The stage is set and the Madness of March is coming to an end. There have been a multitude of upsets and buzzer beaters. There has been blood, sweat and tears shed on the courts. This year’s tournament has been everything we could have dreamed and hoped for.
However, it’s not over yet. North Carolina, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Villanova have all punched their ticket to Houston for what is going to be an unforgettable Final Four.
It seems like every year Villanova wins close to 30 games, dominates all of the lesser opponents in their conference, and claims a 1 or 2 seed. And despite the high expectations for the Wildcats going into the tournament, they always seem to choke before reaching the Sweet Sixteen.
So even though they earned a 2 seed this year, I didn’t expect them to make any kind of splash in this year’s tournament. Boy was I wrong. After breezing through UNC Asheville and Iowa, they really turned some heads with their 23-point thumping of Miami in the Sweet Sixteen Round.
These were impressive victories, but everyone expected their run to come to a screeching halt against the #1 overall seeded Kansas Jayhawks. This game turned into one of the better games in the tournament up to this point. Jay Wright coached the Wildcats to a 64-59 win over the Jayhawks, thus busting millions of brackets.
Villanova was able to pull off this upset with stifling defense and clutch free-throw shooting to close out the game. The Wildcats will face the second seeded Oklahoma Sooners in Nova’s first Final Four since 2009. Villanova will attempt to do something that no other team has come close to doing, STOP OKLAHOMA’S BUDDING STAR, BUDDY HIELD.
These 2 teams battled in December, resulting in a 17 point win for the Sooners. A lot has changed since then, and Villanova looks like a team on a mission.
This is the Oklahoma Sooners fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance, and their first Final Four appearance since 2002. Head coach Lon Kruger is yet again showing why he deserves to be in the conversation for top coaches in college basketball.
Up to this point in the tournament, Oklahoma has made it look easy with double digit wins in every game except VCU in which they squeaked by with a four point victory. Many questioned whether the Sooners could keep up with the athleticism of the Oregon Ducks, but they proved many wrong with an 80-68 win.
When talking about this Oklahoma team, it’s impossible not to bring up their star shooting guard and Wooden finalist, Buddy Hield. Through the first four games of the tournament, Hield is putting up offensive numbers only matched by Stephen Curry. Can the Sooners rely on Hield to continue putting up these ridiculous numbers?
The logical answer would be no, but Buddy has been doing this all year long and no team has been able to contain him in the tournament thus far, despite basing their defensive strategy on stopping him.
Although Oklahoma took down Villanova easily in their previous meeting, I would expect a much closer game this go round, but still another spectacular performance from none other than Buddy Hield.
The underdog. How is it that Syracuse, a 10 seed, and a team that many believed didn’t even deserve to make the tournament, end up here?
For the first time in NCAA tournament history, a 10 seed has made it to the Final Four. Syracuse, in fact, were at 400/1 odds when the tournament began to win the whole thing and now they are just two wins away. I don’t think many people expected the Orange to even make it out of the first round (heck I picked Dayton to beat them myself.)
But that is why they play the game. Syracuse waxed Dayton off the court in the first round and then destroyed a Middle Tennessee team in the Round of 32 that had just knocked off the two seed of the region in Michigan State.
They faced their first test in the Sweet 16 and beat a hot Gonzaga team who had just upsetted third-seeded University of Utah. Then the Elite 8 came around and surely there is no way the 10th seeded, 19-13 Syracuse Orange could beat the 1 seeded ACC runner-up Virginia Cavaliers . . . right?
Well sure enough that is exactly what they did. Down 14 at halftime I doubt anyone even thought Syracuse had a chance in the second half. I really want to know what Jim Boeheim said at halftime because a surge in the second half brought the Orange to victory after being down by 16.
Led by freshman Malachi Richardson, Syracuse came out on top and are on absolute fire heading into the Final Four. They will face North Carolina in an ACC matchup for a shot at making history.
The favorite. Roy Williams and the Tar Heels are the only one seed remaining in the tournament. This is their 19th Final Four appearance in program history and UNC is hungry to win another title.
It has been 7 years since their last National Championship and in the eyes of a Tar Heel that is way too long. UNC was the 3rd highest picked team to win it all in ESPN’s tournament challenge after winning the ACC regular season title and the ACC tournament.
North Carolina came into the tournament focused and determined to win a title and it is hard to bet against them right now. After a rough first half in the opening round versus 16 seeded FGCU, the rest of the tourney has been smooth sailing for the Tar Heels.
Essentially, UNC has dominated its way to the Final Four beating their opponents by an average of 16 points. Freshman Brice Johnson and Senior Marcus Paige have led the charge as they pounded through FGCU, Providence, Indiana, and Notre Dame. North Carolina has done exactly what they should do and what they are expected to do.
Now the test comes in the Final Four and being able to finish what they have started. With this Final Four appearance, Roy Williams is now in fourth place for most appearances in the Final Four by a coach. They will have to face a hot Syracuse team in which they beat twice in the regular season.
Prepare for an awesome ACC showdown in Houston when these teams take the court.