It’s once again coming to an end for college basketball. It’s the final weekend of the college basketball season starting with Final Four Saturday. This weekend we have a match-up of revenge games. First game of the day has the South Regional Champs Villanova, who left top seeded Kansas frustrated going up against West Regional Champions Oklahoma.
Oklahoma and Villanova met back in December in Hawaii at the Pearl Harbor Classic where the Sooners ran the Wildcats back to the main land with a 78-55 win led by Isiah Cousins. Since then both teams have spent their time at the top of the polls for most of the season with consist play.
Villanova can beat you in a variety of different ways which have been on display in this tournament. Against Kansas they were able to win with defense by forcing 16 Jayhawk turnovers, with five steals by Mikal Bridges. Villanova also held the Jayhawks to under 30 percent shooting from the three-point line. Granted the Wildcats didn’t do much better themselves from long distance; they were able to make up for it from the free throw line hitting 18 of their 19 attemtps. Nova can also play up to their nicknames like “Wildcats” with their frenzy on defense and shooting lights out on offense like they did against Miami and Iowa winning by double-digits in both games, including opening game against UNC-Asheville.
The Oklahoma Sooners are dangerous for any team to match up against when they are on their game offensively, because they can get it from anywhere on the court. Not just Buddy Hield. Because of all the national attention Buddy gets, deservingly so, Isaiah Cousins tends to be overlooked. Cousins can be handful and is one of the most underrated players in the country. Since Buddy puts out such big numbers most people don’t realize that Jordan Woodard is averaging 16.8 points in the tournament so far.
Buddy…Buddy…Buddy…Hield is the first player since Dennis Scott in 1990 to average 25.0 points or higher in a season and make the Final Four. He’s averaging 29.33 points in this tournament, and his 117 points through four games are the second most in tournament history, just behind Mr. Curry, who had 128 in Davidson’s run back in ’08, and who became a pretty good player at the next level.
What happens in the regular season doesn’t always translate into tournament. There is a different degree of intensity. So what happened in Hawaii won’t happen in Houston. Both Oklahoma and Villanova are coming to Houston steadfast and locked in to helping their team win two games for a National Championship.
In the late game you have a match up two familiar foes; the fourth double-digit seed to make it to the Final Four and the Midwest Regional Champs Syracuse, who got a few breaks in their route to Houston, but also changed up their defense to come back against Virginia going against the only No. 1 seed to survivor and the East Regional Champs North Carolina, who have been playing awesome defense in the tournament and Senior Marcus Page seem to find his shooting touch.
North Carolina and Syracuse are the remaining teams from the second season mic-shift ACC Tournament in the right side of the bracket’s Elite 8. They played twice in the regular season with the Tar Heels winning both games by an average margin of 8 and shooting 47 percent from the field.
The 2-3 zone of Syracuse will be vulnerable against North Carolina with Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks diving into the middle of the zone and can hit the mid-range jumper and pass out of the center of the zone very well. But Syracuse’s biggest problem to solve will be keeping the Tar Heels, especially Brice Johnson off the boards.
There’s something about Houston Stadiums and the effect it has on shooting. The last time the Final Four was in Houston it was a poor shooting performance, especially in the championship game with Butler and Connecticut with team shooting 19 and 34 percent respectively. Offensive efficiency may have been a contributing factor in how the four teams got to Houston, but the defensive efficiency will be the key who will survive and be cutting down the nets Monday night.