The field of 68 is down to just four teams who will battle it out for a national championship in Houston starting Saturday night. It has been a fun tournament so far with some major upsets, buzzer beaters, overtime games, and incredible performances by the best that Division I Men’s basketball has to offer. Here is my preview and prediction for this year’s Final Four.
April 2nd, 6:09 PM: (2) Villanova Wildcats vs (2) Oklahoma Sooners (+2)
Oklahoma enters this game as slight underdogs despite their 23 point beatdown of Villanova back in December. A main reason why is because a lot has changed since then, most recently Villanova’s upset of #1 overall seed Kansas in the Elite 8. After back to back disappointing tournament appearances, which include losses in the 2nd round as a 2 seed in 2014 and as a 1 seed last year, Villanova finally broke through this year to reach it’s first Final Four since losing to eventual champion North Carolina in 2009. The Wildcats have a balanced scoring attack that features five players averaging double digit points per game, led by Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Ryan Arcidiacono.
On the other end of the court, the Oklahoma Sooners feature the best player left in this year’s tournament. Buddy Hield was second in the nation in scoring this season at 25 PPG, and has been even better in the tournament by averaging 29 PPG. However, the senior guard was held to just 17 points in Oklahoma’s win over Villanova back in December. Hield also has an excellent supporting cast that features Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins. Both these teams have momentum right now but Hield is on a Stephen Curry-like tear throughout this tournament that reminds me of Kemba Walker in 2014. He will lead the Sooners to victory and a berth Monday’s national championship game. Oklahoma wins 74-69.
April 2nd, 8:49 PM: (10) Syracuse Orange vs (1) North Carolina (-9)
It seems like every year there is a team that people think should not have even made the tournament that makes a run to the Final Four. This year’s version is Syracuse, who became the first 10 seed in NCAA tournament history to make the Final Four after a stunning upset of 1 seed Virginia in the Elite 8. The vaunted 2-3 zone that Syracuse plays on defense has the potential to disrupt the rhythm of any opponent. Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson have stepped up for Syracuse in the tournament so far, and coach Jim Boeheim’s experience and leadership have contributed to the Orange’s unlikely run.
However, standing in Boeheim’s way is an equally successful coach in Roy Williams who leads the lone 1 seed Tar Heels into this matchup as heavy favorites. UNC won both games against Syracuse this year, although it was a close one in Chapel Hill. After a disappointing season, senior point guard Marcus Paige has stepped up in the tournament, including an offensive explosion against Indiana in the Sweet 16 in which he went 6 for 9 from three. Brice Johnson has been a double double machine all year and has stepped up big time during North Carolina’s run to the Final Four. The key to this game will be UNC’s reliance and effectiveness with the 3 point shot. Syracuse’s zone will try to force the Tar Heels to take bad shots from deep in order to slow down one of the most explosive offenses in this year’s tournament. Although I think this game will be much closer than people think, I believe North Carolina is just too good and too experienced to lose this game. UNC defeats Syracuse 72-68.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION: (2) OKLAHOMA 81 (1) NORTH CAROLINA 77
Who do you think will win it all this year? Vote in the poll down below.