Men's Basketball 2016 NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns


NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns


#2 Villanova vs. #2 Oklahoma

The South region came down to the top two seeds for a trip to the Final Four. It was a tightly contested match, really the only close game in this tournament for either Villanova or Kansas, but the Villanova Wildcats came out on top. In the first three rounds in the South, Villanova easily dispatched UNC Asheville, Iowa and Miami to get to the regional final. In that match against Kansas, it was defense that got Nova to Houston and the Final Four. It used a mixture of man-to-man, three-quarter court pressing and switching on all picks. The Wildcats have a bit of an undersized lineup, with Daniel Ochefu being the only rotation player over 6-7, yet they get the job done. Kansas star Perry Ellis was held scoreless in the first half and finished the game with just four points and five field-goal attempts. The Jayhawks finished 6-of-22 from three; KU players not named Devonte’ Graham shot a combined 1-of-13 from distance. Mikal Bridges played some great minutes off the bench for Villanova; the Wildcats hit all their free throws in the final minute to clinch the victory, and they are on their way to their first Final Four since 2009.


In the West region, it was another two seed that triumphed to win the regional final. The Oklahoma Sooners defeated Oregon in pretty convincing fashion, adding to their already impressive 2015-16 resume. In the second round of the tournament, VCU gave the Sooners everything they could handle, but outside of that game, they have been steady in their advancement through the West. In the regional final, it was more of the same recipe that got them there: Buddy Hield, three-point shooting, Buddy Hield, strong guard play, Buddy Hield, second-chance points and a little of Buddy Hield. The senior guard proved once again why he is the best player in the country. Hield finished with 37 points on 20 field-goal attempts. It was his third game of the tournament scoring at least 25 points while making more than 50 percent of his shots. Hield has reached Stephen Curry-level where it is more surprising, no matter where the shot is taken, when he misses an attempt. He had help though in this game. Oklahoma, as a team, shot 9-of-12 from three and gathered 27 points off offensive rebounds and Oregon turnovers in the first half alone. Things held serve in the second half and Oklahoma is on its way to its first Final Four since 2002.


Now it falls on the shoulders of the Wildcats to stop Hield and the Sooners from reaching the National Championship. Villanova’s defense is up to the task. Stopping Kansas, with all its moving parts and deep rotation, is arguably a tougher test. The key to stopping Oklahoma is guarding outside in. The Sooners’ guards, even the ones not named Hield, like to roam the three-point line. During the regular season, OU ranked in the top five in the country in three-point attempts and shooting percentage. It is why it topped 80 points per game. Yet Villanova enters with a top 25 scoring defense and field-goal defense. Nova’s wing defenders get after it. The Wildcats probably have the deeper and better roster going right now. Of course, the Sooners have the game’s best player. Often in basketball, the latter piece is enough to survive and advance. It will come down to Villanova’s defense versus Buddy Hield’s accuracy to determine that.



#1 North Carolina vs. #10 Syracuse

The North Carolina Tar Heels were the lone one seed to advance through their region and into the Final Four. It took a classic Tar Heel effort to get past Notre Dame in the Elite Eight and win the East regional. UNC dominated Notre Dame on the glass and in the paint. It won the rebounding battle 32 to 15. Carolina nearly grabbed as many offensive rebounds (13) as ND did total rebounds. Second-chance points went to UNC 23 to six, and points in the paint were 42 to 30 in favor of the Heels as well. While North Carolina got a herculean shooting effort from the outside the round before to topple Indiana, it cooled off from the outside in this one. Not that it mattered. Brice Johnson led the way with 25 points and 12 rebounds, yet he drew a technical foul that caused Roy Williams to bench him for a stretch in the second half, and the Tar Heels managed to extend their lead with Johnson out. Notre Dame needed more from Zach Auguste, who sat nearly the entire first half with foul trouble and never factored into the offense upon his return after halftime. Joel Berry finished with eight assists and zero turnovers for UNC, making up for a slowish game from Marcus Paige. Although the Fighting Irish were only a six seed, it should be scary for upcoming UNC opponents that the Heels were able to win so easily without much from Paige or anyone’s outside shot.


UNC’s upcoming opponent in the Final Four in Houston will be, to the surprise of many, the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse became the first 10 seed and just the fourth double-digit seed to ever advance to the Final Four. Many folks thought it hardly deserved to make the NCAA Tournament to begin with. Adding in the early season suspension to Coach Jim Boeheim, and this was certainly as satisfying as a win can get. The team finagled its way through a fortunate draw in the Midwest by facing nothing but double-digit seeds as opponents before getting to the regional final. Syracuse trailed by a lot for much of the game against Virginia in the Midwest final, but it was a game of runs. The Orange took a very early 8-2 lead, which happened to be Virginia’s largest deficit of the tournament at that point. Then UVA rattled off a 19-2 run to take control. But late in the second half, Syracuse used full-court pressure, pick-and-pops from Tyler Lydon and the overall insanity of Malachi Richardson to grab a 25 to four run of its own. Richardson had just two points at halftime and then scored 21 in the final frame. The Cavaliers couldn’t overcome the late surge or the horrid shooting night from their best player, Malcolm Brogdon, who finished 2-of-14 from the field in the loss.


Just as these two Elite Eight matchups featured ACC foes familiar with each other, so too will the Final Four game between the East champion and the Midwest champion. During the regular season, North Carolina and Syracuse met twice. The Heels won both matches; first by 11 points and then five points. Despite Cuse’s place in the Final Four, it will certainly be a heavy underdog in this game. The constant zone is a good look against North Carolina in general because its weakness is outside shooting, but that doesn’t mean it will be enough to win. It wasn’t enough in either previous meeting despite UNC shooting a combined 9-of-41 from three. And look out if Carolina can muster the touch it used to vanquish Indiana two rounds ago. Syracuse will stand zero chance. Of course, no one thought it had much of a chance to defeat Virginia either, especially when it was down double figures late in the second half.



Tournament Central