Picks For The NCAA Final Four In 2019

The beginning of the college basketball season has arrived, and as usual most of the writers and analysts are focused on the prospective contenders. When the season starts we can’t help but want to get a look at the best teams, and immediately start debating who will be left playing for the Final Four come early April. Of course, predictions this early in the season are by nature fairly likely to be inaccurate. But looking at where things stand heading into the beginning of the season, these are my picks for the Final Four teams we’ll see in 2019.

Kentucky Wildcats

Fans have gotten used to seeing Kentucky as a perpetually revolving door of talented freshman-turned-NBA lottery picks. Head coach John Calipari was the first coach to fully embrace the “one-and-done” rule that pushes professional prospects to spend at least one year in college, and as a result he’s briefly led some of the best young players of the last decade or so, from Derrick Rose (back when Calipari was at Memphis) to Anthony Davis. This year, I actually think Calipari has less talent than usual. But it’s better balanced and less youthful. Kentucky has talented freshmen, but also some returning sophomores with NBA-level ability. And most importantly, the Wildcats will welcome veteran transfer Reid Travis, who as the rare upperclassman may be just what the team needs. I expect Kentucky to stumble a few times in a stronger than usual SEC, but ultimately round into form and make the Final Four as a 1- or 2-seed.

Duke Blue Devils

Duke, too, has done quite well in the one-and-done era, and this year the Blue Devils, rather than Kentucky, boasts a true collection of surefire high lottery picks. Mike Krzyzewski became the first coach in history to secure commitments from each of the top three recruits in a single class, and brought in an excellent freshman point guard as well. Expect to hear the names RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson quite a bit through the season, and be ready for articles comparing the point guard, Tre Jones, to his older brother Tyus (who won the 2015 National Championship with the Blue Devils). The knock on Duke will be that it’s simply too young given that its veterans are essentially role players – but I think this group is too talented to fall short. Like Kentucky, they’ll get to the Final Four with a 1- or 2-seed.

North Carolina

We simply don’t see North Carolina and Duke in the Final Four at the same time, which is noteworthy because they’re about the most intense rivals in American sports. And rest assured that matters in NCAA basketball. A guide to the sport designed for potential bettors went as far as to highlight rivalries as meaningful factors, suggesting that they’re fiercer than in most sports, and that anything can happen between two rivals. And as part of this reality it seems that with Duke and North Carolina – even when both are great, which is often – only one can reach the last weekend. I expect that to change this season. North Carolina has two very good veteran players in Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson, and will supplement them with the best freshmen the school has brought in for several years. Nas Little is one of the few freshmen in the country on the same general level as the aforementioned Blue Devil group. North Carolina will not be a dominant team, and will stumble a bit in ACC play, but I think a 2- or 3-seed will see them into the Final Four.

Gonzaga

This is going to be a very interesting year for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. They may have the best big men in all of America, which will have all of us focused on Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie. However, veteran guard Josh Perkins was named to the Cousy watch list, which basically means he could be one of the best point guards in the country, rounding out the lineup a bit. But what’s interesting is that Tillie just got sidelined with a stress fracture, and may miss a few months. That could mean Gonzaga will lose some games it ordinarily wins, which will hurt its seed in the NCAA Tournament down the line. However, if healthy, the Bulldogs should have enough time to reach their very high ceiling and perhaps sneak up on some teams despite that potential seeding issue. I think they’ll wind up with a 3- or 4-seed but be a trendy pick to reach the Final Four anyway – and they’ll get there.

Note: Image from Final Four FB page

Comments Closed