I think the Tarheels have what it takes.
Many players on this UNC team were freshmen when they were dismantled three years ago in the Summer of Thunder by a team lead by Bahamian high school basketball prospect Deandre Ayton, who was 15 or 16 at the time, veteran pros Jeff Henfield and Kino Burrows, and some dudes who play in New Providence night league, coached by CI Gibson high school head coach Kevin “KJ” Johnson. This game meant absolutely nothing but I was in the building when it happened and I’ve never forgotten it.
I’ve had a ton of jokes at the expense of this team about this loss ever since, even as they became one of the most consistently great teams in college basketball. I think that this tournament is when they stop being the team that lost to KJ in Kendall Isaacs gymnasium and become National Champions.
Sure I haven’t watched any non- Battle 4 Atlantis, non Michigan State, Kansas, Kentucky or UCLA games, but I help run this website, and but hook or by crook the website will have content. So here goes my completely unreliable ass tournament predictions.
In the Eastern Region I have number 8 Wisconsin upsetting number 1 Villanova in the round of 32 then falling to number 2 Duke. The gap between these two teams’ guards aren’t as big as one would think in terms of talent and experience and Wisconsin bigs Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ should be able to go to work inside against a Nova team with no starting interior player over 6 foot 9.
In the Midwest regional I have number 1 Louisville and number 2 Kansas meeting in the elite 8 because I have zero imagination and I though I’ve watched Kansas and Louisville play some this season, I haven’t watched enough college basketball to watch anyone else in this bracket play. I do know that they’re by far the best teams.
I have Louisville beating Kansas because this is about the point in the tournament that Kansas chokes (I don’t know that but I heard Bomani Jones say that yesterday on his radio show), though don’t be shocked if they lose to Michigan State in the second round either.
I have Duke taking down their ACC Louisville rival in the Elite 8. I think it will be a tough, fun-to watch game but at the end of the day Duke has way too much firepower with the likes of Jason Tatum, Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard on their team, and Louisville doesn’t have enough of an inside presence to make Duke pay for their lack of size in the post.
As far as the western regional goes, I have Maryland taking out a high seeded FSU team only to be steamrolled by Arizona, who will meet 1 seeded Gonzaga for another all-chalk matchup in the Elite 8.
In the South regional I have number 2 seeded Kentucky falling to a number 3 UCLA for the second time this season. Nal is going to fire me from 10YS for this but I’m a basketball purist and I sincerely believe that UCLA will beat UK.
Though Kentucky has more all-around talent than UCLA, UCLA has point guard prodigy Lonzo Ball and a ton of experience in players like Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford and Thomas Welsh. Kentucky fields the most talented teams every year but that talen usually comes in the form of freshman guards who lose to more experienced guards deep in the tourney, and UCLA’s guards aren’t just experienced, those guys can ball as well.
I have Duke taking down Arizona in the elite 8 and UNC taking out UCLA. And I don’t feel that good about either of these.
Duke has superior talent in comparison Arizona but they have no rim protection, and UCLA’s superior talent at the guard positions could outshine UNC company guys like Joel Berry and Nate Britt, who it feels like have been in Chapel Hill forever, so don’t quote me on any of this.
My Final 4 consists of Duke taking on Arizona and UNC going against Louisville.
I have Duke beating Arizona and UNC beating Louisville. Don’t ask me to explain why because I don’t know why.
So in the final we have the classic Tobacco Road matchup of UNC and Duke. I have UNC winning.
Duke has by far the more talented team, especially on the perimeter, but UNC is by far a better interior team with steady experienced guard play and a deadly scorer in Justin Jackson. I think they get it done against Duke.
I hope this happens because I want to live in a world where KJ beat a team that went on to win a national title. We would be all better for this.