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Pete Gillen, who coached Providence to the Elite Eight and took Xavier and Virginia to the NCAA Tournament, is a college basketball analyst on CBS Sports Network.
Throughout the tournament, he appears on “NCAA March Madness 360” and “NCAA March Madness Bracket Breakdown.” As told to The Post’s Steve Serby:
It’s Coach K’s world, and we’re just passing through it.
Duke over North Carolina: The elite of the elite rivalries. Dean Smith was the king, and then all of a sudden he had somebody there challenging his kingdom a little bit. Coach K started slowly rising up and up and up, now he certainly has matched Dean’s great success, maybe surpassed it slightly. The young Coach K was very intense, he made coffee nervous, very bright guy, had great discipline from going to West Point, he was a tremendous communicator, he could recruit players. He adjusted to the game, he didn’t recruit the one-and-dones then all of a sudden, hey, he got the best of the one-and-dones. Some people don’t adjust. He’s Mr. Adjustable.
This could be the best game of the NCAA Tournament.
Duke has the best player on the court in Paolo Banchero, and the best coach. Duke has five players who can get their own shot, and they can hurt you with dribble penetration to the hoop. Center Mark Williams can get Armando Bacot in foul trouble. And Duke has an excellent backup center in Theo John, a transfer from Marquette.
Coach K does a great job mixing up his 2-3 zone defense as a change of pace, which gets North Carolina out of sync and slows down guards Caleb Love and R.J. Davis. The Duke zone cheats to Brady Manek, the Tar Heels’ best 3-point shooter. AJ Griffin can hurt you on all three levels. Banchero takes over the game and scores 25 points and shows why he could be the first overall pick in the NBA draft.
Duke 86, North Carolina 82
Kansas over Villanova: Kansas is my only Final Four pick left. That’s why I fired my consultant, Madame Zorba, and went back to my roots deep in Brooklyn and spoke with The Crew — Batman, Bullhead, Three-Fingered Willie, Ice, Slice, Dice and Mice — they were the cheerleaders. I know I nailed these picks.
Losing Justin Moore is a devastating blow for Villanova. Something has to give in this one because Kansas plays an uptempo style with a tremendous transition game and Villanova plays stingy defense.
Ochai Agbaji is the best player on the court. He’s not gonna get as many shots as he usually does, but scores inside and outside. He’s gonna get his points. Remy Martin slows down Collin Gillespie and holds him to 12 points.
Villanova can’t run with Kansas. A Bloody Nose Lane game. Moore could give Gillespie a rest. Villanova has to try to lull the Jayhawks to sleep and get them in a half-court game. But the Jayhawks’ two-headed center, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, hurt Villanova down low. When the Jayhawks rebound Villanova’s misses, they’re flying up the court, so the Wildcats’ fast-break D is crucial to keep the game close.
Kansas 44, Villanova 42
Duke over Kansas: Jeremy Roach is a so-called weak link for Duke, but he’s been playing great in the big games. When your point guard plays well, you play well, and Roach is playing as well as he can play right now. Banchero is too quick and too talented for anyone in the Kansas front court, and scores inside and outside and controls the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Williams outplays McCormack and Lightfoot because of his strength and athleticism and controls the paint with his defense.
Agbaji scores 25 points, but doesn’t get enough help. Martin is slowed by Coach K switching over in a 2-3 zone, forces up shots and only scores 12 points. The Blue Devils have five players in double figures. They’re no longer freshmen anymore, they’re more mature.
I think Jon Scheyer will do a good job. He learned from the master, played for the master. He’ll have an abundance of riches. Just don’t mess it up. It’s nice when you have the horses, you can run in a lot of Kentucky Derbies, right? I think Coach K will give him some advice and he’ll listen to him.
Roy Rogers used to ride off into the sunset in an old cowboy movie. Happy trails to Coach K as he rides off into retirement.
Duke 78, Kansas 72
And now a quick note on Shaheen Holloway and Saint Peter’s. Holloway will be perfect at Seton Hall. Kevin Willard did an excellent, excellent job, I think he’ll continue that tradition and even build on it.
As for Saint Peter’s, hats off to a small Catholic school in Jersey City, to all the players and the coaches. The ball on the ground in a playground, one little boy wants the ball and he goes for it, one little boy had to have it. They willed their way. North Carolina was too big, and Davis and Love were not bothered by their pressure.