And it all comes down to this. The college basketball season will culminate in Houston when four teams clash for the right to be crowned the national champion.
For North Carolina and Oklahoma, this is nothing all that surprising.
The Tar Heels came into the tournament as one of the favorites to cut down the nets, as they rolled the ACC tournament and entered the Big Dance on fire. And Roy Williams’ team hasn’t had much trouble during their path to the Final Four, winning every game by at least 14 points.
As for the Sooners, they’ve ridden the best player in college basketball, Buddy Hield, all the way to this moment. Hield has simply been masterful for most of the season, and he’s helped lead Oklahoma to convincing wins over teams like Texas A&M and Oregon along the way.
And then there’s Villanova and Syracuse.
Sure, the Wildcats are a No. 2 seed and had a decent shot at getting here. But after so many tournament disappointments in the past several years, there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether Villanova could put it all together and make a run.
It has. Jay Wright guided the Wildcats to a win over Iowa in the second round and Miami in the Sweet 16 before ultimately dropping the top overall seed in Kansas.
However, while it may be somewhat surprising to see Villanova in this spot, it’s even more surprising to Jim Boeheim and Syracuse here.
You know, the Syracuse team that barely made it into the field as a No. 10 seed. Most even thought that was too high of a seed for the Orange. And now look at where they are.
But the tournament is all about matchups. Syracuse’s matchup zone defense has without question helped fuel them to this point. Of course, MTSU pulling off the upset of Michigan State in the first round didn’t exactly hurt either.
So here we stand. Oklahoma vs. Villanova on one side, North Carolina vs. Syracuse on the other. The two winners will square off in Monday night’s title game at NRG Stadium.
When it comes to the Oklahoma/Villanova game, it’s all about Buddy. If he can set the pace early, the Sooners are going to be in good shape. Wright and his staff will have to determine whether they are going to focus all of their energy on trying to stop Buddy, or if they will let him get his points and focus on the rest of the team.
Either way, I’m going to go with Oklahoma in this one.
On the other side, North Carolina vs. Syracuse is going to be much more intriguing than most may think. It’ll be the third time that these two teams have met this season, and while the Tar Heels took the first two, beating a team three times in one season is no easy task.
There’s no doubt that the Orange are riding a huge wave of momentum. But North Carolina has been putting up points at will in their previous tournament games.
Syracuse will be able to slow them down a little bit with the zone, but in the end, there will be no stopping the Tar Heels in their march to the title game.
The championship game prediction? North Carolina will cut down the nets and win its sixth national title in the process.