Last evening, 2 of the best in the Big 12 faced off as did 2 of the best in the Big East. 3 of these teams in my eyes are legit Final Four “contenders.” Of course I am talking about Kansas, Villanova, and West Virginia. All top 5 teams going into last night and each capable of playing with anyone in the country.
In very unusual fashion at this time of year or any for that matter, both road teams won the marquee matchups last evening. Kansas was able to go into Texas and handily defeat a talented Longhorns squad while Villanova took care of Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers. These are the kind of wins that clinch a team a number 1 seed. Going into a very hostile environment on the big national stage, and taking home the W with an outstanding performance. Scottie Reynolds continues to impress me more and more each time I get the pleasure of watching him play. I am very much looking forward to seeing him in person in Cincinnati come March 2nd.
Reynolds has been a 4 year starter for Nova and has really emerged into a strong leader. We saw signs of that leadership and maturity last March as he led the Wildcats into the Final Four with an amazing and surprising tournament run. This year Reynolds is putting up nearly 19 points a game in the rugged Big East. But there is one stat that will really jump out at you. Reynolds has always been known to be a bit out of control at times and has the knack for taking some bad shots. Not this year. He is shooting an astonishing 48 percent from the field. By far, this is the most eye-popping stat that is a sign of his amazing growth and maturity. Possible Big East Player of the Year candidate or National Player of the Year candidate? Who knows, but his team has a great shot to return to the Final Four.
As for West Virginia, there is no such thing as a good loss. Especially when playing on your home turf. But Nova is an exceptional team and the Mountaineers will not drop too far with this one. They are still in great position to nab a 2 seed come selection Sunday and even possibly a 1 depending on how they do down the stretch. This Mountaineer’s team has a somewhat similar look of a retro mid 90’s Bearcat team and has really demonstrated its toughness all year. Give Huggins a couple of more years to get more of “his” type of players in there and beware. The Mountaineers are quickly emerging as a basketball school.
Then finally lets talk about Kansas. They handled Texas last evening and showed why they are the best the Big 12 has to offer. In my opinion, Kansas and UK are the top 2 teams in the country at this point, closely followed by Villanova and Syracuse. The one edge that Kansas may have on Kentucky, and I stress “may,” is the experience of senior point guard Sherron Collins. Cole Aldrich is a great junior big man that is pretty evenly matched with Kentucky’s junior big in Patrick Patterson. Not to mention Kansas has a super frosh in Xavier Henry similar in ability to Kentucky’s tandem of super freshman in John Wall and Demarcus Cousins. Sherron has been to March Madness 3 times now. He is a senior and Wall has never experienced all that is March Madness. This is possibly the only somewhat edge Kansas would have over a Kentucky. The one issue is that Wall is much more talented than the very steady Sherron Collins. Also for Kentucky, as Cousins continues to get better each game, Kansas has no answer for this stellar freshman’s interior presence. It would be a great matchup if these two teams meet come March.
So at this time, the Final Four picks from Kraze are as follows: Kansas, Kentucky, Villanova, and Syracuse. I do think that a team like West Virginia could easily streak its way in though and are a legitimate contender. These picks are all subject to change. I do know that it is definitely going to be a very exciting end to conference play and entertaining March Madness.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.