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Sevransky picks who will win the NCAA Tournament

Sevransky picks who will win the NCAA Tournament

Sevransky picks who will win the NCAA Tournament
By Ted Sevransky

You have to be thorough when picking a winner for the NCAA Tournament. There are many factors that come into play to properly breakdown will win the Dance and after much deliberation I’ve narrowed it down the contenders: UNC, Wake, Oklahoma, UConn, Pitt, Villanova and Michigan State.

I looked at point-guard play from those seven squads using assist-to-turnover ratio as the primary method. My formula here is simple – I’m looking for a minimum of a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio from the primary ball handler. I dropped a team right away if it didn’t meet that qualification.

North Carolina, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma pass this test leaving me with a final four to pick from.

Another way I narrow things down is looking for teams with NBA talent on their roster. Squads with at least two NBA first round picks in their lineup tend to do well come tournament time.

Last year, Kansas had three players drafted including first rounders Brandon Rush and Darrel Arthur. Florida won two championships before that and sent players into the lottery – Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah.

Oklahoma’s got a pair of likely lottery picks in Blake Griffin and Willie Warren. The Tar Heels entire starting five will most likely play at the next level. Pitt’s DeJuan Blair and Sam Young will probably both be late first round selections.

MSU is the one program lacking a future pro. Kalin Lucas, Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers aren’t projected first rounders from any of the mock drafts that I have seen. We’ll send the Spartans packing here.

The last aspect I use to evaluate the future national champ is experience.

Having freshmen contributing is a good thing, but a team that relies almost exclusively on underclassmen is a problem. Oklahoma’s best two players – Griffin and Warren – are both underclassmen. That’s 36.7 points, 16.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists from a frosh and sophomore star with nobody else on the team averaging more than nine points or six boards per game. I’ll send Oklahoma home here.

We’re down to the last two teams standing –North Carolina and Pitt; the two best teams from the two best conferences. They are currently ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the polls and in the RPI and deserve to be ranked where they are.

How boring.

I didn’t plan it this way – I have no preconceived notions when I started this article. I just ran through the criteria one by one, eliminating one team after the next, until I reached my final two.

And even here, the hard numbers make all for which side I’m going to pick to win it all.

I’m calling for the Tar Heels to beat the Pitt Panthers in the championship game, although these two teams could hook up in the national semifinals should both reach the Final Four (as I expect they will). There are two reasons why I’m picking Roy Williams over Jamie Dixon this time around:

First is free-throw shooting. Anyone who doubts the importance of closing out games at the charity stripe needs to review some video of last year’s national title game, when Memphis was unable to close out Kansas at the line, allowing the Jayhawks to steal the crown.

North Carolina shot 76 percent from the charity strip this year, good for the 11th best mark in the country. The Panthers weren’t nearly as effective draining 67 percent of their shots from the line.

The second factor is depth - particularly in the frontcourt. Pitt has no suitable replacement for Blair or Tyrell Biggs if either gets in foul trouble.

All three of Pitt’s losses this year - Louisville, Villanova and Providence - came in games where Blair got into foul trouble. The Panthers almost lost to Rutgers when their big man was limited to eight minutes because of hack-happy defense.

This past weekend, when Blair left the game after picking up his third foul against UConn, the Huskies immediately went on a 10-0 run before Blair came back into the game.

That leaves me with UNC as the last team dancing. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The Tar Heels have all the factors I look for: They play in a major conference; they’re going to be no worse than a No. 3 seed; they’ve been winning away from home all year; they have a great point guard along with great depth and they rebound; and they can win either slow-paced games or up-tempo contests.

Pick: UNC

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