Men's Basketball 2016 NCAA Tournament Championship Game Breakdown

NCAA Tournament National Championship Game Breakdown
There was a theory surrounding the NRG Center in Houston, Texas that basketball teams struggled to shoot there. The previous data, albeit a smallish sample size, backed this up. All the lights and weird backdrops and view points would make it hard on a shooter’s eye. Apparently the Villanova Wildcats did not get the memo. Villanova hosed the Oklahoma Sooners in the first national semifinal, 95 to 51, for the largest victory in Final Four history. The Wildcats shot an uncanny 71.4 percent from the floor, led by Josh Hart’s 23 points. Seven different Cats players hit at least three field goals, and they also managed to connect on 61.1 percent of their three-point attempts. The Houston shooting woes were put to rest.
But perhaps just as impressive was what Villanova did on the defensive end. It forced seven Oklahoma turnovers by the under-eight-minute timeout in the first half. The Sooners finished with 17 turnovers in total. Nova forced OU into extended scoring droughts and thus forced, one-on-one offense. Even when Oklahoma started to collect massive amounts of rebounds to begin the second half, Villanova kept the ball out of the basket on the defensive end. For Buddy Hield, he started off cool, which he had done before, but never heated up. At one point in the first half, he was held without a field goal for 15 minutes of game action. Villanova switched multiple defenders onto him throughout the contest, and Hield finished just 4-of-12 from the floor in defeat. It was certainly not the way he wanted to end his college career.
In the second national semifinal in Houston, a comfortable win for the North Carolina Tar Heels was hardly a surprise, especially when compared to Villanova’s victory. For North Carolina, it handled its business against ACC foe Syracuse in all the expected ways. The Tar Heels absolutely demolished the Orange in the paint and on the glass. At halftime, UNC had 26 points in the paint; Syracuse had 28 points total. UNC forced the action in spurts, even pulling away when Brice Johnson was on the bench with foul trouble. Throughout the first 30 or so minutes of the ballgame, Carolina didn’t hit a single shot from the outside (beginning 0-of-12 from three), but it hardly mattered. The team rebounded misses easily against the 2-3 zone.
In the second half, Trevor Cooney and Syracuse attempted to mount yet another comeback. At one point, they went on a 10-0 run and cut Carolina’s lead to single digits…at which point the Heels hit their first three-pointer of the night. They closed out the victory with a few more threes, while also taking advantage of Syracuse’s horrid free-throw shooting and lack of depth.
The 2016 National Championship between the two-seed Wildcats and the one-seed Tar Heels will be a fascinating cross-match of defense versus offense and small versus large. Villanova has gotten this far with its defense (despite the unconscious shooting against Oklahoma). But it is undersized, in the starting lineup especially. Daniel Ochefu will be able to bang with one of North Carolina’s bigs but not four or five of them. How Villanova handles the paint on defense and the boards on both ends will be huge. But UNC may need to hit a few more outside shots if it wants to come away with a title because Villanova will have mismatches of its own on the other end. When the Wildcats have the ball, there will almost assuredly be wing players and three-point shooters that one or all of the UNC big men will have to cover. Kennedy Meeks will not be capable; Brice Johnson gets lost on pick-and-roll coverage around the three-point line; Isaiah Hicks has the foot speed but is prone to foul trouble. Roy Williams will have to come up with an answer. Either that or he will be willing to trade baskets, relying on his team’s offense to outscore the opponent. It wouldn’t be the worst strategy with the way the Tar Heels control so many aspects of a game, though the math of trading twos for threes should be worrisome. Whichever team and whichever coach forces the other to alter his game plan away from what they excel at will come away with a national title for his efforts.