Five-Man Weave: NCAA picks, predictions and prospects

Associated Press

3/22/2013 8:12:04 PM

It's Tournament time and that means the Five-Man Weave is shifting focus from the NBA to NCAA hoops this week. The guys give their picks for the Final Four, the Cinderellas and of course the National Champion. They also weigh in on some of the top prospects in this year's tournament.

1. Which No. 1 seed will be the first to fall in the tournament?

Josh Lewenberg: Gonzaga. It's certainly not for a lack of talent but their close call in the opening round could be a sign of things to come. The Bulldogs will be fun to watch, especially if you have a vested interest in Canada Basketball. However, there are too many uncertainties surrounding the Zags this time of year – including their vulnerability in the paint and the old underachiever tag – which make it difficult to hitch your wagon to Kelly Olynyk and company. With tough matchups against some big, physical opponents ahead, an upset in the Sweet Sixteen or even the Round of 32 is not out of the question.

Will Strickland: Gonzaga. Mark Few's a solid coach and I know they have Canadians Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos. But they are cashing in on a shaky #1 ranking at the end of the season and a reputation as a Cinderella that has always been competitive in The Dance. The Naked Truth: 9 - the number of first round losses in the 13 years Coach Few has helmed the Bulldogs. Gonzaga's early outs since 1999's run to the Elite Eight, not with Few as Head Coach, by the way, means this "Cinderella" ain't passin' The Schmell Test over here.

Tim Chisholm: Hate to bet against a Canuck, but I gotta go with Gonzaga. They are a controversial number one for a reason, and despite Kelly Olynyk's breakout season he alone can't overcome the team's reputation for wilting against physical competition. Plus, given how strong some of the other number one's are it just comes down to the fact that someone has to go down first.

Duane Watson: Kansas. I have them losing in the Sweet Sixteen to Michigan. I like the chances of Trey Burke taking over a game at crunch time much better than Ben McLemore.

Mitch Ward: I'd love to see Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Pangos and their Gonzaga brethren make a deep run in the tournament but I'm afraid they're the most ripe for the picking of any top seed. Olynyk has been terrific this season but I'm not sure he can carry the whole team when push really comes to shove. Sweet 16 seems like the end of the road to me.

2. Who will be this year's Cinderella story?

Lewenberg: Iowa State. Their high-scoring, up-tempo attack will make the Cyclones somewhat of a wild card in this tournament. They come in as an underdog but could generate some noise in the wide-open West region if their sharp shooters catch fire early. Like any jump-shooting team, they'll live or die with the three ball. The Cyclones have hit more three-pointers than any other team, so in the right circumstance they're certainly capable of catching opponents off guard.

Strickland: With all of the relative parity in college basketball as a result of the best players going "One and Done", I picked the highly disrespected Pac-12's Oregon Ducks to "upset" Oklahoma St on #1On1WithWillAndDuane, though I'm not sure that's a huge upset, so I'll go with Robert Morris University. Yeah, I know they are playing in the NIT. But it IS an NCAA tourney and they DID take down the 2012 National Champion University Of Kentucky Wildcats of John Calipari. RMU Serious. Yep!

Chisholm: If I'm going to peg Gonzaga to fall, may as well go all the way and say that Wichita State will do it in round two and Cinderella themselves all over the tournament. It can be risky going in on deep teams without a true number one guy, but the Shockers can just keep throwing waves of guys at other teams and exhaust them into submission.

Watson: I don't have any upsets in my bracket, but I'm one shining moment away from getting it busted. With that being said, if I had to pick a Cinderella, who better than the Wichita State Shockers out of the West?

Ward: I don't know if you could really call 12-seed Oregon a Cinderella story seeing as how they probably shouldn't have been seeded that low in the first place. That said, I can see them getting past St. Louis in the Round of 32 and then causing major trouble for Louisville in the Sweet 16.

3. Which NBA prospect in the tournament most intrigues you?

Lewenberg: Otto Porter. His talent and unique skill set are undeniable but the critics have questioned his focus. Now's the time to prove his naysayers wrong, carry the Hoyas to the promised land and boost his stock heading into an allegedly weak NBA draft.

Strickland: Brittney Griner. She and Notre Dame's Skyler Diggins are the only true stars of March Madness. Oh... what? You mean the guys? Let's not forget the Women version of March Madness, which may be just as entertaining! Back to the business at hand, Oklahoma St. freshman Marcus Smart could very well be the #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Though listed as a point guard, he's more of a tweener/combo guard. Smart is still a freshman and could grown another 3-4 inches over the next couple years. With his smarts, court vision, size and athleticism, Young Marcus could be a problem for the NBA teams who don't draft him.

Chisholm: Ben McLemore from Kansas. In a year when there is no true number one pick, McLemore has positioned himself well at the right time at a position of weakness for most NBA clubs. Star shooting guards are a rare breed nowadays, and they NEVER go first overall. I'm dying to see if McLemore can cement that spot over the next few weeks (in a draft that's this wide-open, though, the answer is probably not).

Watson: The weak draft pool withstanding, Anthony Bennett. He has some tools and if he can build on them at the next level, he could be something. He's only 20 years old and already has the body of his soont-to-bel fellow UNLV alumnus Larry Johnson.

Ward: Indiana's Victor Oladipo. I love watching him play. His offensive game needs a lot of refining but he plays so hard that you can't help but watch him. He is crazy athletic, can jump through the roof and is a great defender. A good showing in the tournament should solidify his status as a top-5 pick.

4. Which teams will make the Final Four?

Lewenberg: Louisville, Georgetown, Ohio State and Miami.

Strickland: Georgetown, Indiana, Wisconsin and Loooo-EEE-Ville. Contrary to what my #1On1 co-host Duane Watson says about the proper pronunciation of the word, when the leader of the Free World, US President and huge hoops fan Barack Hussein Obama says it like I say it, we ALL know who's correct!

Chisholm: Duke, Florida, Indiana, Ohio State

Watson: Duke (sorry Louisville), Michigan (sorry Georgetown), Indiana (sorry Miami) and Gonzaga (sorry OSU).

Ward: Duke, Kansas, Miami, Ohio State

5. Who will win it all?

Lewenberg: I'm not exactly going out on a limb here… but Louisville wins it all, defeating Miami in the championship game. The Cardinals are experienced, well coached and a nightmare defensively. The Midwest region should provide them with a number of road blocks along the way (I'm especially concerned with Saint Louis) but in the end their elite backcourt and dominant defence should win out.

Strickland: I'm a huge University of Michigan fan. But they should make it as far as the Elite Eight. The champs on my radar are the Georgetown Hoyas, who will defeat the Louisville Cardinals. Otto Porter, Jr. is arguably the best all around player in the country. Coach John Thompson's III may not possess the intimidation factor of his legendary namesake father, but he does however sport a balanced, fairly disciplined team led by a Black guy named "Otto". Name another you know and I'll change my pick to Louisville!

Chisholm: Indiana. Hate to vote for a frontrunner but when this team is on they are darn close to unbeatable. Plus, Cody Zeller has been on a tear heading into the tournament, showing the kind of traits that you want out of your number one guy. He's the key to making it all work en route to a tournament victory, but I'm throwing my lot in with him without too much worry as the games get underway.

Watson: Indiana, they had an up and down season, but also played in the best conference in basketball in the Big 10. They did lose some questionable games, but finished strong enough down the stretch and have two potential Naismith candidates in Oladipo and Zeller.

Ward: Duke. If for no other reason that when there is no clear cut favourite I always go with the Blue Devils. They've lost some questionable games this year but I think coach K will have Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and the rest of his guys focused and ready for a deep run. I doubt it happens, but I'd love to see a Duke-Miami final pitting the ACC's gold standard against its upstarts.

The Five-Man Weave is made up of Raptors blogger Tim Chisholm ( @timpchisholm), TSN Radio 1050 Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050), Duane Watson (@sweetswatson) and Will Strickland (@WallStrizzle1) from TSN Radio 1050's 1-on-1 with Will and Duane, and NBA Editor Mitch Ward (@jmitchw).