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Elite 8: Can Notre Dame Pull Off Another Marian Miracle?

Gonzaga’s 74-62 win increased Obama’s deficit, but different rules could give him a second chance to win his bracket. Meanwhile “Our Mother,” translated as Notre Dame, will try to upset the overwhelming favorite Kentucky just as they did when they ended UCLA’s 88-game win streak (see photo).

Our Elite 8 picks in the table below are Wisconsin, Kentucky, Louisville, and Gonzaga.

Wisconsin over Arizona (6:09 Saturday). President Obama needs a rule change and an Arizona win tonight to have a chance for a winning bracket after all. We have the flagship university from Scott Walker’s state defeating Arizona and ending Obama’s chance to win even with new bracket rules, but it is a close call. Our studies have shown that Al McGuire was spot-on when he said you need 3 1/2 stars to win a championship, and both teams have perfect championship rosters based on that criterion:

Wisconsin 3 1/2 Stars Value Add, NBA%, Ht Arizona 3 1/2 Stars Value Add, NBA%, Ht
Kaminsky, Frank 44 3, 79%, 7-foot-0 McConnell, T.J. 4 17, 7%, 6-foot-1
Hayes, Nigel 10 31, 28%, 6-foot-8 Hollis-Jefferson, Rondae 23 74, 61%, 6-foot-7
Dekker, Sam 15 69, 71%, 6-foot-9 Johnson, Stanley 5 77, 90%, 6-foot-6
Gasser, Josh 21 190, 5%, 6-foot-4 Tarczewski, Kaleb 35 542, 14%, 7-foot-0

Only a few teams a year have either three top-100 players, or a roster with three future NBA players, and both teams do. We pick Wisconsin because each of their stars is just a little better than their Arizona counterpart. Wisconsin’s top player is Frank Kaminsky, ranked as the 3rd-best player at www.valueaddbasketball.com and we gave him a 79% chance to make it in the NBA at the outset of the season. TJ McConnell is almost as good as the 17th-best player, though he probably doesn’t have the athleticism to make the NBA.

Nigel Hayes (31st) ranks higher than Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (74th, which is still top 2% of all players), but Hollis-Jefferson is a much better NBA prospect (61% chance vs. 28% chance of making the NBA). Likewise Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker is just a little higher ranked than Arizona’s Stanley Johnson (69th to 77th, both top 2% of all players) but Johnson is an even better NBA prospect. However, Dekker was playing hurt a good bit of the year and is playing at another level.

While Wisconsin has a slight edge when matching the three stars, they have an even bigger edge in the “half-star” support player that McGuire said each team needed instead of a fourth star to have to hog the ball. Josh Gasser is a great guard at 6-foot-4 who can help try to contain McConnell. Kaleb Tarczewski gives Arizona a good 7-footer to help offset the bigger Badgers, especially Kaminsky.

While Breitbart Sports has only widened its lead over President Obama’s Barack-et since eliminating it last week, an Obama supporter has pushed me on a rule change. Rather than going by the most wins, he has pushed me to compare the two brackets based on the ESPN scoring system which gives people a great chance to catch-up by giving 10 points a win in the first round, then doubling it every round. If we change the rules to match ESPN, then our the Breitbart Sports published bracket is still in the top few percent of the country at 710 points and well ahead of Obama’s 600 points. However, that scoring gives Obama a chance to gain 160 points to pass Breitbart Sports if Arizona wins this game and then Duke beats Gonzaga Sunday night.

Kentucky over Notre Dame (8:49 pm Saturday): The good news for Notre Dame is that they also have the three-and-a-half stars a champion needs in top-100 players Jerian Grant, Demetrius Jackson and Pat Connaughton. The bad news is that Kentucky is the first team to ever have seven top 100 players, and six of them are taller than all three of the Irish stars. That puts a lot of pressure on Notre Dame’s “half-star,” 6-foot-10 Zach Auguste.

The odds seem long, but Notre Dame does have three things going for them. Grant (ranked 7th at www.valueaddbasketball.com) plays the most important position at point guard and is better than either of the Harrison twins, and he handled the second-tallest team (Florida State) fairly easily. Notre Dame also has the ultimate claim to “Hail Mary” shots if they can keep it close, being named after Mary by a French priest upon its founding, and pulling some historic upsets over the years including over No. 1 Alabama in football in the early 1970s and ending the longest winning streak in college basketball as told by the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

For the reasons we pick Louisville over Michigan State and Gonzaga over Duke, see the separate post.

Team Next Wins Breitbart Correct Points Obama Correct Points
56 42 710 37 600
Wisconsin 6:09 PM 3 4 3 70 3 3 70
Arizona 6:09 PM 3 3 3 70 4 3 70
Kentucky 8:49 PM 3 6 3 70 6 3 70
Notre Dame 8:49 PM 3 3 3 70 3 3 70
Louisville Sun 2 PM 3 2 2 30 2 2 30
Michigan St. Sun 2 PM 3 1 1 10 1 1 10
Duke Sun 5 PM 3 3 3 70 4 3 70
Gonzaga Sun 5 PM 3 4 3 70 1 1 10
Arkansas Done 1 1 1 10 1 1 10
Butler Done 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cincinnati Done 1 0 0 0 1 1 10
Dayton Done 1 0 0 0 1 1 10
Georgetown Done 1 1 1 10 2 1 10
Georgia St. Done 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Iowa Done 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kansas Done 1 1 1 10 2 1 10
Maryland Done 1 2 1 10 2 1 10
NC State Done 2 1 1 10 1 1 10
North Carolina Done 2 2 2 30 2 2 30
Northern Iowa Done 1 1 1 10 0 0 0
Ohio St. Done 1 1 1 10 1 1 10
Oklahoma Done 2 2 2 30 2 2 30
Oregon Done 1 1 1 10 1 1 10
San Diego St. Done 1 1 1 10 1 1 10
UAB Done 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
UCLA Done 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Utah Done 2 2 2 30 1 1 10
Villanova Done 1 5 1 10 5 1 10
Virginia Done 1 3 1 10 3 1 10
West Virginia Done 2 1 1 10 0 0 0
Wichita St. Done 2 2 2 30 1 1 10
Xavier Done 2 1 1 10 0 0 0

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