There’s no denying just how talented and deep the four top-seeded teams are in this season’s NCAA men’s college basketball tournament.
Kentucky is the overall top seed, and may take home the trophy after its 87-71 rout of Iowa State in the third round of the South Regional last Saturday and advanced to the Sweet 16, while North Carolina was equally impressive in its 87-73 blitz of Creighton in the Midwest Regional on Sunday.
Michigan State held off stubborn St. Louis on Sunday 65-61 in the West Regional, and Syracuse manhandled Kansas State, 75-59, in the East Regional on Saturday.
The title game won’t be held until April 2 in New Orleans, but it’s a good bet one of these schools will cut down the nets.
Kentucky (34-2) is seeking its eighth banner, and is the odds-on favorite based on having the most-talented squad in the land. It also doesn’t hurt to have the best big man in freshman center/power forward Anthony Davis, who poured in 15 points with a game-best 12 rebounds.
Davis didn’t lead the Wildcats in scoring. That honor went to guard Marquis Teague (game-high 24 points with seven assists).
The Wildcats shot 55.4 percent from the field, and hit 10 of 20 from the three-point line including Doron Lamb (16 points) canning five of seven.
Kentucky carved out a 21-11 lead with 11:27 left in the first half, and led 38-27 after 20 minutes.
Iowa State tied it at 42-42 with about four minutes having elapsed in the second half, but the Wildcats roared back and went on a 30-10 run over the next nine minutes.
The Tar Heels (31-5) are seeking their sixth national title and third under Head Coach Roy Williams.
If the Wildcats don’t claim the trophy, the Tar Heels, who boast a front court of Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson, are the likely choice.
Guard Kendall Marshall set the tone for North Carolina scoring 18 points, including 13 at the half when North Carolina opened a 43-35 cushion.
North Carolina moved in front 18-12 with 11:49 left in the opening half, and 34-24 with 6:50 showing. When Barnes hit a three-pointer with 5:29 left, it became 39-24.
Henson’s layup and free-throw with 15:43 showing made it 57-42, Zeller (11 points with six caroms) scored with 7:54 remaining as the Tar Heels moved ahead 73-56, and a trey from Barnes (17 points with five rebounds) and 4:11 left made it 81-63.
Michigan State and St. Louis were involved in a slow-down affair, much to the liking of each team.
Michigan State’s best player is center Draymond Green (16 points and a game-best 13 rebounds), but Keith Appling poured in a game-high 19 points, while guard Brandon Wood (10 points) had eight at the half as the Spartans (29-7) darted in front 26-21 at the half.
The Spartans led 33-26 with 15:21 left in the second half, and pulled ahead 45-34 with 11:42 remaining.
St. Louis charged back with a 12-4 run and closed to within 49-46 and 5:28 left, and made it interesting with another late spurt.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.