Monday Madness: Final Four Edition

The Final Four is now set. With the madness almost over, staff writer Dalton King brings us another version of Monday Madness and previews what is sure to be a memorable Final Four.

Houston, we have a problem.

There is only one No. 1 seed left, Buddy Hield might be the combination of Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry, and we have a NO. 10 SEED in the Final Four.

The 2016 NCAA Tournament Final Four is set, which means the madness is coming to an end. Or is it just starting?

In this week’s Monday Madness, the obvious topic is the Final Four. But real quick, let’s recap what happened this past weekend.

The Elite Eight

No. 2 seed Villanova knocked off No. 1 overall seed Kansas, 64-59 — The suffocating defense and balanced offensive attack of the Wildcats proved to be too much for the the Jayhawks. Villanova forced Kansas into 16 turnovers and held them to just 59 points, its lowest point total of the season. The overwhelming favorite to win the tournament is now gone, while head coach Jay Wright and Villanova are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2009.

Buddy Hield (I mean, No. 2 seed Oklahoma) beat No. 1 seed Oregon, 80-68 – The soon-to- be Wooden Award winner dropped 37 points on the Ducks, including EIGHT three- pointers. With the way Buddy shot, Oregon never recovered. The Ducks struggled from beyond the arc (19 percent) and their star of the tournament scored only seven points. Oklahoma is now looking to capture its first title in program history.

No. 10 seed Syracuse upset No. 1 seed Virginia, 68-62 – Led by freshman Malachi Richardson, who scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half, the No. 10 seed came back from a 16-point deficit to start the second half and stunned top-seeded Virginia. The Orange outscored the Cavaliers 47-27 in the second half, leaving Virginia catching its breath. Syracuse’s improbable run marks its first Final Four since 2013, but no one expected the Orange to be here in 2016. They are the first No. 10 seed to ever reach the Final Four and the fourth double-digit seed to do so overall.

No. 1 seed North Carolina prevailed over No. 6 seed Notre Dame, 88-74 – Fighting off the luck of the Irish, North Carolina emerged as the lone No. 1 seed standing. Senior forward Brice Johnson did it again for the Tar Heels, scoring 25 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. The first half was back-and-forth with both teams knocking down nearly every shot they put up, but the second half was all North Carolina. Dominating the paint and running the court is where the Tar Heels succeed, and Notre Dame could not keep up. This is North Carolina’s 19th Final Four appearance (most all-time) and its first appearance since 2009, when they won the national championship.

So without further ado, let’s breakdown the Final Four matchups:

The Final Four 

No. 2 seed Oklahoma vs. No. 2 Villanova (6:09 p.m. ET on TBS this Saturday)

The team with the biggest and brightest superstar in all of college basketball against a team with zero household names. On the perimeter, where Buddy and the Sooners live, Villanova wrecks havoc on defense. If you don’t trust me, just ask Kansas, who shot just 27 percent from beyond the arc. The Wildcats turn great offensive teams into a mess, which should scare Oklahoma. The Sooners are one of the most lethal offense in the country. They average 80 points per game and shoot nearly 43 percent from three-point land, good enough for second in the nation. Villanova impressively forced Perry Ellis into the worst game of his career at the worst possible time, but can they do that to Buddy?

Both teams met earlier in the season, where Oklahoma destroyed the Wildcats by 23 points. In that game, Buddy shot four-of-nine from three-point range and finished with 18 points. But that was before he developed his confidence and became the best player in college basketball.

If anybody can shut Hield down, it is Villanova, but do not expect the budding superstar to shy away from the big stage.

No. 1 seed North Carolina vs. No. 10 seed Syracuse (8:49 p.m. ET on TBS this Saturday)

The highest seed in the Final Four vs. the lowest seed in the Final Four. March, you have a great sense of humor. But if we have learned anything in seeing Syracuse’s last few games, it is that we should never count them out of any game under any circumstances. Its 16-point comeback against No. 1 seed Virginia was highly impressive. While getting behind and dramatically coming back every game is not the best strategy, if it happens again, we know they are capable of doing it.

North Carolina comes into the Final Four as the new favorite to win it all, and not just because of its the highest-seeded team. In its last three tournament games, the Tar Heels have proven they are a force to be reckoned with, winning by a combined 48 points. If you have watched Carolina at all this year or have heard them being talked about, you know they thrive down low with dominant bigs and in transition with elite athleticism. While they have continued to succeed in these two areas, their new-found defense and jump shooting makes them almost unbeatable.

Johnson and the rest of the Tar Heel’s imposing post players square off against another one of college basketball’s best rebounders in Syracuse’s Tyler Roberson. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and Joel Berry face yet another tough point guard matchup with Michael Gbinije. Can the Tar Heels continue their dominant run, or will Syracuse stun yet another top-seeded team?

It has been a fun season and unfortunately, the madness is almost over. But with the Final Four approaching, the best is yet to come. That’s a wrap for this week’s Monday Madness.

Featured image by Dalton King

Edited by David Bradford

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Dalton, a firm believer that sporting events are best spent on Twitter, is an Assistant Sports Editor for TNJN and a sophomore studying Journalism at the University of Tennessee. Two of his favorite pastimes include beating his roommates at 2k and remaining in awe of the amount of stories fellow editor David Bradford writes. Twitter: @dk_writes