Billy Packer is a little disappointed today. You know how he loves the Atlantic Coast Conference. Heck, he thought all five of the ACC teams were going to get into the NCAA Final Four.
The regionals are when the chalks, the favorites, will shine on Thursday and Friday because the coaches have had time to prepare for their opponents.
But on Saturday and Sunday, you have to look for the outside horses, the long shots, because the coaches haven't had time to worry about that opponent. They just try to perfect what their teams do best.
Now, about that list of the five necessary ingredients to get a team into the Final Four:
(1) A superstar, prime-time player who doesn't eat choke-berries.
(2) A good defensive team both full-court and half-court. This is important because, in the tournament, there's more concentration on holding the ball, working against the clock.
(3) A good foul-shooting team because the refs blow the whistle early and quick. And the absence of a shot clock creates a lot of intentional fouls.
(4) A long bench to cover up for any player having a game drought, or for any foul problems.
(5) And, finally, a coach who isn't governed by the players. You need a coach with an aura that impresses the subconscious of the officials and the conscious of his players.
Now you want to know who's going to the Final Four, right?
Well, in the East, you have to take everybody's automatic, Georgetown. Loyola has the heart, but not the height. Illinois has George Montgomery down. And the Georgia Tech bench is very shallow. None of the other three has played Georgetown, which means they'll be psyched out, no matter what they say.
As for the West, Bill Wennington of St. John's will be too much for center-less Kentucky. And the Redmen have too many athletes for whoever wins the Alabama-N.C. State game.
The Midwest is the most difficult to handicap. You have three teams with superstars (Oklahoma, Memphis State and Louisiana Tech) and one Eagle (Boston College) that's going to fly high and play with the clock. There's not a dime's worth of difference between Oklahoma and Memphis State, but I'll go with Oklahoma. As for Karl (The Mailman) Malone of Louisiana Tech, it'll be a case of return to sender, address unknown.
That leaves the Southeast. My sleeper is Maryland. Maryland has the talent and it's due to win some close games, which should give the Terrapins the edge against Villanova. If Auburn stays hot, it could cause problems, but I look for North Carolina to handle the Tigers even with Steve Hale on the MASH list.
But let me also tell you something else. If a guy came up to me and said he needed a long shot to get him well, you know what I'd give him?
Loyola of Chicago, that's who.
Yeah, yeah. I know they're in Georgetown's region. But if any team has a mission, a sense of destiny, it might be the school that won the whole thing back in 1963.