Sent out some e-mails earlier today to some people with ties to Air Force athletics to get their thoughts on The Big Dance, which kicks off tomorrow. Here are some of the responses I got:
Jim Arthur – Radio play-by-play voice of Falcon football and men’s basketball
Final Four: Kansas (Midwest), Syracuse (West), Kentucky (East), Purdue (South)
Comments: Hard to pick against Kentucky in the East.
Like Syracuse in the West, although they have the toughest road. That’s a tough bracket with Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt and Xavier. K-state could surprise here.
Like Kansas in the Midwest
The South is interesting. I don’t see Duke advancing. You could see a low seed like Purdue or even Richmond come out.
Troy Calhoun – Air Force Football Coach
Final Four: Kansas (Midwest), Kansas State (West), Kentucky (East), Duke (South)
Comments: All four teams play excellent defense, and good ball-handling with their guards means very few turnovers, thus hard to beat.
Kansas has the best blend of enough experience, talent, physical play and athletic off their strong defense to get some easy points off turnovers/transition.
A.J. Kuhle – University of Denver Assistant and Former Air Force Basketball Player (Class of ’04)
Final Four: Georgetown (Midwest), Pittsburgh (West), West Virginia (East), Duke (South)
Comments: I think it will be Georgetown over Duke with a score of around 76-69.
I like the fact that Georgetown has the best center (Greg Monroe) in the tournament, they have an experienced and tough guard with Chris Wright and then they have solid scoring wings in Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. They have been to a Final Four as a program in the last four years, and I generally enjoy watching them play, so why not go with a non favorite.
Tim Anderson – Former Air Force Basketball Player (Class of ’08)
Final Four: Kansas (Midwest), Kansas State (West), West Virginia (East), Duke (South)
Comments: The field is open this year. I can see a higher seeded making a run, but it’s too hard to pick which team that will be. I think Duke wins because they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.
Andrew Henke – Former Air Force Basketball Player (Class of ’09)
Final Four: Kansas (Midwest), Syracuse (West), West Virginai (East), Duke (South)
Championship: Kansas-West Virginia
Comments: I always look for Final Four teams to have a couple essential qualities:
1. A polished floor leader who is experienced, battle tested, and driven.
2. A big man (or two) who rebound exceptionally well, and bang down low.
3. A total team effort (offense and defense)… UNITY
So with that criteria in mind, I chose:
KANSAS (1. Collins, 2. Aldrich & Morris twins, 3. 6-7 scoring options)
WEST VIRGINIA (1. Butler, 2. Ebanks & Jones, 3. 63 pts against in Big East, great team D)
DUKE (1. Scheyer/Singler, 2. Singler & Zoubek, 3. No one else in this region is worth their salt, so Duke wins by default)
SYRACUSE (1. Rautins & Jardine, 2. 4 Bigs over 5 rebs a game, 3. 7 guys who avg 8 pts or more, and a 9-1 road record)
Winner: Kansas (Too many good players, Collins is exceptionally good, Aldrich is a total game changer that no other team has, they can play any style of basketball, and most importantly they play as a team, don’t care who scores, and have tons of guys who can put up buckets. Bill Self has been there before, won a championship, and his players trust and believe in him. I’m going 81-70 in favor of Kansas.)
Bonus Henke Comments: BYU and UNM make big runs I think. It’s slightly biased, but I think the majority of America still thinks of the Mountain West as a mid-major conference (which is so ridiculous it’s laughable). Those two teams have good coaches, great players, and battled in a tough conference with tough venues. I think BYU beats FSU and KSU, and maybe that Sweet 16 game as well before losing to CUSE. And New Mexico should be playing in the Sweet 16 as well. And I’m pulling for Richmond to make noise in that weak bracket as well. On to the Final Four!