Full Court Press: Final Four & More….
How are your brackets doing? Mine were fine heading into the Elite 8 and then I got blown away, with the exception of Carolina, which took care of business over Notre Dame. One thing that I really like about this years’ Final Four combatants is the number of senior players that have played a prominent role in their squad’s success. I was getting a little tired of the one-and-done types!
Let’s take a closer took at the semi-final matchups.
Oklahoma versus Villanova: This one promises to be the best game of the tournament with the Sooners likely Player of the Year, Buddy Hield, against the best overall team still standing, Jay Wright‘s Villanova Wildcats.
I was impressed with how the Wildcats handled No. 1 Kansas in their Elite 8 win – great team defense, high energy (thank you Ryan Arcidiacano) and ball security and outside shooting. The key for the Wildcats is not stopping Hield but in putting the defensive clamp on fellow guards Jordan Woodard and Christian James. Hield will get his points but if the Wildcats can stop the others from having big games they will get a shot for their second national title.
North Carolina versus Syracuse: Storylines galore with this one, particularly considering how most had the ‘Cuse not even qualifying for the tournament. But Jim Boeheim‘s team is on a roll and they have a bunch of talent starting with veterans Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson (Union, NJ / Roselle Catholic). Roberson, who is a beast on the boards, must stay out of foul trouble and Cooney needs to hit the three-pointers to keep the Orange in the game. Two freshman who have really stepped up in the tournament are Malachi Richardson (Trenton, NJ / Trenton Catholic) and Tyler Lydon (Elizaville, NY / New Hampton, NH).
Carolina on the other hand has Brice Johnson playing his best basketball of the season along with Marcus Paige running an offense that is No. 1 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. Roy Williams’ Tar Heels have great length and will kill you in transition if you don’t control the tempo.
Both teams enter the Final Four under a cloud of scrutiny for their NCAA violations. The ‘Cuse has paid the price for their violations and Carolina is currently under investigation.
I love Villanova and Syracuse in the Final Four. It would bring back memories of the original Big East….
A Final Salute
Here are a few of my favorites from the season.
I have to pick Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney as my Player of the Year. Totally dominated the America East and his 43-point gem against Vermont in the conference final was awesome. Others that caught my attention were: Yale’s Justin Sears, Monmouth’s Justin Robinson, Hofstra’s Juan’ya Green, Iona’s AJ English and Providence’s Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil.
Jay Wright is a lock for Coach of the Year but King Rice had a great year at Monmouth and I can’t overlook James Jones for leading the Yale Bulldogs to the tournament.
A Parting Shot
Kudos to George Washington University for their NIT win!
I pick ‘Nova to win the National Championship!!!!
The UConn women will make it four in a row, wish the Connecticut Sun could make a pre-draft trade to pick Breanna Stewart.
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