Michigan State is in winning form

Posted: March 19, 2014

I DID NOT think Kentucky could lose in 2012. I did not think Louisville could lose in 2013. My eyes told me both would win the championship.

This year is more challenging so I did this more analytically. I like teams that win with offense and defense, preferably in concert. So, even on a bad shooting day for them or a hot shooting day from an opponent, they can still win.

Click here to see Dick Jerardi's picks for this year's NCAA tournament.

My test for a potential national champion is that a team must be top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency. I only found four in the field of 68. I am adding one more because I think they would have been on the list if so many of their key players had not been injured.

The list: Florida, Villanova, Wichita State and Louisville. I added Michigan State because I feel certain the Spartans would have been inside the limit if so many key players had not been injured.

I do not like teams that are really good on offense, but mediocre on defense and vice versa.

Teams with Final Four-caliber offenses and NIT defenses include some very high seeds: Creighton, Duke, Michigan, Oklahoma and Baylor. Teams with great defenses and mediocre offenses include: San Diego State, VCU, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Saint Louis.

I am not saying any of these teams can't win games or even go far. They just give me pause. I want selections that can win in more than one way.

Not happy that four of my five teams are in two regions. The West especially looks weak to me.

My hardest call was a potential Sweet 16 game between Louisville and Wichita State. I was sitting courtside last year at the Georgia Dome when Wichita had Louisville down, 47-35, with 13 minutes left in the Final Four. It was not a fluke. Wichita was outplaying the team I thought could not lose. The Shockers did not have a turnover for 28 minutes against the pressure.

Then, deep sub Tim Henderson hit two threes and The Ville found a way back.

Wichita is better than last year. I love Louisville, but I do not think the Cardinals are better than last year. I like Wichita if the game happens. I like them all the way to the last game.

I like Michigan State on the other side of the bracket. Two of their starters missed major time. They are now playing with fresh legs. I do not see any weaknesses.

If it is Wichita-Michigan State for the title, I will be rooting for the story. And 40-0 would be a forever story. But I am picking Michigan State.

Email: jerardd@phillynews.com

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