We are about to enter the greatest weekend of college basketball. Last weekend's slew of games is a close second in my book, but the utter quality of this weekend's games, starting with Thursday night's matchup between the Salukis of Southern Illinois facing off against your own Kansas Jayhawks and ending with the 4th and final team keeping their season alive late on Sunday night, is superior. I will take you through the 8 games that will take place on Thursday and Friday and before Final Four tickets get handed out on Saturday and Sunday I'll preview those games as well. I will go through the games by bracket.
Midwest Region (St. Louis)
#1 Florida vs. #5 Butler
How Florida Got Here:Beat #16 Jackson State and #9 Purdue
How Butler Got Here:Beat #12 Old Dominion and #4 Maryland
Florida is going to win this game. If I had to put money on one game it would be this one, and it would be on the Gators. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see (arguably) our biggest competition for a National Title be taken out, but I just don't see it happening. Florida is deeper, the players are more talented and they don't have a huge disadvantage in experience like Maryland had.
Rock Chalk Talk Says: Florida 82 Butler 71
#3 Oregon vs. #7 UNLV
How Oregon Got Here: Beat #14 Miami (OH) and #11 Winthrop
How UNLV Got Here: Beat #10 Georgia Tech and #2 Wisconsin
I think that this game will be highly entertaining and close to the finish. Oregon is the better team and would win 6 or 7 out of 10 against the Runnin' Rebels, but UNLV plays very good defense under Lon Kruger and if they get any contribution from players other than Kevin Kruger and Wendell White they are tough to beat. There is always at least one surprise team in the Elite Eight, UNLV just might be it this year.
Rock Chalk Says: Oregon 81 UNLV 86
West Regional (San Jose)
#1 Kansas vs. #4 Southern Illinois
I will preview this game on Wednesday.
#2 UCLA vs. #3 Pittsburgh
How UCLA Got Here: Beat #15 Weber State and #7 Indiana
How Pittsburgh Got Here: Beat #14 Wright State and #11 Virginia Commonwealth
This will be a tight game throughout but a major snoozefest. I will watch it to -hopefully- watch our future opponent after a win against the Salukis, but the general audience might not. UCLA is the better team and I have been very down on Pittsburgh all year long, but if they play up to their potential then they have a shot to pull off the upset.
Rock Chalk Talk Says: UCLA 51 Pittsburgh 48
Eastern Regional (East Rutherford)
#1 North Carolina vs. #5 Southern California
How UNC Got There: Beat #16 Eastern Kentucky and #9 Michigan State
How USC Got There: Beat #12 Arkansas and #4 Texas USC screwed up my bracket that had Texas making a run to the Final Four, but they still stand little shot against UNC. North Carolina is just way too deep for the Trojans who don't have enough talent -yet- to truly compete for a Final Four berth. Next season, especially if Nick Young doesn't head for the $$$$ in the NBA, with O.J. Mayo and others coming in they could get that far. This game shouldn't be close, but a rematch next year could be.
Rock Chalk Talk Says: UNC 79 USC 65
#2 Georgetown vs. #6 Vanderbilt
How Georgetown Got Here: Beat #15 Belmont and #7 Boston College
How Vandy Got Here: Beat #11 George Washington and #3 Washington State
Georgetown doesn't hae 'Washington' in their name, but they are located in Washington D.C. so if that is the secret to Vandy's success it could happen again. Georgetown is clearly the better team, clearly, but I picked them to make the Final Four and I never get all 4 teams right. Look for an upset here and Derek Byars to dominate the great defense of the Hoyas.
Rock Chalk Talk Says: Georgetown 79 Vanderbilt 81
South Regional (San Antonio)
#1 Ohio State vs. #5 Tennessee
How Ohio State Got Here: Beat #16 Central Connecticut State and #9 Xavier
How Tennessee Got Here: Beat #12 Long Beach State and #4 Virginia
Tennessee will surprise a lot of people with how close they play Greg Oden and the Buckeyes. Remember, earlier this year Ohio State barely won against the Vols at home. This time they are playing in a neutral environment in San Antonio and Tennessee played great over the weekend in, ironically, Columbus. I think that Oden will get them past Tennesse because their lack of size, but they won't get past A&M or Memphis.
Rock Chalk Says: Ohio State 78 Tennessee 75
#2 Memphis vs. #3 Texas A&M
How Memphis Got Here: Beat #15 North Texas and #7 Nevada
How A&M Got Here: Beat #14 Pennsylvania and #6 Louisville
After the Aggies played in what was basically a home-court advantage for the Cardinals in Lexington and are now playing in a home-court advantage of their own against Memphis. A&M is the better team and deserved the #2 seed in my opinion instead of Memphis, especially if Crhis Douglas-Roberts isn't able to go for the Tigers. Acie Law will play a huge game and while Memphis is a deeper team and could be more talented, Gillespie is a better coach and that along with the home-court advantage is enough for A&M to pull out a victory.
Rock Chalk Says: Memphis 76 Texas A&M 82 That's all I got, check back tomorrow for the preview of our game against the Salukis. ROCK CHALK!