Final Four Preview: Which Two Teams Will Meet in Monday’s Championship?
The 2016 Final Four is about 24 hours away and it's set to tip-off at NRG Arena in Houston Saturday evening with two high-flying match-ups that shouldn't disappoint.
The first game is match-up of two two-seeds, Villanova and Oklahoma. Villanova upset one-seeded Kansas Jayhawks en route to their first Final Four since 2009. The Wildcats finally got over the hump and did it with Kris Jenkins battling foul trouble in their game against Kansas. Villanova is a team led by upperclassmen and is balanced. Jenkins, Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono all led the Wildcats with 13 points, while Daniel Ochefu scored 10 points. Jenkins and Hart are juniors, while Ochefu and Arcidiacono are seniors. In Villanova's win over Kansas, the Wildcats limited Perry Ellis to five rebounds and four points and didn't allow Wayne Seldon, Jr., to knock down a single three-pointer. Villanova will have a big task in front of themselves when they meet Oklahoma's Buddy Hield, who is having a sensational tournament. The Wildcats are a well-coached team led by Jay Wright and are very good defensively.
The Sooners are led by the guy named Buddy Hield and on Twitter, people are using the hashtag, #BuddyBuckets every time he scores. Hield scored 37 points on 8-of-13 shooting from three-point range and was 13-of-20 from the field in the Sooners' 12-point win over the Ducks in the Elite Eight. Hield has been getting Steph Curry-like attention in the tournament by scoring 27, 36, 17 and 37 points in four games so far. The Sooners, like Villanova, are experienced. Hield is a senior along with Ryan Spangler. Khadeem Lattin is a sophomore and is one player to watch as well for Oklahoma. The Sooners are coached by Lon Kruger.
The pick - Villanova 71, Oklahoma 66. They always say defense wins championships, right? And Villanova is very good defensively.
The other game is a battle of two ACC teams, North Carolina and Syracuse. This game is a match-up of two programs that have been hot water with the NCAA. UNC is going through an investigation, while Syracuse sat out last year's tournament due to a postseason ban.
The Tar Heels are the only one-seed remaining and are experienced with several seniors. Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige are two guards for UNC that love to score. The final scores of UNC's tournament games have looked like they've been blowouts. In the first round, UNC knocked off Florida Gulf Coast, 83-67, and then beat Providence, 85-66, in the second round. In the Sweet 16, the Tar Heels won 101-86 over Indiana and then won 88-74 over Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.
Syracuse, meanwhile, was a team that many didn't think would even make the tournament after the Orange had lost five of six. But Jim Boeheim has rallied and led his team to the Final Four as a 10-seed and is the tournament's Cinderella, if you must say. The Orange won over Dayton in the first round, then dodged a bullet and didn't have to play Michigan State and won easily over Middle Tennessee State in the second round. In the Sweet 16, Syracuse rallied to defeat Gonzaga and had to do the same thing two days later when they erased a 16-point deficit to defeat Virginia. Malachi Richardson is, a freshman, and has been the Orange's stud along with senior Michael Gbinije. Senior Trevor Cooney and Tyler Lydon, a freshman, are two other players to watch for the Orange. Syracuse doesn't quit and is familiar with UNC after playing the Tar Heels twice already this season. UNC won two close games, 84-73 and 75-70.
The pick - UNC 83, Syracuse 77. UNC wins, but it's close. Johnson and Paige's senior seasons last at least one more game.
Villanova and Oklahoma tip things off at 5:09 CDT Saturday with UNC and Syracuse to follow. The game's are on TBS, not CBS this year.