Well, we're down to four.
The NCAA Division I basketball Final Four is upon us and as usual, there are a couple of old favorites and a dark horse. This week, The Winners' Circle will delve into some tournament analysis that will surely be your guide to the last weekend of college basketball.
The first order of business is UCLA. The Bruin team is by far the hardest one to read of the four. If UCLA continues playing the way it has, it is going to be hard for anyone, even the Houston Rockets, to stop it. I was impressed by the Bruins' endurance throughout their game against Connecticut. UConn was the team I picked in all the pools and I thought the Huskies would wear down the Bruins. But, no.
UCLA coach Jim Harrick not only saved his job by getting the Bruins to their first Final Four since 1980, but also proved he can coach at the big-time level. He may still lack the experience, though, to win the Final Four.
Next team is Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys are making their first appearance in the Final Four since 1951. I like their nickname, but that's about it. You already know how I feel about "Big Country," but this team is tenacious and has another star in underpublicized guard Randy Rutherford.
Get real, though Ä this team lost to Arizona. I don't see their bid to the Final
Four as anything more than a ceremonial one.
I don't think for a second that they have what it takes to win the championship and I believe that OSU will get blown out by UCLA Saturday Ä bad.
Now onto Arkansas, the defending champion, which Sunday against Virginia, finally played like one. The Razorbacks and their "40 minutes of hell" playing style finally played 40 minutes. These guys hit you from all angles. If you think you can press them, forget it. If you try to slow them down, they will just speed it up again.
I really like Scotty Thurman's and Corliss Williamson's heads up, fast-paced game and they are going to be hard to stop. If they were playing anyone but North Carolina Saturday, I would say they are a lock to repeat.
But, they are not.
Aw, North Carolina. This is the team I think everyone has forgotten about. They have basically cruised through the tournament, unlike the other three teams. With a very balanced attack and the unstoppable finishing power of Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse, this is the team to beat in the Final Four.
This team is more than just three stars, with Dante Calabria being the third.
A lot of analysts out there called the Tar Heels a no-bench team. Shut down the big guys and you beat UNC, right? Wrong.
Guys with funny names (Dante is funny, too) like Serge Zwikker and Pearce Landry proved that North Carolina does have a bench. Their stats may not have been all-star caliber, but their performances Saturday kept the Tar Heels in the game.
That is why I am picking North Carolina to win the title.
No repeats. No underdogs.
This, the wildest tournament to date, is going to be won by the old guard. Tradition-filled North Carolina and Dean Smith will bring the title back to Tobacco Road.
How fitting it will be to have the Tar Heels win the national championship within two weeks of the return of Michael Jordan Ä the most famous UNC player other than James Worthy Ä to the NBA. How very fitting.
Just like a brand new pair of Air Jordans.
Patrick Moran is a business and public administration senior. Despite what some people may think, he is always right. His column appears every Wednesday.
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