It’s not a good thing when you pick against your alma mater in the NCAA basketball tournament, but that’s exactly what I did when I sang the praises of Gonzaga last week in the Sweet Sixteen.
Not only did Syracuse solace the problem of the Zags two talented big men, they dominated Mark Few’s team in the second half. That’s been a staple for the Orange lately and it was never more evident when their full-court press brought them back from a 15-point second half deficit to stun top-seeded Virginia.
Let’s face it, had the Orange faced Michigan State in the 2d round instead of Middle Tennessee State their long, long-shot dream would have ended right there.
But that’s not how the Big Dance works. There are upsets, and sometimes it’s to your benefit. But you still have to play the game.
Now, what about the Final Four? Am I going to still down play the Orange?
Both Syracuse and North Carolina know each other well, obviously coming from the same conference. We know it’s one thing to be aware of that dangerous 2-3 zone.
It’s another to have to prepare for it when you can’t really emulate the shifting, the trapping and wing-span of the SU defender.
But Carolina is really talented. Size and experience and then some. Playing their best ball right now. They don’t rely on 3-point shooting. They don’t need to.
So, can this miracle run continue for Syracuse, a great story in this tournament?
The hurdles get bigger for the 10th seed underdogs.
I could show my favoritism and I certainly will be rooting hard for my school.
But I simply feel the Tar Heels are too strong. Am I mistaken again? We’ll see.
Oklahoma with Buddy Hield gets the edge over Villanova and not because they were crushed 23 in December. That game was a long time ago. They are a championship caliber team. Villanova just falls a bit short of that category.
So, in the championship game my not out-on-a-limb choice is North Carolina.
A team many, if not most, thought would capture it all when the season began.