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Friday, March 31, 2023

Adam Berry: Bad News Berry

Final Four: Ohio State, UConn, Kansas, Pittsburgh.

This year’s NCAA Tournament could either prove to be topsy-turvy and upset-filled or predictably chalk. I’m leaning toward the latter at this point, taking three No. 1 seeds and a streaky No. 3 seed. Kemba Walker can send UConn deep into the Tournament on his own, and this is the type of year where an elite player can make a true impact because the field is so weak.

While I definitely don’t love either team, I’m taking Kansas over Ohio State in the championship game, and the Jayhawks’ Marcus and Markieff Morris become the nation’s most beloved twins since the Olsens.

Dark Horse: I’m breaking the rules and taking two No. 13 seeds here: Morehead State in the Southwest, and Belmont in the Southeast.

There are few players I like more than Eagles big man Kenneth Faried, who averaged 17.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game while leading Morehead State to a 24-9 record. If Vanderbilt falters to Richmond in the first round and Morehead State upsets Louisville, the Eagles have a clear route to a Sweet Sixteen matchup against Kansas.

Belmont, meanwhile, won 30 games and reeled off 19 victories in the Atlantic Sun. The Bruins haven’t lost since Jan. 25. While I love No. 4-seed Wisconsin’s red-headed, Jewish sensation Mike Bruesewitz, Belmont is more than capable of earning a Sweet Sixteen date with Pitt by beating the Badgers and either Kansas State or Utah State in the second round.

Florida Forecast: While they certainly seemed worthy with a four-game winning streak leading up to Sunday’s loss to Kentucky, the Gators were fortunate to pull out a No. 2 seed — and even luckier to be placed where they are.

The Southeast sets up well for Florida, which can breeze by UCSB in its first game. If Michigan State finds its footing, the Spartans could be a difficult draw in the next round, but UF is cohesive enough to advance.

BYU would have presented a thrilling rematch in the Sweet Sixteen, but the loss of Brandon Davies will likely keep the Cougars from moving past the first weekend. UF, then, should have its way with St. John’s provided a last-minute switch of venue to Madison Square Garden.

The Gators’ remarkable run will come to an end, however, against Pitt in the Elite Eight.

Anthony Chiang: Chiang Reaction

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Final Four: March Madness is back, and you know what that means: It’s time to make “educated” predictions on games that involve two teams you have never even seen bounce a basketball before.

So, I might as well throw out my wild opinion: Ohio State, UConn, Kansas and BYU.

That doesn’t sound too crazy. But I like the idea of Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette carrying their teams deep into the tournament.

Dark Horse: Belmont.

This team has won Tournament games in the past, and it has the depth to make a run this season. Eleven of Belmont’s players average double-digit minutes.

Florida Forecast: The Gators have pretty good depth too.

As a No. 2 seed for the first time since 2003, Florida finds itself in prime position to do some damage this time around.

The Gators should get out of Tampa and to the Sweet Sixteen without a problem, but that’s where it will end for them.

A rematch against Jimmer and BYU is sure to await them in the third round. And as you can see by my Final Four predictions, I think the Gators will lose that game.

It has been a good year for Florida, but it is a little over its head with a No. 2 seed. UF’s shooting is too inconsistent to make a deep run.

I don’t think a team that loses to Jacksonville and UCF should ever be rewarded with such a high seed.

BYU will expose that and will end UF’s season for the second consecutive year.

Tyler Jett: The Jett Stream

Final Four: Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh and San Diego State.

You don’t need to be reminded about that time the Buckeyes walked into Gainesville and cruised to an 18-point victory. Kansas will be carried, like it has all year, by the Morris twins. You never root against twins. They’re just too cute.

Pitt is as tough as any team in the nation. As long as they keep the score close late in the second half, you have to believe the Panthers’ guards will be able to carry them to victory. And San Diego State? Why not. It just seems like the Final Four would be more fun with them at the party.

Dark Horse: Missouri. The Tigers have been a disappointment since Big 12 play started, but with a little luck, they have the potential to upset anybody. Coach Mike Anderson, who worked at Arkansas during the 40 Minutes of Hell days, implements a nasty press that has keyed a couple unexpected runs in past tournaments.

Remember 2004, when Anderson led UAB past No. 1 Kentucky in the second round? Or how about 2009, when No. 3-seed Mizzou fell minutes short of the Final Four?

Cincinnati, I’m putting you on notice. And Connecticut, watch yourself. You’re next.

Florida Forecast: The Gators could not have scored a much luckier draw. If the opening weekend goes chalk, UF will have a pretty favorable Sweet Sixteen matchup against BYU.

The hot-shooting Stormin’ Mormons could have made a deep run, but Brandon Davies was seduced by a real Fanny Alger — if you know what I mean. While Davies was searching for treasure like Joseph Smith, BYU’s national title hopes tanked.

Florida will walk off the court winners, and Billy Donovan will be as popular as top Utah citizens Deron Williams, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. You bastards!

But that is as far as Florida will get. A loss two days later will keep the Gators from their fifth Final Four trip.

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