A Look at Favorites and Long-Shots As I Pick the Final Four

Donovan

Billy Donovan points the way to Florida's third basketball championship.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament starts today and like the rest of you, my brackets are completed and have been submitted. I’m certainly not going to bore you with every one of my picks but in case you want to throw some last minute money on a team I’m going to give you the odds on the favorites and a couple of long-shots as well as my Final Four.

Florida 11/2 – I really don’t care how good or bad a conference is. If you go unbeaten in conference play you’re doing something right. This has been the most consistent team all year long despite having a very average offense. The defense is very good and Coach Billy Donovan has solid senior experience.

Michigan State 7/1 – The Spartans have become the overwhelming pick to not only get to the Final Four but to win the whole thing as well. Their run through the Big Ten Tournament masked some of the issues that plagued them in the season including their bevy of injuries. Are they peaking at the right time?

Louisville 13/2 – Speaking of peaking at the right time, the defending National Champs blitzed the field in their conference tournament and quite frankly, deserved a higher seed. Louisville will have experience on their side but they are under .500 in single-digit games and their free throw shooting is brutal.

Miller

Sean Miller has the Wildcats in prime position for a title run.

Arizona 9/1 – Since losing forward Brandon Ashley the Wildcats have gone 9-4. They were 21-0 prior to that. Despite the loss, I still think the ‘Cats are a threat because of their defense. If they can get just enough offense from their guards and big men they have a serious shot.

Virginia 10/1 – The Cavs aren’t exactly a scoring machine but they make up for that loss of points with stifling defense. They have held opponents to around 55 points per game. In the big dance, you win with defense, rebounding and a solid backcourt and Virginia has all three.

Wichita State 10/1 – What can you say? The Shockers are 34-0; score 74 points per game while giving up almost 20 points less per game. They have plenty of experience from last year’s Final Four run and play very efficient basketball. Do you trust their weak schedule though?

Kansas 10/1 – The Jayhawks will begin the tourney without Joel Embiid for at least the first round and possibly more. I would go so far as to say I don’t think you’ll see him at all. KU is just 2-3 since his back injury and their turnovers need to be reduced. Andrew Wiggins can carry this team but how far?

Duke 12/1 – My concern with the Blue Devils is rebounding and going cold. They rely so heavily on the three-point shot that going cold is a death sentence. Jabari Parker can take over games at times but he will need help to advance the Dookies very far.

Long-Shots (50/1 or Lower)

Ohio State 66/1 – The Buckeyes started so well this season and never really seemed to recover from their mid-season swoon. Thad Matta can flat-out coach in the tournament so keep an eye on them.

Providence 200/1 – The Friars come in as hot as anyone having blown through the competition to win the Big East. They aren’t real deep which is an issue but they rebound well and knock down their free throws as well.

North Carolina State 300/1 – The Wolfpack picked up a couple of big wins in the ACC Tournament to get themselves into a play-in game. They took advantage by beating Xavier to make the Big Dance. They must improve their three-point shooting and foul shooting to have a legitimate chance.

Tulsa 1,000/1 – The Golden Hurricane has won 11 straight games and is coached by Danny Manning who once carried Kansas to a National Title. Why couldn’t he do the same from the bench?

FINAL FOUR PICKS: Florida, Arizona, Louisville, Iowa State.

NATIONAL CHAMPION: Florida. Good defense, leadership, coaching and consistency add up to a title.

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