The Cover 4 Bracket: Final 4

Cleaned up your drool from last round yet?  We have made to the Final 4 voted and chosen by YOU.  The bracket has shaped up to an international final versus an American final, and it continues to get tougher.

Keep the votes coming as were near towards the hottest championship in sports.

Let the battle begin!

(1) Alex Morgan (Soccer) vs (6) Amanda Beard (Swimming)

(4) Ellen Hoog (Field Hockey) vs (1) Leryn Franco (Javelin)

This is Madness!


March Madness. A tournament unlike any other in sports. The brackets. The bubble teams. The beauty of college basketball in its pursuit for a champion. A time when a group of men can reference Cinderella and not feel uncomfortable about doing so. The NCAA tournament gives every team an opportunity to get hot and make a run at a title. In a year where parity made its name a cliché, the term “madness” never seemed so appropriate in anticipation for the 68-team NCAA tournament.

This era of college basketball constantly sees its stars heading for the NBA draft early ─ typically after their freshman year. All the best talent is looking for the paycheck, leaving the next tier of players leading all the elite schools in college basketball. This year, there seems to be a combination of mediocre teams and mediocre players. Hence, there have been many teams who experts deem capable of making a run at the NCAA championship. It’s been madness the entire season and it’s not just the usual madness of the huge upsets.

Heading into the sweet 16, there are certainly some Cinderellas marching on, but in fact, 11 of the 16 teams left are four seeds or better. Florida Gulf Coast is this year’s team that no one has ever heard of. Most people think this school name is more appropriate for the Weather Channel than for college basketball. But this is not where the madness lies. It is the fact that only one team (Louisville) has looked the part of a juggernaut, and they have not truly been tested yet, playing a 16 and an eight seed. Every other team has looked vulnerable and beatable at times in their matchups. The lack of elite teams allows for more possible outcomes for the remaining games. It is truly a tournament where there is no favorite.

The basketball purist would say that the lack of superstar talent leads to better team play, truly allowing the best team, not group of individuals, to win. However, to most outsiders not following this basketball season, the games seem uninteresting and low scoring.  There have been some final scores in this tournament that the Oregon football team at which it would scoff. It all results from the same source, the lack of talent. This next NBA draft might be the worst I can remember. It’s sad when Brittney Griner, the Baylor women’s basketball player, is arguably college basketball’s best player. She could probably compete for some of these top teams, and I am not being sarcastic.

The main point we all must realize is that there aren’t more good teams this year, just less great teams. The lower seeds might get an upset here and there but most have already been weeded out of the tournament. The parity can be described best with the play of the good of the good, not the best of the best. Gonzaga is a prime example. When has it ever been a debate where the number one team in the nation should deserve a number one seed when there are four of them to be had? Only this year. Miami (FL) has been labeled the fifth number one seed, even though they are a number two seed. And with no surprise, Gonzaga is the only number one seed eliminated. It is because it is not a great team. There are none.

Most viewers think that the “madness” portion of the tournament has ended. The field has been shaved down from 68 to 16, with the rampant amount of games coming to an end. But now with the good of the good remaining, the madness I believe is just beginning. You can throw away all the numbers in front of the teams now, because the remaining teams are all similar. As a matter of fact, the coaches are more famous than the players these days, another point illustrating the state of  college basketball

Florida Gulf Coast will probably lose its next game and Louisville will probably advance to the elite eight. This is the only thing I can assert confidently about the rest of the tournament. Not even the bookies in Las Vegas can predict the rest of the games. The parity is about to take shape and most people who filled out brackets don’t even know it yet. This is all because this is a generation of college basketball where no superstar ever stays for four years. Heck, if a great player makes it to his junior year it’s a miracle.

All the top basketball talent moves on to the NBA, leaving college basketball ─ especially this year, ─ with a lot of good teams with mediocre talent compared to years past. The usual contenders Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Syracuse and Ohio State are still dancing. No surprise there. But other teams like Miami (FL), Michigan, Florida and Indiana have just as good of chance of winning it all this year. The names of the schools speak louder than the play of the players. This year, the March Madness is there, just in a new and unique way. It is all opinion if it is good or bad for the sport. I know one thing for a fact that I can be sure of, this year more than ever, you cannot be sure of anything regarding the top teams in college basketball. Let the madness truly begin.

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Paul Culley
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

Finding the Upset Specials


After one of the most unpredictable college basketball seasons in recent history, filling out your bracket will be one tough and exciting task. Let’s admit it: anything can happen in March on a neutral floor with college kids playing in the biggest games of their life.

Two 15 seeds knocked off 2 seeds in their first game last year, so naturally everyone is looking for similar upset specials as the chaos of Thursday and Friday draws closer and closer. No matter how much research and analysis you do, it seems like you always miss that one X-factor that leads an unheralded mid-major over a national powerhouse. So for your informational benefit, here is a region-by-region look at some upsets that you can expect, and why.


(12) Oregon vs (5) Oklahoma State

You all know the statistic about 12s beating 5s, and this game will continue that trend (for the record, Oregon was originally an 11, but was moved down in the bracketing process). No doubt the selection committee rewarded Oregon for winning the Pac-12 tournament by slotting them in San Jose for the first weekend, which should provide a decent crowd advantage for the Ducks. Before Dominic Artis went down with an injury earlier this season with a foot injury, Oregon was a top-10 team. With him back in the line-up, expect them to return to that form as they did in the Pac-12 tournament and take down Freshman of the Year candidate Marcus Smart and the Cowboys. If this game was at a more neutral location it would be a coin flip, but it’s hard to ignore the close proximity Eugene (8 hour drive). The Ducks are a much better team than their seed indicates now that Artis is back and will pull off the upset.

(10) Cincinnati vs (7) Creighton

This is an upset only when it comes to seeding, not in pure talent. Creighton won the Missouri Valley in a down year with Doug McDermott having another Player of the Year caliber season. Cincinnati lost to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament. So what makes this upset so clear? Creighton has one huge problem: no balance on the offensive end. McDermott is the only player averaging double figures. Additionally, the Blue Jays lost at home earlier this year to Boise State, a team who relies heavily on its guards. Cincinnati is a more physical version of Boise in that they also rely heavily on guards in Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright, and JaQuon Parker. McDermott can’t do it all by himself, and the Bearcats will be a matchup nightmare for their mid-major counterparts. Ultimately Cincinnati is the best team on the floor in this match-up regardless of what the seeds say.


(10) Iowa State vs (7) Notre Dame

If you saw the game earlier this year when Iowa State got hosed at home by the officials against Kansas, you know they can play ball. Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones play hard all 40 minutes and have a ton of talent in the backcourt with senior guards Korie Lucious and dynamic scorer Will Clyburn. Notre Dame is a rare breed in college basketball starting two true big men in Jack Cooley and Tom Knight. The Fighting Irish get consistent play out of their guards, but have some startling losses to teams like Connecticut, St. Johns, and Providence in conference. The Cyclones will spread out the Irish and contain their big men enough inside to pull off the victory.


(11) Belmont vs (6) Arizona

One of the more popular upset picks in this year’s field, Ohio Valley champion Belmont brings an exciting small-ball style out to Salt Lake City to face sputtering Arizona. The Wildcats were ranked in the top 5 for much of the season, but fell off track as they entered Pac-12 play. They have tons of talent in Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson, and Brandon Ashley. If they can take advantage of their size, they can avoid the upset. However, their track record this year shows they struggle against quicker teams like Belmont with losses to UCLA and Oregon, as well as to California who is very guard-heavy. Belmont scores a lot of points (rank 15th in the country) and shoots a high percentage (4th best in the country) presenting a huge challenge for the Arizona defense. Look for a balanced Bruins attack to take down the Wildcats in what should be an exciting game.


(11) Minnesota vs (6) UCLA

It’s hard to trust a team to win when a coach (UCLA’s Ben Howland) admits their best player (Shabazz Muhammad) has one foot out the door. UCLA has a short but talented rotation that has shown flashes of brilliance this year through the Wear twins, Kyle Anderson, and Larry Drew II. The major question is whether or not they will be completely focused coming into this game, and how much will their stars with one eye on the NBA really care if they win or lose? Minnesota lost a heartbreaker to Illinois on a buzzer-beater in the Big Ten tournament and will be highly motivated to get past their first game in the Big Dance. They have struggled since their win over #1 Indiana on February 26, but Trevor Mbakwe has a lot to prove as a senior who has not played up to his potential and should step up and lead the Gophers along with guards Andre and Austin Hollins (no relation).

Nate Wolters

(13) South Dakota State vs (4) Michigan

South Dakota State’s win at New Mexico earlier this year may have been a fluke, but it did show something important: They can win in a hostile environment against a good team. The crowd at The Pit was exponentially louder than whatever they will face in Auburn Hills on Friday, not to mention the altitude factor. They have a star guard in senior Nate Wolters (look up his stats, they are insane) with three other upperclassmen averaging double-figure scoring. Based on talent, location, and conference affiliation, Michigan should win this game. However, as good as Trey Burke has been this season, he disappeared at times when they needed him the most and that can’t happen when you run the show for your team. It’s not a lock, but don’t be surprised if the Wolverines get caught looking ahead to a potential match-up against Virginia Commonwealth and exit the tournament early.



(13) Montana vs (4) Syracuse

The Montana Grizzlies are an interesting match-up for Syracuse. They are a small team that relies on three guards for the majority of their points, and lacks an established inside scoring presence. If this game wasn’t a cross-country trip away from New York, the Orange would be the obvious choice, but it’s in San Jose. Montana has played a lot of tough teams this year, coming up short several times, but may have the proper formula to crack Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. More importantly, their guards have the potential to wreak havoc on Michael Carter-Williams and the Syracuse backcourt. However, if the Cuse can lock down the Grizzlies’ guards and they get caught settling for too many outside shots, this game could be ugly the other way as well. The main factor will be how the travel impacts the Orange and how they handle playing in the Pacific Time zone.

Mike Muscala, Darryl Shazier

(11) Bucknell vs (6) Butler

The last time Butler had a seed this good, they made it to the Final Four as a 5 seed. They are used to being on the Cinderella end of March upsets, but this time they may be the victims. Bucknell’s star player is center Mike Muscala, the best big man you’ve probably never heard of. He dominates both ends of the floor with his inside scoring and shot-blocking abilities that are as good as anyone not named Nerlins Noel. He’s not a one man show though with three other players averaging double-figures. Their schedule has some impressive victories and close losses on the road at Missouri and Penn State. Butler also has some big wins, but they have not been the same down the stretch as they were earlier this season when they beat Indiana and Gonzaga. Senior center Andrew Smith is back after missing some time with an injury, and will be a key part of trying to slow down Muscala on both ends. He has to stay out of foul trouble if Butler has any chance of winning. In the end, Muscala patrolling the paint on defense and the balanced Bison offense will be too much for the Bulldogs who won’t have any March magic this time around.


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David Oleson
Sports Activist for The Cover 4

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