Now that pro football season is over, I get a chance to focus on my favorite sport: basketball.
While college hoops is my favorite, I've even found myself watching the NBA lately. The emergence of Cleveland's LeBron James and Miami's Dwayne Wade have made it a little more interesting. But, my true love is the college game, so I decided to give you some of my top performers and a few predictions for this year in basketball.
March Madness is just around the corner and several teams appear ready to make a run at a Final Four appearance.
As always, the Atlantic Coast Conference is loaded and if the brackets align they could have three teams in the Final Four. So here are my picks.
North Carolina - Like most everyone, I think the Tar Heels are the most talented team in the country. The emergence of freshman Marvin Williams inside makes them extremely dangerous. Plus, Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants and Jawad Williams give them loads of experience.
Wake Forest - Good guard play is a key ingredient come tourney time. No one has a better point guard than Skip Prosser. Sophomore Chris Paul runs this club and may be the best clutch player in the nation.
Also, they are balanced, with three players averaging 14.6 or more points.
Louisville - This was a close call between Kentucky and the Cardinals, but I chose Rick Pitino's club. Louisville is loaded with athletes, and like Wake Forest they have good balance. Five players average double figures, with three players scoring 14.3 or more per contest.
Pittsburgh - Don't laugh. I always try to pick a sleeper. Two years ago I chose a decent Syracuse team that was only a three seed and they won it all. Illinois, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and Boston College have all been good, but I'm going with a sleeper in the Panthers. Chevy Troutman seems to always come up huge in big games. They have solid point guard play in Carl Krauser and a good big man in Chris Taft.
Chris Paul (Wake Forest) PG - "Mr. Clutch" Paul averages 14.6 points, 6.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.4 steals (talk about doing it all). Plus, he shoots 83 percent from the free throw line and 51.5 percent from 3-point range.
J.J. Redick (Duke) G - A lot of people do not give this guy the credit he deserves. Redick is the best pure shooter I've seen in my lifetime. He has improved dramatically over the last two seasons. He leads the Blue Devils with 22.3 points. He is shooting 93 percent from the charity stripe and 42 percent from 3-point range.
Ryan Gomes (Providence) F - Does not get the exposure some other top players do, but I love this guy. He pours in 21.8 points and nine boards per game. Recently scored 37 points in a double overtime loss to Connecticut.
Andrew Bogut (Utah) C - Utes have won 17 straight games, and Bogut has been dynamite. He is averaging 20.5 points., while pulling down 11.9 boards per game. He also shoots a sizzling 64 percent from the floor.
Sheldon Williams (Duke) C - I picked two Duke players on the first team but did not pick them for the Final Four. They really only have one other top player aside from Redick and Williams (Guard Daniel Ewing). Williams has been a monster for the Blue Devils. He is among the nations best rebounders (11.9) and shot blockers (3.8). He also manages to score 16.3 points.
Travis Diener (Marquette)
Ike Diogu (Arizona State)
Hakim Warrick (Syracuse)
Sean May (North Carolina)
Ray Felton (North Carolina)
Deron Williams (Illinois)
Wayne Simien (Kansas)
Luther Head (Illinois)
Daniel Ewing (Duke)
Eric Williams (Wake Forest)
Daniel Gibson (Texas) G - 14.5 points, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals
Rudy Gay (UConn) G-F - 11.3 points and 6.2 rebounds
Jordan Farmar (UCLA) PG - 13.3 points, 5.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds
Marvin Williams (UNC) F - 11.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 51 percent FG and 83 percent FT
Toney Douglas (Auburn) G - 18 points and 5.3 rebounds
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