The North Carolina Tar Heels and Oklahoma University Sooners are the favored teams likely to meet for the NCAA Championship title.
Fresh from their 88-74 victory over Notre Dame, the Tar Heels are not yet celebrating this early as one team is still standing in their way, Syracuse. They are set to meet in the Final Four on April 2 but as early as now, the Tar Heels are the heavily picked team to win the match and move on to the championship round.
From NCAA.com, the Tar Heels gets a 55 percent backing to win the game over Syracuse, which got 45 percent votes. But for Jordan Schultz, the Tar Heels have some more up their sleeves going into the match as Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks will try to muscle their way inside the paint and dismantle the possible zone defense that Syracuse could offer.
“Both those guys are really good decision makers in the middle of the paint. You set one of those guys in the middle of the zone, especially with Brice Johnson having that range and you’re going to ask how is Syracuse going to stop that?” Schultz said.
Aside from Johnson and Hicks, Schultz also mentioned that the Tar Heels also have formidable playmakers in the persons of Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II. Not to mention the other player on their roster that will surely create problems for Syracuse.
“Marcus Paige by far is playing his best basketball out of his senior year. Playing very well especially from the perimeter shooting. And Berry, who is ‘Mr. Steady,’ is not the most well-known guy in this team but he gives you another guy that can really handle it. He allows Paige to play off the ball and is a fantastic decision maker,” Schultz added.
As for Syracuse, their main gunner is Malachi Richardson, who scored 23 points with seven rebounds and two steals in their 68-62 win over Virginia. But after Richardson, Syracuse needs to have a supporting cast for them to continue their “Cinderella” story in the NCAA.
“He has got a good tournament, not necessarily a great freshman year but he really had some great moments but his best moment came against Virginia. I’m not sure he understands the stake of how big of deal it is. But regardless, he has great length and size,” Schulz explained.
Going into the Final Four will be North Carolina’s 19th, the longest in the school’s history but this will be their first since 2009. The three times that North Carolina meet Syracuse, the Tar Heels won all three matches, which makes the advantage on Tar Heels side.
On the other hand, Oklahoma Sooners are also the top pick to win over Villanova in the other Final Four match. The Sooner are picked with a 52 percent vote while Villanova has 48 percent votes to win the Final Four and move on to the Finals.
Kerry Miller expects a ton of three-pointers when the two team will clash for the finals spot. The Sooners averages 42.6 percent from beyond the arc this season while the Wildcats averages 35.6 percent in three-point shots.
Mille expounds that the x-factor for the Sooners is Khadeem Lattin and Buddy Hield. But he stresses that Lattin, who is a power forward, could create plays for his teammates when he dances with his opponents inside the shaded area. This is especially if the Wildcats would try to extend their defense and leave him alone inside the paint to operate.
However, Villanova will rely on their perimeter defense and hopes that the Sooners would get into turnovers for them to put the game away.
Surely, all four teams have a week to work on their weak spots and try to strengthen their offense but whatever happens it surely be a March Madness worth to remember.
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