Well I picked one game right on the money, Pittsburgh by 5 over Xavier. The UConn game was pretty much what I expected, then the late night games happened and all my predictions went out the window. Memphis ruined one of my brackets. I thought the Villanova-Duke game was going to be a great game that would go right down to the wire. Then Nova just exposed Duke and exposed to the nation that the ACC is not even in the same breath as the Big East. So now all of the ACC's hopes rely on UNC. The ACC might not even be better than the Big 12.
Speaking of the Big 12, Mizzou straight put it to Memphis. They out-Memphised Memphis and almost blew them out before Memphis made a decent comeback attempt. I really thought Memphis had a shot to go to the title game again. It's a shame that two of the best winners and most underrated players in college basketball, Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson, saw their careers come to an end. Tyreke Evans might have played his last college game as well. He had a great game and is so smooth around the basket, I really hope he comes back next year. I think he will be a 1st rounder if he leaves this year, but if he returns I think he can be a top 5 pick in 2010. I was rooting for Memphis, but I was so impressed with Missouri and their coach Mike Anderson bringing back the "40 minutes of hell" that was successful at Arkansas througout the 90's.
Memphis was same old Memphis, missing Free Throws and open jumpers. I thought that Memphis had a shot to go deep because they reminded me in a lot of ways of the first Florida National Title team of 2006.
This leads me to my top team historical comparison. I compare this years Sweet 16 to a successful team of years past. Most of the teams I have compared them to made it to the Final Four and a few of them won the National Title.
Louisville-1996 Kentucky (National Champion)
Like the Kentucky team, Louisville is coached by Rick Pitino and is led by a great forward combination. Louisville has Terrence Williams and Earl Clark. Kentucky had Antoine Walker and Walter McCarty. The 96 Kentucky team was also led by Senior guard Tony Delk. That Kentucky team was probably the deepest team in NCAA history. Both teams had great guard depth but this years' Louisville team has a better frontcourt. The 96 Kentucky team only lost one game all year, losing to UMass who they later beat in the Final Four, and is regarded as one of the greatest college basketball teams ever. Louisville may not be that great, but they have everything it takes to get Rick Pitino his first National Title since 1996.
Memphis-2006 Florida (National Champion)
This is what got me thinking about this subject. Obviously Memphis will not win the National Title like Florida did, but they do have some great similarities. Both were defensive oriented pressing teams. Both had a good frontcourt duo where either guy could get a double-double any night, Memphis-Dozier and Shawn Taggart, Florida-Al Hortford and JoakimNoah. Both had an athletic defensive lock down specialist, Memphis-Anderson and Florida-Corey Brewer, and both had a great sharpshooter, Memphis-Robert Sallie and Florida-Lee Humphrey. The main difference is Memphis' 6'6 Freshman PG Tyreke Evans and Florida's 6'0 Sophomore PG Taureen Green. Evans was more of a star while Green was more of a facilitator. Florida also had a better bench with Walter Hodge and Chris Richard. In reality the biggest difference was Florida could hit big shots and free throws and Memphis is well Memphis. That's why Florida won the title and Memphis, well you get the picture.
UNC-2004 UConn (National Champion)
One could make some comparisons to UNC's 2005 National Title team, mainly with Tyler Hasborough and Sean May. But this Carolina is much more like UConn's team that was led by Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor. Ty Lawson needs to be as big as Gordon was if UNC is to be successful. Both had/have sharpshooters/slashers on the wings, UNC-Wayne Ellington and Danny Green and UConn-Rashard Andersona and Denham Brown. They also both had/have good frontcourt role players to compliment their star inside. UNC has Ed Davis and Dion Thompson, UConn had Josh Boone, Hilton Armstrong and Charlie Villanueva (who was a talented reserve as a Freshman much like Ed Davis is on UNC). As you can see both teams were very deep but relied heavily on star power as well.
Oklahoma-2003 Syracuse (National Champion)
Blake Griffin is the most dominant player in college basketball since Carmelo Anthony. Griffin actually had a much better regular season this year than Anthony had in 03, but Melo had one of the greatest tournament performances by any player ever. Griffin will need to do the same if Oklahoma is to win/have a shot at the National Title. Both teams had great perimeter players around their superstar. But the key to success for Syracuse was the value of a role playing garbage man Hakim Warrick. So really Oklahoma might only go as far as the "other" Griffin, Blake's role playing older brother Taylor. The stars each have their own trademark, Melo had the smile while Griffin has the gameface with the eye of the tiger.
Syracuse-1997 Arizona (National Champion)
In 1997 Arizona had the greatest run to championship ever and is the only team ever to beat 3 #1 seeds in a NCAA tournament. Syracuse is capable of making a similar run and the makeup of Syracuse is very similar to Arizona in 97. Both were/are led by a great young PG, Syracuse-Jonny Flynn and Zona-Mike Bibby. They also both had/have a good inside/outside SF in Syracuse-Paul Harris and Zona-Michael Dickerson. The star in the Final Four for Arizona was Miles Simon who had a very similar size and skill set to that of Syracuse's SG Eric Devendorf. But the key for Zona's run was the play inside by role players A.J. Bramlett and Bennett Davidson. Zona also had a skinny Sophomore coming off the bench by the name of Jason Terry. Syracuse will need their big guys to step up, they proved they can hang with anyone when they beat UConn's frontcourt duo in the Big East tournament. They will need to continue to play well in order to make a run similar to that of Arizona in 97.
Pittsburgh-1999 Duke (Runner-Up)
Not only does DeJuan Blair look and play exactly like former Duke star Elton Brand but this Pitt team resembles the 99 Duke team in other ways. Duke had a stud PG in William Avery, Pittsburgh has stud PG Levance Fields. Pitssburgh's Sam Young is like a combination of Trajan Langdon and Chris Carrawell. Pittsbugh doesn't have a Freshman Duke had in Cory Maggettee, but they have just as much depth. Duke lost to Rip Hamilton and UConn in the 99 National Title game. This Pittsburgh team has already beat UConn twice and could very well end up playing them again or playing Louisville in the National Title game.
UConn-2001 Arizona (Runner-Up)
Speaking of UConn, they remind me a lot of the Arizona team that barely lost to Duke in the 01 National Title. Both had/have a great frontcourt duo with a 7 footer. Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrein, Zona-Loren Woods and Michael Wright. Thabeet may be better and is certainly tougher than Woods ever was,but Adrein and Wright are very similar. Both had/have a great PG and a versatile SF, UConn PG-A.J. Price and SF-Stanley Robinson and Zona PG-Jason Gardner and SF-Luke Walton. UConn's stud SG Jerome Dyson is injured for the rest of the year but it has not affected them yet. Arizona also had a good underrated SG by the name of Gilbert Arenas who waited until after he was a NBA star and after he got an 80+ million dollar deal before getting bit by the injury bug.
Villanova-1996 Syracuse (Runner-Up)
The last time the Big East was this good was back in 1996. The Big East was loaded with star talent everywhere. Georgetown had Allan Iverson, UConn had Ray Allen, Villanova had Kerry Kittles. All 3 of those teams were nasty and were at least a #3 seed. However it was a #4 seeded Syracuse team that was led by Senior John Wallace that went to the Final Four and the National Title game. Dante Cunningham can be this year's John Wallace. With all the talent in the Big East this year, Villanova and its star Senior PF have been overlooked all season long. A win over Pittsburgh will send them to the Final Four. This Nova team is similar to the their Elite 8 team of 2006 led by Randy Foye and the 4 guard lineup, when Cunningham was Freshman who was overpowered by Florida's Al Hortford and Joakim Noah. This time he must battle DeJuan Blair. Nova PG Scottie Reynolds is their other stud. Syracuse's Lazarus Sims was the best compliment to Wallace but like Nova this year their success was due to their great perimeter play as a team.
Gonzaga-1998 Utah (Runner-Up)
Like Utah was in the 90's, Gonzaga is the dominant mid-major power out west. But it wasn't until 98 that they cracked the Final Four. Both saw its program's dominant player, and "next Larry Bird" comparison player graduate. For Utah it was Keith Van Horn the year before in 97 and for the Zags it was Adam Morrison in 2006. Gonzaga may lack a player like PG Andre Miller, but big man Josh Heyvelt is as good as Michael Doleac was and Gonzaga's guards this year are very talented. Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, and Austin Daye are good but are they good enough to finally get to the Final Four.
Michigan St.-1999 Michigan St. (Final Four)
This team is talented, young and guard oriented just like the one that went to the Final Four in 1999 a year before they won the title in 2000. PG Kalin Lucas and G/F Raymar Morgan are very similar to PG Mateen Cleaves and G/F Morris Peterson. This was before they had athletic Freshman Jason Richardson in 2000. This might not yet be the year for the Spartans, but if Lucas, Morgan and company stick around and they get a recruit like JRich was in 2000, then the Spartans could be NCAA Champs in 2010 if history repeats itself.
Missouri-1990 Arkansas (Final Four)
If your going to compare a 40 mintes of hell team that has come out of nowhere, then you have to back to the team that came out of nowhere and made the 40 minutes of hell widely known. Mizzou coach Mike Anderson was an assistant on the 1990 Arkansas team that went to the Final Four and lost to Duke. The main difference is that this years Mizzou team is a veteran team led by Seniors like DeMarre Carrol, Leo Lyons, and Matt Lawrence along with Junior guards Ziare Taylor and J.T. Tiller. That Arkansas team was led by Sopomores Todd Day, Lee Mayberry (The Mayday Connection), and of course the big O, Oliver Miller.
Duke-2004 Oklahoma St. (Final Four)
I tried to compare this Duke to team to another Duke team but I could not find an accurate comaprison. So I campare them to the Oklahoma St. team that went to the Final Four and was led by a very strong athletic wing in Joey Graham just like how Duke is led by athletic wing Gerald Henderson. Both team were very guard oriented. That OK St. team had guards John Lucas and Tony Allen. OK St. did not have a great PF like Kyle Singler but despite that they still went to the Final Four. Something Duke players and fans are starting to forget about.
Purdue-2005 West Virginia (Elite Eight)
I compare this years Purdue team to that of the WVU team that almost beat Louisville in the Elite 8. They both had great shooting big men, Pudue has Robbie Hummel while WVU had Kevin Pittsnogle. Both teams were slightly undersized and went as far as they shot the ball. This years Purdue's team was much better at rebounding than WVU in 06 mainly because of stud big man JaJuan Johnson.
Xavier-2004 Xavier (Elite Eight)
It's too easy to compare them to last years team so I will compare this years talented athletic bunch to the team that almost beat Duke in the Elite 8 back in 04. That team was led by guards Lionel Chalmers and Romain Sato. What was amazing about that team was that they did much better after losing star David West from a year before.
Kansas-2003 Maryland (Sweet Sixteen)
Just like Maryland in 03, Kansas is coming off of a National Title and lost almost everything. Sharron Collins has been amazing but their is only so much he can do. Just like Maryland PG Steve Blake could only do so much in 2003. Maryland was a 6 seed and ironically ended up losing a #7 seed Michigan St. That could be how Kansas' season ends this year. Maryland did not have a big man like Cole Aldrich so Kansas could beat Michigan St and make it past the Sweet 16. However I would be shocked if they beat Louisville in the Regional Final and got back to the Final Four, then I would have to compare them to the Michigan St. team of 2001 that went to the Final Four after winning the National Title in 2000.
Arizona-2004 Nevada (Sweet Sixteen)
The last time a team was seeded this low and had two future NBA prospects like Azizona has with F/C Jordan Hill and G/F Chase Budinger it was the Nevada team in 06 that had G/F Kirk Snyder and F/C Nick Fazekas. Nevada was a 10 seed who lost to eventual Runner Up Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16.