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NBA D-Leaguers' NCAA Predictions
by Neil Johnson, NBA D-League.com
A few players from around the NBA D-League took some time away from the court to bring you their thoughts on their alma maters and predictions for this year’s college tournament. We could say more, but you’d rather hear it from them.
On his alma mater, West Virginia “I think the key for them is to ride the moment after the Big East win. They’re on a six game winning streak, Da’Sean Butler is great, Bob Huggins is a tremendous coach, and looking at their bracket, they’ve got winnable games. There could be big-time matchup with Kentucky in the Elite Eight, and obviously they are experienced and could make it to the Final Four.
On his upset picks "I like Texas A&M as a surprise team. They’re coming in under the radar, all of their losses during the season were to top 25 teams, they’ve got a great coach in Mark Turgeon, and they’ve got the experience, so they could be a dark horse. Also, a lot of people are picking Siena over Purdue. Robbie Hummel has been out for Purdue, and they’ve got a great coach and play an up-tempo, aggressive style."
On his Final Four "My Final Four is West Virginia, of course, and Villanova, Kansas, and Kansas State. In the finals I’ve got West Virginia over Kansas. They’ve got the coaching experience, a go-to guy when they need it, which is Butler, and the momentum of playing hot--Mike Gansey’s three ingredients for success. "
Billy Thomas, Maine Red Claws
On his alma mater, Kansas "I think they started well, but had some losses sprinkled in, but they hit that peak at the right time, finished the season strong, and won the conference tournament. I think they’re where they need to be conference-wise, and its right for them to be the No. 1 seed. "
On his upset picks "I hadn’t really had a chance to look at the entire bracket, but of course there are some teams that are seeded a little lower that always tend to do well, or have some story attached to them. I’ve been hearing a lot about Cornell, and Kansas State is really good all of a sudden. They’re not a Cinderella or upset team, but they came out nowhere this season, which was a surprise. I also like to watch out for the seven through 10 seeds--they may have underachieved during the season but can do some things in the tournament. "
On his Final Four "I really like all of the top seeds, and I think it’s possible for this to be the second time they all make the Final Four. I definitely like Kansas and Kentucky, and I like the size and athleticism of Syracuse, but I think someone other than Duke will come out of the South. No question Kansas takes the title."
On his alma mater, Kansas State "I’m very excited for those guys, very proud of them. They’ve done a tremendous job of turning the program around, getting quality players, great wins, and making it a great school. They’ve got a good chance to make it to the Final Four, or at least the Elite Eight. There’s such great potential and good players on the team, and the coach does a great job with those guys."
On his upset picks "I filled my bracket out yesterday, and I’ve got a few upsets. I think it’s going to be a big year for a lot of name teams to be upset early. Richmond is losing to St Mary’s--they’re taking that game. Texas is losing to Wake Forest. I’ve got Temple going down early, too."
On his Final Four "In my Final Four I have Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky and Villanova. Kentucky is going get it--the young guys are going to play well and get it done."
Mark Tyndale, Iowa Energy
On his alma mater, Temple
"I’m so excited for Temple, we really have a chance to make some noise with a great coach in Fran Dunphy, a great point guard, and a great big man in Lavoy Allen. Realistically, I’ve got us going to the Sweet Sixteen, and after that it’s anybody’s game. Hopefully we’ve got a chance to make it to make it to the Final Four." On his upset picks
"For my upsets, I like Siena over Purdue, and I like Richmond to do something. I’ve got to go for the teams that I know. "
On his Final Four "Watch out for Temple, and I like Kansas and Syracuse--teams that have some Philly representation. I’ve love to see Kentucky in there at the end, they’ve got some great players--Wall is one of the best guys in the country. West Virginia could be there too, because Huggins is a great coach and that kid Butler is the Kobe Bryant of college basketball right now--he’s hitting all of the big shots. But I think my Final Four comes down to Villanova, Kentucky, Kansas, and Syracuse. "
On his alma mater, Wisconsin "I think they’re going to do real well. Their matchups look real good, and I see them getting into the Sweet Sixteen and running into Kentucky, and I think we have the players to match up well with them. They’ve had injuries, but have had time to re-gather and get loaded up for a deep run. "
On his upset picks "I like UTEP, and I do like Cornell. Another possibility could be Utah State and Siena. I’ve actually got Siena facing Duke in the Sweet 16."
On his Final Four "I have Duke, Kansas, Kansas State, and West Virginia in the Final Four, with Kansas and West Virginia playing in the final game and Kansas winning, just because they have a senior leader at guard. Guard play is so important in the tournament, and that’s the difference-maker."
Curtis Jerrells, Austin Toros
On his alma mater, Baylor "I think they’re going to do well. They picked up where we left off, playing that zone down the stretch, and they’ve got a lot of length on defense. They’ve been playing well all year, and being a three seed, they’ll make some noise. "
On his upset picks "I haven’t looked into it that much, but there’s always some of the mid-majors to keep your eyes on."
On his Final Four "My final four is Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, and of course Baylor. I think we’ve been playing at a high level, sustained it all year, and have a chance to win."