It's not difficult to guess who Ravens wideout **Derrick Mason** thinks is going to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship this weekend, but we at BaltimoreRavens.com decided to ask anyway.
"Sparty!" he shouted back with a big smile on his face.
Of course, it only took a split second for the Michigan State alumnus and diehard basketball fan to put on his trash-talking pants. Mason began to offer reasons why the Spartans could upset the mighty University of Connecticut Saturday night, and then the winner of Villanova and North Carolina Monday evening.
"It's easy," he confidently said. "They are a very disciplined team. They will out-work any team in the NCAA. That's why they're in the Final Four. They can get other teams to play at their pace, and the way Michigan State plays defense, you're forced to use up all of the shot clock."
Perhaps he has a point. Last week, Michigan State upset Louisville, and it was in their typical fashion. The Cardinals play at a frenetic pace, hustling up and down the court to out-run and out-jump their opponents. The Spartans wouldn't let them do that. They simply milked the shot clock on their end and played tight defense on Louisville's athletic wingmen.
"You saw last week when Louisville was frustrated, because they couldn't get a good shot," Mason explained. "They make you play at a pace where the score is going to be around the 50s or 60s. That's not Louisville's game. They wanted a game in the 70s and 80s."
Mason also praised longtime Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, who has taken his team to five final fours since he took over the program in 1995.
"They also have the best coach in college basketball," Mason continued. "Hey, he's even got the makeup of a football coach. His teams play physical and hard-nosed basketball, and it would be the same thing as if he was."
As for the Spartans' next opponent - en route to what he thinks will be their second NCAA title - his pick is Villanova. The Wildcats must get past UNC, a team that has been blowing out their competition for the most part.
To get there, the third-seeded 'Nova shockingly defeated the rough and tough Pitt Panthers on a last-second, three-quarter court drive and layup from guard Scottie Reynolds.
"My sleeper is 'Nova!" he receiver exclaimed. "I didn't have them from the beginning, but they're the hottest team in the nation. It wouldn't surprise to me at all. Hey, Rollie Massimino did it to Georgetown back in '85. Why not now?
As a Carolina graduate, that hurts, Mase.
Anyway, Mason's final prediction is Michigan State 69 - Villanova 65.
In other NCAA tournament-related news, the Bracket Battle with offensive tackle **Joe Reitz** has officially come to an end, no matter how our teams do.
The scoring system of 1 point for Round 1, 2 for Round 2, 3 for Round 3, 4 for Round 4, 8 for the Final Four and 10 for the Championship puts him ahead of me 68-58 at this point. I only have one Final Four team (UNC) and he's got two (UNC and Villanova).
Looks like I'll be running the gasser to the very public ridicule of many of our Ravens players. Bummer.
We'll break down where we went wrong on our brackets - posted below - next week.