We’re now just two days away from the Final Four kicking off, and as such, we’ve already taken a look at some of the key storylines this week and the x-factors at play as well as breaking down what happened when the teams that square off in the national semifinals played during the regular season.
Earlier, we took a look at what it is going to take for each team to win two games in Houston this weekend. This is why the Final Four team will not win the National Title:
North Carolina: The major question mark with North Carolina earlier this season was their toughness, which is something that I think we can safely say has been answered. If the run through the ACC tournament wasn’t answer enough, getting to the Final Four should be.
But the Tar Heels still do have two flaws that could eventually cost them a game this weekend. The most obvious is their inconsistency shooting the ball from the perimeter. Marcus Paige, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson have been better, but every coach in the country will tell you that they’ll live with those guys taking threes as opposed to North Carolina’s big men getting post touches.
The other issue is defending ball-screen actions. Kennedy Meeks is not exactly fleet of foot. Brice Johnson is vertically explosive but he’s not great when he’s asked to move laterally. And the Orange? They like to put Michael Gbinije in ball-screen actions — they’re in the 90th-percentile nationally with 28.9 percent of their possessions ending in a ball-screen action — which can be a problem for the Tar Heels if Gbinije is allowed to turn a corner and get going downhill. With shooters all over the floor and a play maker like Gbinije, that’s an exploitable matchup for the Orange.
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Oklahoma: The Sooners score 38.9 percent of their points from three-pointers, which was the 14th-highest total in college basketball this season. Michigan was the only high-major program that was more reliant on the three-ball for points than the Sooners. Two out of every five shots they take from the floor are from beyond the arc. Why does this matter? Because shooting NRG née Reliant Stadium has never been an easy thing to do. In 15 games played in this building since 2002, teams have shot 32.2 percent from distance. Is that just a fluky number? Or is it really that difficult to shoot here?
The Sooners better hope that it is the former, because the achilles’ heel for this team is that if they are not hitting their threes, they don’t really have another way to beat you.
Villanova: There are a couple things that I could see costing Villanova a win, but none is bigger than the fact that they just don’t have the same kind of athleticism as the rest of the teams left in the tournament. Josh Hart is a physical freak that plays like a physical freak, but beyond that, the Wildcats have a pair of guards in Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson that are slow and crafty and a power forward in Kris Jenkins that is a land warrior with a jumper. Some of that is mitigated when Mikal Bridges sees the floor — he does give them so much lineup versatility — but his presence defensively takes away from what is their best offensive lineup.
I’m not sure that will be a huge issue against Oklahoma. I don’t think Ryan Spangler is really a guy that’s built for dominating smaller defenders. But if the Wildcats do end up locking horns with North Carolina in the title game, that’s the matchup that the Tar Heels will be able to take advantage of.
Syracuse: They just don’t have the size inside to deal with North Carolina’s big men. It’s really that simple. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks are big enough and physical enough to overpower the Orange front line. It doesn’t help matters that the best lineup that the Orange can put on the floor features a five-man in Tyler Lydon that is generously listed at 200 pounds. Now to be fair, the Orange lost by just five points in the Dean Dome earlier this season, and that happened because they just packed their zone in as much as possible. That could end up working this weekend as well, but the one thing to remember: Joel Berry II and Marcus Paige are hitting threes at a better clip than they were during the middle of the year.
I think the Orange actually match up fairly well with Oklahoma and with Villanova, but the issue is getting past the first game this weekend, which is not going to be an easy task.