The Elite Eight Breakdown: Ranking Final Four and Championship Games

Yeah, I enjoy doing these things. They’re fun, even if I’m doing them with an NCAA Tournament with the second-chalkiest Elite Eight since it expanded to 64 teams. (Only 2007, with three-seed Oregon crashing a top-two-lines party, beats 2009 in that respect, though the 2007 Final Four was much chalkier.)

As always, I rank these matchups in order of their appeal to me. Selected capsule previews and rankings follow.

Tire fires? Must be Detroit.

Tire fires? Must be Detroit.

Final Four Matchups I Was Too Uncreative to Give Titles

Louisville vs. Connecticut

The Huskies punked the Cards 68-51 in Louisville this year, with Earl Clark going 2-of-16 from the floor. I doubt a rematch would be as lopsided.

Michigan State vs. Missouri

Hellacious intensity against spartan restraint. How about that clash of styles?

Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina

Can DeJuan Blair out-outwork Tyler Hansbrough? (Can I write a more terrible teaser question?)

Pittsburgh vs. Oklahoma

The last time anyone would have been this excited for a Blair vs. Blake matchup, it was on Gossip Girl. (Well, it’s not a question, but I think I outdid myself. And, yes, I’m aware that Blake is Serena.)

Title Tilts

The Felines, Big Cat Division: Missouri vs. Pittsburgh

I like, but don’t love, the contrasts in styles and the uses of, in my opinion, the two best complementary colors for gold, but I can’t see this being a riveting matchup. Pittsburgh’s a slow team, content to wear opponents down on the offensive glass, but Mizzou gives foes fits with forty minutes of golden hell. (I’m trademarking that.) I’d pick Pitt to win by grinding it out, but the Panthers would have to get to the championship game first, and I think, at this point, that’s less likely than the Tigers standing for the tip that Monday night.

The Felines, Cat Contrast Division: Missouri vs. Villanova

Now this is more like it: Two teams that can and do run, play undersized big men, and have hassled opponents all Tournament with swarming defense. It’s a stretch to think that this is a likely matchup, but it would be a fun one, up and down all night with a couple of teams that could be America’s favorites.

The Fairness Doctrine: Michigan State vs. Anyone

Seriously, Michigan State in a title game in Detroit after all the losing Final Four teams’ fans bolt the city? That’s as close to a home game in a championship

The Smack Attack: Connecticut vs. North Carolina

Hasheem Thabeet, what do you think about Tyler Hansbrough?

“Tyler Hansbrough? I don’t see nothing.”

Good to see you’ve add bending English to your will to your limited offensive repertoire, big man. Bending Hansbrough, especially the bulkier version that has cruised under the radar as big men in the Big East stole his shine, would prove much more difficult. For that and for the A.J. Price-Ty Lawson duel, this potentiality merits high marks.

The Big 12 Battle: Missouri vs. Oklahoma

When these two last met, Willie Warren and Austin Johnson played a combined 70 minutes and shot a combined 6-for-22. That’s an example of how Missouri hampers perimeter players.

But Blake Griffin had a quiet 16, despite 21 boards. So maybe Mizzou can shut him down, too, and get revenge for that Big 12 Championship Game shellacking Chase Daniel’s crew took?

The Big Man Battle: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma

Hasheem Thabeet wisely neglected to say anything about Blake Griffin. Maybe, while the two are at war in the post, they can compare notes on being rag dolls in impromptu judo classes.

If this transpires, we get to see Willie Warren and Kemba Walker whirring about the court, too. I like that.

The Worst of All Possible Worlds: Michigan State vs. North Carolina

Not only is this a bad matchup of styles and such, we’ve seen this game before, and at Ford Field.

Granted, that was without Goran Suton, but, really, he’s going to make a 36-point difference? I doubt it.

The Heavyweight Bout III: Connecticut vs. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s won twice this year, and Hasheem Thabeet can tell you he’s not head-over-heels in love with the idea of meeting DeJuan Blair underneath again. The strangest thing: Before the Tournament, Pitt would have been the more likely champion, right? Now UConn looks as good as they did before Jerome Dyson’s injury, and Pitt seems like a likely upset victim in tonight’s game against ‘Nova. Even in a chalky March, two weeks can make heads spin.

The Royalty Rumble: Louisville vs. North Carolina

This is the game I want to happen, and not just because I have it happening in my bracket. (I’m not winning, no matter what.) I want Ty Lawson spurring the Heels and Terrence Williams sparking the Cards, bodies flying all over the place as Louisville’s press chokes Carolina and Tyler Hansbrough launching himself at every rebound in his last college game.

I want Roy Williams and Rick Pitino to make Kansas and Kentucky fans pine for their old coaches. (Mostly the Kentucky fans, actually.) I want Danny Green to thunder a few dunks home, for Samardo Samuels to smack a few shots back. I want this game to happen because it pits two excellent and exciting teams against each other, gives a bunch of seniors (Williams, Hansbrough, Green, Marcus Ginyard, Bobby Frasor) a chance at championship.

That, and because, given our predictable March, it would be just like the NCAA Tournament to deliver an awesome April capped by this title fight.


Final Four

  1. Missouri vs. Louisville
  2. Connecticut vs. Louisville
  3. Pittsburgh vs. Oklahoma
  4. Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina
  5. Missouri vs. Michigan State
  6. Villanova vs. North Carolina
  7. Villanova vs. Oklahoma
  8. Connecticut vs. Michigan State

Championship Games

(It should be noted that there is a one-in-four chance of having an all-Big East final, that I didn’t factor in Connecticut’s recruiting flap, because it bears no weight on the on-court action, and that I really did try to find a situation in which Michigan State wasn’t part of my last four matchups. I promise it has nothing to do with 2000.)

  1. Louisville vs. North Carolina
  2. Connecticut vs. North Carolina
  3. Connecticut vs. Pittsburgh
  4. Missouri vs. North Carolina
  5. Connecticut vs. Oklahoma
  6. Louisville vs. Pittsburgh
  7. Missouri vs. Oklahoma
  8. Louisville vs. Villanova
  9. Missouri vs. Villanova
  10. Missouri vs. Pittsburgh
  11. Louisville vs. Oklahoma
  12. Connecticut vs. Villanova
  13. Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
  14. Michigan State vs. Oklahoma
  15. Michigan State vs. Villanova
  16. Michigan State vs. North Carolina

Agree? Disagree? Generally think I’m an idiot? Michigan State fan?

The box for your replies is down below. Let’s root for some good roundball.

1 Comment

Filed under College Basketball, The Rockabye Rankings

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