IMG Academy basketball program Recruiting Coordinator Anthony Macri offered his insights into the NCAA tournament's biggest games and players in the latest 'staff picks' articlefrom BasketballProspectus.com.
Final Four: Wake Forest, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma. The Demon Deacons have been talented enough all year and after some down time, put it all together. Connecticut has the easiest road to the Final Four, Pittsburgh is the best team coming in, and Oklahoma has the most dominant player.
Champ: Pittsburgh. Any team that can do on the boards what they do gives themselves a chance no matter what they shoot. It's the Big East's year, and Pittsburgh has been the best in that league all year (even if Louisville did finish first in the conference).
First-Round Upset: Mississippi State will not only get a first-round upset, but they will do so on the back of their Steph Curry Award winner, Jarvis Varnado. Varnado is not an unknown to NBA scouts, but because the SEC was bad this year and Varnado played on an inconsistent Mississippi State team, much of the country does not know him as well. They will after this tournament, when he busts out like Antonio McDyess did a few years back.
Sweet 16 Surprise: If the Siena Saints can get past Ohio State in the first round, I think they can take out top-seeded Louisville. I think this is a relatively weak group of top seeds, and I think Louisville's guards can be exploited by a veteran Siena squad. The Saints' frontcourt isn't anything to sneeze at, either.
Steph Curry Award: Varnado
Best Game: American vs. Villanova will be a great game. Both teams have great backcourts and can make big shots, and both will do so in their contest against each other. Every bracket I fill out for "fun" I change my pick on this game.
Where will you be Thursday at noon ET? Working--at a standing weekly meeting, actually--but my BlackBerry will be on constant update until I can get in front of a TV later in the day...I can't wait!