 Duke and 3 Baylor in blowout fashion. Sindarius Thornwell, SEC Player of the Year, is playing his best basketball of the year right now, which has kept South Carolina in this tournament. They will face Florida, a fellow SEC team coming off of wins against 5 Virginia and 8 Wisconsin (in overtime via a buzzer-beating three). Both teams have had a tough road thus far and are still among the last eight standing. Florida showed flashes of greatness and proved their toughness in the Sweet 16 against Wisconsin. I doubted South Carolina after their subpar end to the regular season and first-game loss in the SEC Tournament, but they have shown up when it matters most. For the first time ever, these words will complete an accurate sentence: The South Carolina Gamecocks are in the Final Four.
2 Kentucky vs 1 North Carolina
Prediction: Both the Tar Heels and the Wildcats were impressive in their Sweet 16 games. The Kentucky freshman duo of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk may be the best in college basketball. North Carolina put Butler (a solid contender) away without too much of a struggle. Kentucky is young, while North Carolina is much more experienced. This will make a great Elite Eight game against two of the most prolific schools in the history of the sport (eight championships for Kentucky, six for North Carolina). I will ride the ‘Cats all the way to the Final Four, even though I picked UCLA to beat them. They are gelling at the right time, and Fox may be playing better than anyone in the entire tournament and has been since he dominated the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats will make their way to yet another Final Four.
At this point in the tournament, anyone can win any game. The Final Four could be any combination of who is left. Will there be an 11-seed? A 7-seed? Three 1-seeds? Two SEC teams? Who knows. Only time will tell. And we will find out soon. Don’t you just love March? I sure do. See you in the Final Four, readers.