That is the word to describe the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament this season. With a regular season that containing more upsets than what most would originally expect, the Final Four is now set with some heavy hitters, and a Cinderella-in-the-making.
The Syracuse Orange will be the most talked about team of the four that made it, and for good reason. Most said on Selection Sunday that the Orange should not have even made the tournament, and since then they have been on a mission to prove the skeptics wrong.
Many will say North Carolina is the favorite, as they are the only remaining no. 1 seed and play Syracuse next.
Oklahoma is the best perimeter-shooting squad left, with undoubtedly the best player in Buddy Hield. V
illanova has ridden themselves of past tourney nightmares, as they are coming into the Final Four with a lot of confidence after knocking off the Kansas Jayhawks. It could be anyone’s title to grab, with each team having a unique story differing from the other.
SYRACUSE (23-13, No. 10 Midwest) vs. NORTH CAROLINA (32-6, No.1 East)
What makes this matchup interesting is the fact both teams have faced NCAA punishment within the past five years. The media will eat this up, and what it ultimately comes down to is the game itself now.
North Carolina would like to forget what may be known as one of the most embarrassing academic scandals in NCAA history, and Syracuse does not want remember their self-imposed postseason ban last season, and head coach Jim Boeheim being suspended from the team for nine games this year for failing to monitor the program.
All negativity aside, there is a great game to be played here. The numbers suggest the Tar Heels will dominate, but the Orangemen have pulled a few rabbits out of their hats to defy the odds. During the regular season, North Carolina was victorious in both matchups.
Many are saying Boeheim is making one run for the ages, as it seemed impossible for Syracuse to still be playing basketball next weekend. The Tar Heels have the veterans, and the Orangemen have a mixture of youth and experience. For Syracuse to win, they will need to keep up the tempo and have the young guys play beyond their years, as they have already shown in the tournament.
North Carolina has a strong starting five, but Theo Pinson and the bench will have to keep stepping up to create a better flow on both sides of the ball for the Tar Heels to reach the Championship.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 85, Syracuse 77
VILLANOVA (33-5, No. 2 South) vs. OKLAHOMA (29-7, No. 2 West)
To say head coach Jay Wright and his Villanova Wildcats have had enough disappointing the NCAA in the past during the tournament is a vast understatement. Villanova may have made the biggest statement out of all of the Final Four teams by taking down the no. 1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks 64-59.
It is no small task to do something of that degree, and it was even more astonishing to see Kansas only score 59 points, which was a season-low.
Oklahoma has easily been the best shooting team in the tournament, and Buddy Hield continues to build quite the legacy as he moves deeper into March. Hield has made playing basketball look easier than it really is. Through only four games in the tournament he is averaging 29.3 points per game, including 37 last week’s victory over No. 1 seeded Oregon.
When Buddy dominates, the Sooners roll. That will be a major key for Oklahoma, but the rest of the team can hit threes all day when they catch fire. Villanova will have to keep the scrappy intensity up if they want to get to the promised land, and senior leader Ryan Arciadiacono will have to stay hot from the three-point line.
Through four games, he is hitting shots from deep at 58 percent and for Villanova to keep up with the free-shooting Sooners it will be a must to knock them down as well. The Wildcats did not shoot as well from three in the regular season, only hitting on 35.4 percent. Since the tourney began, Villanova has been hitting 46.2 percent from behind the arc.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 89, Villanova 76