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Roundtable: Helmsman sports staff makes tournament picks and discusses Tubby Smith

<p>Tubby talks to his assistant coaches during a game. The head coach is in his second season with the Tigers.</p>
Tubby talks to his assistant coaches during a game. The head coach is in his second season with the Tigers.

With the March Madness just beginning, The Daily Helmsman sports staff of reporters Caleb Hilliard, Patrick Graziosi, Christian Fowler, Abigail Warren and editor Jeremiah Graham gathered to make tournament picks and discuss the news regarding Tubby Smith.

Who do you think will make the Final Four, and who's your pick to win it all?

Hilliard: I am predicting that Villanova, Texas Tech, Michigan State and Duke will make the Final Four. Duke has a quick and relatively young squad that has the tools to claim the national championship.

Fowler: I have Villanova, Duke, North Carolina and Tennessee making the Final Four. Although this year is very unpredictable, I am counting on the coaching and experience of the blue bloods to pull through. I’ll go with Duke to win it all because I feel like Marvin Bagley will go into another zone, and the experience of Grayson Allen will be critical.

Graziosi: Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas, Villanova. I am going with Arizona to win it all. After all the rampant payment allegations during the season, it would be hilarious to see Arizona win it with a supposed paid player in freshman center Deandre Ayton.

Graham: I got Arizona, Michigan, Duke and Villanova in my Final Four. I think Duke, with the experience of Allen and the heady play of Trevon Duval, is best equipped to cut the nets down.

Warren: I have Tennessee, Villanova, Kansas and North Carolina in my Final Four with Kansas to win it all. I didn't pick the overall number one seed to win it, but I think Kansas has a pretty good shot.

Which dark horse team has the best chance to make a deep tournament run?

Hilliard: Arkansas could surprise some teams in the tournament. Head coach Mike Anderson and the Razorbacks have made the tournament three out of the last four years and are used to the competition. Freshman forward Daniel Gafford can make a difference in the tournament.

Fowler: I think the best dark horse candidate this year is Creighton. Led by Marcus Foster and Khryri Thomas, this Creighton team can be dangerous if they get hot. Foster and Thomas are two of the best scorers and the country, and they have what it takes to go deep.

Graziosi: Other than my Arizona selection, I feel that fifth-seeded West Virginia has a shot in the East. Coach Bob Huggins is an experienced coach, and senior guard Jevon Carter is the best perimeter defender in college basketball.

Graham: Arizona I think is an obvious choice with arguably the best player in the nation, Deandre Ayton, but Florida could be a team to watch. They have an experienced backcourt, and that could come in handy this time of year.

Warren: I think Texas Christian University and Texas can make a deep run. With Andrew Jones' diagnosis, I think Texas has emotion driving them, and TCU has had pretty big wins this year and won the National Invitational Tournament last year.

Which potential matchups (either team or individual) do you most look forward to seeing?

Hilliard: I want to see a rematch of the SEC Championship between Kentucky and Tennessee. Both teams truly do not like each other and they could matchup for an entertaining Elite Eight matchup.

Fowler: A national championship matchup between Duke and Arizona would have game of the year potential. What makes the thought of this game even more intriguing is Marvin Bagley facing off with Deandre Ayton. These two players are fighting for the number one spot in the draft and it would be two forces meeting on the court. 

Graziosi: A potential second-round battle of the Wildcats between Arizona and Kentucky would be must-see television. John Calipari has preached "toughness" all season, and now his young Kentucky squad will get a chance to show how tough they are against the dominant Ayton.

Graham: A potential matchup between Villanova and Alabama interests me. I want to see how Alabama guard Collin Sexton fares against Jalen Brunson of Villanova. 

Warren: I think Tennessee and Virginia will be a good matchup. Virginia is the number one seed and Tennessee has had one of their best seasons in years.

What's your reaction to Tubby Smith's firing?

Hilliard: Tubby's firing shows how much little leeway college coaches have. Simply put, the city and university were unhappy with him.

Fowler: It makes me excited for the future, especially if they land Penny. I think it is a good move for the city as a whole. 

Graziosi: My reaction is short and simple — cue the Hallelujah chorus.

Graham: I'm not surprised by the news at all. The writing was on the wall. Like I once said before, Tubby is a great man and a good coach, but he just never grasped the culture of Memphis and how important recruiting is to this city. I wish him the best but it was time for a change.

Warren: I was sad when I heard the news. I have said before I thought if Tubby was given one more year, they would be a tournament team and serious contender for the conference title. Now I worry that there might be another mass exodus.

Tubby talks to his assistant coaches during a game. The head coach is in his second season with the Tigers.

Jeremiah Graham

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