The NCAA Final Four is complete as the final two teams punched their tickets to the tournament semifinals on Sunday. The University of North Carolina Tar Heels (above) defeated Notre Dame 74-88. Syracuse came back from a first-half deficit to beat the University of Virginia. The Tar Heels captured the East region trophy and make it back to the Final Four for the 19th time. They will face Syracuse in the semis, which will be challenging task. Despite destroying them for 31 points two weeks ago, the Tar Heels should not take them lightly. Syracuse’ masterful use of its full court press has allowed them to come back in key wins on the road to the Final Four. Syracuse just upset a regional top seed in Virginia, a team that defeated them in their last three previous encounters.
North Carolina cannot allow Syracuse to dictate the tempo of the game. Otherwise, Malachi Richardson will wreak havoc as his team takes advantage of opportunities to convert quick baskets off high-pressure defense. Michael Gbinije is the guard who will be a clutch player for the Orange. The senior led the ACC in steals (1.9) this year and he will be at the forefront, applying the pressure for Syracuse.
The X-factor for North Carolina will of course be Brice Johnson, who will serve as a huge thorn in the side of Syracuse as he dominates action in the paint. He’s currently chiming in with 21.0 points per game as well as 15.0 rebounds per 40 minutes.
On the other side of the bracket we have two, talent-rich number two seeds set to duke it out. Both teams beat the number one seeds of their region to make it to the NCAA Final Four. On March 26 The Oklahoma Sooners dominated Oregon 80-68, while Villanova edged Kentucky 64-59 in an all-Wildcats face-off.
The focus of this match-up between the South and Midwest champs will be on Villanova’s Josh Hart and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. Hield has been on fire and has even turned up the heat in recent games. He exploded for 37 points to put Oregon away, the most scored by a player in the Elite Eight since 1990. Villanova will need to address the danger he poses from long-range. Something easier said than done. Buddy is currently averaging 25.4 ppg at a crazy .670 true shooting percentage, so yes, he can find ways to score. Hart on the other hand, is Villanova’s top defender. He’s been doing virtually everything on the floor for Villanova and will need to keep his momentum going forward if he’s to carry his team passed Oklahoma.
And then there were four… Which teams will make the NCAA Tournament finals? Which team will win it all?