Not a good time for my mental health: March Madness lends itself to Carolina blues. I suppose I should congratulate the Tar Heels, much as it pains me. None of their tournament opponents could put together 40 minutes of good play against them, and they all had bad nights when it came to outside shooting. That's more than a coincidence; that's good... defense? Apparently.
UNC didn't need to show greatness to win it all, which makes them a very frustrating kind of champion. But they were excellent in one facet: the ability to wear the other team down. (In this regard, they remind me of Wisconsin. Except Carolina uses a speedy pace and a variety of scoring options, while the Badgers suck the life out of the game with their awfulness. They're the Toby Flenderson of hoops.)
Sure, the Heels managed to avoid having to play Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Louisville in the Year of the Big East, but their path still wasn't easy. Super athletic LSU? Gonzaga's pro-ready starters? Blake Griffin and Oklahoma? Villanova, faster, better at rebounding, and with a V for Vendetta? A rematch in Detroit against Michigan State, which was essentially a road game? They earned it.
After my prognostication skills peaked a year ago, I fell, and fell hard. For the 2009 Final Four, I predicted Michigan State correctly, but was off on Texas and UCLA, and was way off on champion Notre Dame (which made the NIT Final Four, but couldn't even win that). It's a somewhat pointless guessing game -- coaches may leave, recruits may go elsewhere, and you can't know for sure which players will declare for the draft, transfer, or get injured. But hey, it's my guessing game.
Even with Ed Davis saying he'll return, the Heels will leave the top tier and rebuild next year, which is good news for everyone else. Duke may top an even weaker ACC, but I still don't see them as Final Four caliber. So who will ascend to the NCAA's lame default city of Indianapolis in 2010? One year in advance, I'm calling it: Syracuse, Ohio State, Kansas, and Purdue.
Next year's champ is... the Syracuse Orange. The citrus industry rejoices. Jonny "Quest" Flynn makes headbands stylish again. Eric "Thug Life" Devendorf endears himself to a skeptical nation. And coach Jim "In the Zone" Boeheim proves he can win a title without Carmelo Anthony.