A solid Final Four awaits
Appeal Sports Writer
Cinderella where have you gone? We missed you this year in a big way. The Big Dance wasn’t the same without you.
The Final Four gets under way today in Atlanta with No. 1 seeds – Ohio State and Florida, and No. 2 seeds UCLA and Georgetown, comprising the field. All four are solid teams, and any of the four are capable of winning the tournament.
What was missing this year was the underdog capturing the nation’s fancy as George Mason did a year ago. There were no George Masons this year. If memory serves me correct, sixth-seeded Vanderbilt and seventh-seeded UNLV came the closest to pulling off a George Mason-like run, but Vandy was outgunned by the Hoyas, and UNLV’s spirited comeback attempt fell short against Oregon.
Had Nevada been able to get over the hump against Memphis, the Wolf Pack could have worn the Cinderella tag much like they did in Kirk Snyder’s junior year when the Pack reached the Sweet 16 despite entering the tournament as a 10 seed.
People live for the big upset during the NCAA Tournament. The two biggest were VCU over Duke in the first round and Winthrop over Notre Dame in a pair of 6-11 match-ups and then UNLV’s win over Wisconsin. Other than that, it was business as usual.
The favorites won more often than not, which made this year’s tournament a tad boring from that perspective. There were, however, plenty of good, hard-fought games throughout the event, and expect three more good games as the college basketball season winds to a close.
If you are a fan of college basketball, you are undoubtedly in a pool of some sort. It’s certainly a good way to get involved even if your favorite team bites the dust at some point. Though the majority of my Final 4 is intact, I tried to predict too many upsets early in the tournament, and am in the second division heading into today’s games.
My picks? Glad you asked. I’m taking Georgetown over Ohio State and UCLA over Florida. In the finals, I’m predicting UCLA over Georgetown. I admit that deviates from what I predicted in my pool, but I like the way UCLA is playing defense right now.
• And, while we’re on the subject of college basketball, I had to laugh when I ventured into a chatroom regarding Nevada athletics. A gentleman was bemoaning the fact that Nick Fazekas, in a mock draft, would only go 28th. Trust me on this, if Fazekas goes anywhere in the first round, he’ll be doing handsprings because that means a three-year guaranteed contract. If you go in the second round, there is no guaranteed money.
Another team to keep an eye on is Philadelphia, which has three first-round picks, and it has kept close tabs on Fazekas throughout the season.
I talked to a scout from the Spurs twice during the season, and he said that Fazekas could have success at the next level if he gets to the right team, a team that fits his style of play.
• I don’t know that any basketball coach at UCLA will make people forget the legendary John Wooden, but Ben Howland has already established himself as one of the best in UCLA history with back-to-back Final 4 appearances. It was nice to hear Woodsen say that Howland’s teams play better defense than his former teams.
• In that same chatroom I mentioned before, people talk about Marcelus Kemp and Ramon Sessions testing the NBA waters this summer like Fazekas did. Kemp reminds me of Snyder in the sense that he can create his own shot and score both inside and outside.
In fact, Kemp is probably a better pure outside shooter. My only issue with Marcelus is sometimes he plays a bit out of control. If I had a dollar for everytime he’s been called for a charge on that whirl move into the lane, I’d be a rich man.
Sessions has the body and mindset of an NBA point guard. I wasn’t wild about his decision making at times late in the season. I thought he tried to force things too much.
I think both should stay in school and finish up at Nevada. If Kemp has another big scoring year, he could very well improve his stock. Ditto for Sessions.
• It will certainly be different watching Nevada play without Nick Fazekas and Kyle Shiloh, two guys who meant so much to the program the past four years. The cupboard certainly isn’t bare by any means, but the Pack big men – JaVale McGee, David Ellis, Matt LaGrone and Richie Phillips – certainly will have to step up and perform better than ever if Nevada is to enjoy another 20-win season.