The last weekend of college basketball is upon us, with Oklahoma taking on Villanova and North Carolina facing Syracuse in the Final Four. With the four teams all set for this upcoming weekend in Houston, the Daily Campus sports section picked their favorite to cut down the net next Monday night.
Aaron Esposito: I’m rolling with the only number one seed left in the tournament. The UNC Tar Heels are going to run over Syracuse and ultimately take down Oklahoma or Villanova to win their sixth national title. UNC was arguably handed the toughest path to the Final Four of any team in the tournament, but they have remained dominant throughout.
The Heels have proven their ability to handle both elite guards and formidable big men thus far in the tournament. They were tasked with stopping Providence’s backcourt of Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, Indiana’s superstar point guard Yogi Ferrell, and Notre Dame’s lethal pick-and-roll combo of Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste. As long as Brice Johnson can get inside the Syracuse zone and the Heels don’t go ice cold from deep, they should grab a spot in the finals. Oklahoma and Villanova are both dangerous matchups for anyone, but UNC brings more athleticism to the table. Both Villanova and Oklahoma are experienced teams, but Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson have been through it all and won’t be denied if they make it that far. Expect Roy Williams to cut down the nets when all is said and done.
Matt Zampini: Oklahoma will win the title this year. I picked them before the tournament started, so why waver now?
They have the best player in the country in Buddy Hield, who is scoring 25 points per game heading into the Final Four. He’s getting buckets right now and is working his way up into a top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Not only is Hield playing at a high level, but the other two guards — Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard — are playing well, too. When those three are scoring at a high level, the Sooners can beat anybody in the country.
Also, they have Ryan Spangler, who is undervalued on this team because those three guards get so much attention. I’m not going to throw any stats at you, but Buddy is the best college player in the country and as Bill Simmons would say, Buddy has his balls out and is ready to go.
Josh Buser: I think North Carolina should be able to advance to the championship game. UNC is riding a hot streak, coming off an ACC tournament championship and winning every game in the NCAA tournament by at least 14 points. With a week to prepare for a Syracuse zone they have already beaten twice this season, Roy Williams will get his team into the final.
However, UNC has had a relatively easy road to the final – avoiding all the top four seeds in their half of the bracket. The winner of the Oklahoma vs. Villanova game will have beaten three such teams on its road to the final; a three seed, one seed, and two seed. While you can’t fault UNC for beating the teams they were faced with, the winner of Oklahoma-Nova will be battle-tested through the tournament and ready for the challenge.
With that being said, I like Villanova to cut down the nets. Although they lost by 23 to Oklahoma earlier in the year, I think they are the most complete team in the country. They are also coming off a win in which they held Kansas to 59 points, something Oklahoma failed to do in two tries.
Shahan Kamal: It’s hard for me to look at the four teams left in the tournament and say Oklahoma won’t win it. Buddy Hield has been nothing short of outstanding in leading his team to the Final Four, and doesn’t intend to stop there. Something about Buddy Hield reminds me of Shabazz Napier and the way he took over for long stretches during the Huskies’ most recent National Championship run. Obviously one player doesn’t make a championship roster, as Napier got plenty of help from Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels. Hield can get all the help he needs from Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard to put them in position to win the title. If the game came down to the final possession, I would put the ball in Buddy Hield’s icey-veined hands, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he carried Oklahoma to the title.
Connor Donahue: As much as I love the future Boston Celtic (hopefully), Buddy Hield, and the Sooners, I can’t see the North Carolina Tar Heels losing another game.
The Heels are simply too big and too athletic. They rank third in the country in offensive rebounding, and their frontcourt of Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks is scary good. UNC won each game by an average of 16 points. This team can score at will; the Heels ranked first in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.Marcus Paige is hitting his stride, and there’s no way Roy Williams won’t have this team ready for the Syracuse zone with a week of preparation; plus they’ve already beaten it twice.
Sure, they were only up one at half against FGCU, down early in the second half against Providence, and gave up a late second half lead thanks to a 12-0 run by Notre Dame. In the end this team always won because they are too strong, too deep, and too dominant.
Connor Donahue is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shahan Kamal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Josh Buser is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aaron Esposito is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering men’s hockey. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.