Because the NCAA tournament selection committee couldn’t set up a possible Duke-Kentucky matchup this year (apparently John Calipari’s preseason claim that he no longer thought of himself as a basketball coach was true) it did the next best thing: Duke-Louisville. Sadly though, the boys (and one girl) won’t get their wish just as they didn’t get it last year when Duke didn’t get out of the first round. The Blue Devils won’t lose in the first round this year — unless C.J. McCollum miraculously suits up for the Albany Great Danes (tied for best nickname in the tournament with the South Dakota State Jackrabbits) — but they aren’t getting to the region final.
Louisville should. Like last year, the Cardinals are playing their best basketball at exactly the right time. They should breeze through their first two games (North Carolina A&T-Liberty winner followed by Colorado State-Missouri winner) to get to Indianapolis, which is all of 114 miles from Louisville. There, the one and only team with any realistic chance of keeping them from the region final isSaint Louis, which deserved to be seeded higher.
The Billikens won the regular season title and the tournament title in a conference that sent five teams to the tournament.
Louisville should cruise to the region final where it probably will play Michigan State in a rematch that will take place in the same building where the two teams met in a region final four years ago. The Spartans won that game, and betting against Tom Izzo in March is never a good idea. Then again, Rick Pitino’s team beat his team rather easily in the round of 16 a year ago.
Duke will not have an easy second-round game. Creighton should beat Cincinnati, which has been fading for a month. But even if the Blue Devils survive that game, they aren’t going to beat Michigan State , which should beat St. Mary’s — yes St. Mary’s — in the second round.
The Gaels are underrated and under-seeded and should beat Middle Tennessee State in Dayton. Let us pause here to shock the world with the following four words: Kudos to the committee — for picking Middle Tennessee instead of the power conference teams that belong in the NIT.