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Lakers share their NCAA basketball tournament predictions

March 15, 2011 | 12:56 pm


As Matt Barnes sat by his locker before the Lakers' game Monday against the Orlando Magic, Shannon Brown peered over his shoulder.

He appeared eager to hear what Barnes' prediction entailed for Thursday's first-round matchup featuring UCLA and Michigan State in the NCAA tournament's southeast region. The two have vested interest in the outcome for reasons beyond wanting to ensure a strong and healthy bracket. With Barnes and Brown alums of UCLA and Michigan State, respectively, the two have placed an undisclosed financial bet on who will win.

Don't expect there to be too much trash talking, though.

"Both those teams are a little bit further down," said Barnes, referring to the Bruins' seventh seed and the Spartans' 10th seed. "It's really a battle between us."

Below is a take from various Lakers on the field.

Ron Artest, Lakers forward, St. John's alum

Final Four: I don't care about anybody else. St. John's will make the Final Four. We're going to take it from there.

On St. John's: They're doing well. They're back in the tournament. I haven't gotten a chance to catch many games but I'm looking forward to seeing them in the Final Four.

On 11 Big East teams in the tournament: That's crazy. That's crazy. I didn't know. I have to look at the bracket now. Now I'm interested.

Matt Barnes, Lakers guard, UCLA alum

Final Four prediction: To be honest I haven't watched enough to give a prediction. But I'll say Duke, Ohio State, Pitt and Kansas. All one seeds

On UCLA versus Michigan State: That's a very battle- and tournament-tested team. They have their hands full, but anything in the tournament can happen. You just have to go out there and play basketball. We'll see. For the first time, I got to a few games and I try to keep up as much as I can. I'm hoping they can do well. We did better than people thought we would do this year. I just hope they continue to improve and get better. I hope they make a nice little run. The first round is always wide open and so is the second round, so you hope they'll stay healthy and do the best they can."

Steve Blake, Lakers guard, Maryland alum

Final Four: San Diego State, because I can't pick Duke. I just can't. I'll also take Kansas State, St. John's for Ron and Ohio State. I think Kansas State will win it. Frank Martin was my head coach in high school. I've seen them play and beat Kansas and Texas. I like the way they play. Frank gets them to play hard. It starts on defense. He works them hard. They don't take any seconds off. They share the ball and have a really good point guard. They have a chance to win it all.

Jim Cleamons, Lakers assistant coach, Ohio State alum

Final Four: I'm of the school of thought that you don't talk about it. You hope they just go out and play. I know people that as soon as they start bragging about their alma mater, they end up losing. I'll keep my mouth shut. I don't even watch [Ohio State] play. With the time difference, most of their games are happening when we're playing. I'll just keep my fingers crossed and hope they do well.

On Ohio State: They've done some things pretty well. The knock on them from what I've been reading is they don't have a deep bench. In the tournament, you don't know what's going to happen with foul difficulties. If there's one guy who goes down, who can you depend upon. Injury-wise, you have to be lucky enough to get through it. Let's hope they do it."

Devin Ebanks, Lakers forward, West Virginia alum

Final Four: Kansas, Duke, Ohio State and it's a tossup between Pitt and Florida.

On West Virginia: I got them going to the Sweet 16. If they put it together, they should do better than that. But for now, Sweet 16. We've done pretty well. They struggled at times but for the most part they had a pretty successful season.

On 11 Big East teams making the tournament: That's crazy. The Big East is competitive. I think you'll see more teams get further than last year, especially with 11. Somebody is going to play well.

On the tournament expanding to 68 teams: It's a lot more games for other teams. I don't know. I guess more basketball is more fun. But having 96 teams is way too long of a season. Some guys are not used to playing that many games.

Derek Fisher, Lakers guard, Arkansas-Little Rock alum

On his alma mater's play-in game Tuesday against UNC-Ashville: [Tuesday's] game is huge. Playing not quite in all the way, which I don't really understand what 64 through 68 really means. But I'm excited for them and happy for the program. I'll definitely be watching. I wish it was one time zone closer and then I'd promise you I'd be there.

Lamar Odom, Lakers forward, Rhode Island alum

On who will win the title: I hope St. John's wins the whole thing. The one thing about the tournament is they have a chance. Everyone has a chance. I think they have the coaching staff to make a run and get something done. I haven't watched too many games, but early on in the year they were playing with great energy. They were really getting coached. Anytime you have an assistant like Gene Keady helps. I think the basketball itself is great. People love this time of year. I love to see all the buzzer beaters and everyone playing hard.

I'm a little biased with the Big East. I like to watch all these kids that got us ready as far as the national team. We played against some of the college kids. I watch Syracuse. Kemba Walker with Connecticut is playing great. I'm a big fan of Jimmer [Fredette]. It's a good time for basketball right now.

Luke Walton, Lakers forward, Arizona alum

On Arizona: I went to the game against USC, but they didn't look too good that game. The [Derrick] Williams kid was hurt. I check their scores. That's about it. We won another Pac-10 title so it's a great year for us on our way back to the top where we belong. It's been rough since Coach O. [Lute Olson] left. It's nice to have some stability in the program again. I thought it'd take a little longer [to bounce back], but Coach Miller has done a great job over there. Supposedly he has another great recruiting class coming in, so we're extremely happy with where the program is at right now.

Will Arizona win the title? Absolutely (smiles). 100%.

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Ohio State Buckeyes players huddle up before the game against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second round of the 2011 Big Ten tournament. CreditL: Brian Spurlock, U.S. Presswire