Chalk It Up

The two siblings both predicted Duke and North Carolina to make it to the Final Four, but the question is who will join them in our fourth annual Shield Final Four challenge


David Tibbetts

A new competition in a long history of sibling rivalry has taken over the Tibbetts’ household.

Steven and Kristen Tibbetts, sports editor and staff reporter

For the fourth straight year, two members of the Shield are going head to head in a battle of college basketball predictions. Returning to the ring is senior sports editor Steven Tibbetts, who took home a tie last year. His challenger this year is his sister, junior staff reporter Kristen Tibbetts, who will be joining the competition for the first time this year. Whoever can correctly predict the most Final Four teams will earn this year’s title and eternal bragging rights. Now for the predictions.


DUKE: Duke is the most obvious choice out there to make the Final Four. In fact,  I believe they will win the whole tournament. Of course, it starts with Zion Williamson, the freshman phenom taking over the world of sports and his 22 points a game on 69 percent shooting to go along with an average of nine rebounds. What people tend to forget is that Duke has two other freshmen, leading scorer RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish, who look like they will be lottery picks in the NBA draft. Say Williamson has a rare off-night, Barrett and Reddish alone have enough talent to take Duke past any team they might face through the Elite Eight. And if Williamson stays healthy and on his game, it is hard to imagine Michigan State, or any other team in the East Region, taking down the Blue Devils.

NORTH CAROLINA: I’m sticking with the Tar Heels in the Midwest Region despite getting burned by them last year when they lost in the second round to Texas A&M. Two of North Carolina’s top three scorers, seniors Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye, have made it to the Final Four twice before. This time they will be aided by freshman Coby White, who is leading the team in assists per game with an average of four while also putting up 16 points per game. This team’s experience making deep runs into the tournament should help push the Tar Heels past potential matchups against perennial powerhouse Kansas and a rematch against Kentucky, who the Tar Heels lost to 80-72 back in December. I expect North Carolina to make it all the way to the finals this year.

Duke is the most obvious choice out there of teams making the Final Four and the team I believe will win the whole tournament.

— Steven Tibbetts

GONZAGA: The West Region was a tough one for me to decide on with Gonzaga, Michigan, and Texas Tech all with a solid shot at reaching the Final Four. In the end, however, I decided to go with the best offense in the country, Gonzaga, over the two best defenses in the nation, Michigan and Texas Tech. Gonzaga’s offense, led by junior Rui Hachimura and his 20 points per game, will make it tough for any upset contender to keep pace with the Bulldogs throughout the first two rounds. The Bulldogs will benefit from an easier Sweet Sixteen matchup while the Wolverines and Red Raiders will have to battle it out against each other. And in the Elite Eight, good defense will fall to better offense and Gonzaga will be headed to Minneapolis.

TENNESSEE: The South Region is definitely between Tennessee and Virginia. Both teams were upset before the sweet sixteen last year, but the difference is that Tennessee was beaten by a team who went on to make the Final Four while Virginia was the first team to lose to a 16 seed. For Virginia, I think getting upset early in the tournament is very possible to happen again. The Cavaliers like to play at a very slow tempo, which makes them more susceptible to losing to worse teams. On the other hand, Tennessee’s much faster pace of play has helped them dominate lower level teams. The Vols worse loss of the season is to Auburn, a five seed in the tournament, so it is difficult to imagine them losing until the Sweet Sixteen at the earliest. Once there, all it would take is a couple of good games by leading scorer Grant Williams, and Tennessee should be on its way to the Final Four.


DUKE: As unfortunate as it may be, I cannot picture a future without Duke in this year’s Final Four. Even though some experts believe they will fall to the #2 seeded Michigan State (or even the #4 ranked Virginia Tech), the Blue Devils have been impressive all season. Even though four of their starters are freshmen (Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Tre Jones and Cam Reddish), Duke has not seemed to have any problem assimilating their players into the team. Not only are they my most confident Final Four pick, but I believe they have the best chance of winning.

NORTH CAROLINA: Even though they have suffered a few upsets early on in the regular season, the Tar Heels have proven to be one of the major powerhouses this year. They’ve already beaten Duke, my number one pick, twice and although I do not think they will win the championship overall, I believe we’ll see them in the finals, or at least the Final Four.

TEXAS TECH: Contrary to popular opinion, I do not see Gonzaga winning the West. I have little faith in Michigan this season, but Texas Tech upsetting the #1 seeded Zags is definitely not out of the question, even if they will get destroyed by Duke before the finals.

VIRGINIA: Just as I started with the team I was most confident in, I will end my predictions with Virginia winning the South. Even though choosing a #1 seeded team is not necessarily a risky move, the #2 ranked Tennessee has been a popular choice. However, up until the Elite Eight, I cannot imagine Virginia facing any difficulty. After that, they will either play Tennessee or possibly Villanova, last year’s champions. The Villanova Wildcats’ underwhelming performance throughout the regular season does not make them much of a threat, so while it will be a tough game, all Virginia has to do is clinch a win against Tennessee in the Elite Eight.