WILKES-BARRE, PA – We’re down to the last week of the men’s basketball regular season. At least for the Power 5 conferences. Many of the mid-major leagues will start their tournaments at some point this week.
However, with Gonzaga going down on Saturday, along with other top teams like Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Purdue and Florida, there are a lot more questions than their are answers regarding this year’s edition of the field of 68.
I’m going to try to sort some of those out in the latest edition of Ebs’ Hot Takes.
The Final Four will be dominated by the ACC and Pac-12. You can mark it down. At least one of the ACC and Pac-12 will have two teams in the Final Four and the other will have at least one rep.
The Ducks are extremely athletic and have Dillon Brooks and Dylan Ennis. The Bruins had scored 100 points four times before Dec. 12. That’s pretty impressive. Oh, there’s also this guy name Lonzo Ball. Lastly, Arizona was already a top-10 team, and then it got Allonzo Trier back.
In the ACC, you have North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia.
As it stands right now, the Tar Heels are the team to beat in the ACC. Led by Justin Jackson – at 6-foot-8 wing that is a ACC Player of the Year candidate and can shoot over any SF in nation – and Kennedy Meeks, UNC can play with anyone. The Cardinals are an extremely gritty and well-rounded team. The have the ability to shoot the 3-ball with precision and are great on the glass. And Virginia’s defense can give everyone and anyone trouble. But can they score?
Gonzaga won’t make it out of the second weekend. I give Mark Few and his staff big props. Going 27-0 in any conference is extremely impressive. However, if you were to characterize the Western Athletic Conference, “eh” is the word that comes to mind.
Past mid-major teams that enter the conference burning hot – like Wichita State back in 2014 – usually fizzle out early in the tournament. While, Gonzaga has made the NCAA Tournament every season since 1999, they’ve only made it to the Sweet Sixteen twice since since 2010.
I see this trend continuing this year.
Syracuse is primed for another run. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of dark times this season for the Syracuse Orange.
There was the 33-point home loss against St. John’s, and even Sunday, when the Orange fell at Lousiville by 20 points. However, Syracuse has some big wins, too. With victories over Duke, Florida State and Virginia, the Orange have a real case to get into the NCAA Tournament this year.
With four new faces in the starting lineup, it took a long time for this team to gel. But they’re finally starting to find their rhythm.
With the offensive fire power throughout Syracuse’s lineup in John Gillon, Andrew White III, Tyler Lydon, Tyus Battle and Taurean Thompson, the Orange can score. However, their struggles on the defensive end and rebounding have been their downfall this season.
Often, Syracuse gets down early and has to climb itself out of a whole. If the Orange can improve their rebounding and communication on the defensive end, they’ll be ready to go in March.
And yes, I think they’ve done enough to make the tournament. With the quality wins they’ve collected and a .500 ACC record, the Orange have done enough.
If you’re still upset that La La Land blew a 3-1 lead last night, John Gillon’s shot to beat Duke might cheer you up a little bit.