March Madness Final Four Preview
Taking a look at this year’s Final Four preview, it looks like a battle of misconceptions. Often in college athletics, schools are unfairly branded with a reputation based on the performance of their predecessors. This makes little sense due to the constant roster turnover. Every year is different. Every team is different.
We’re familiar with the teams of Villanova’s past. The last 3 times as a #1 or #2 seed, they’ve failed to advance beyond the Sweet 16. Those Wildcat teams have little in common with the current bunch beyond Jay Wright’s aesthetic suits. They’re led by the perimeter trio of Josh Hart (15 points per game), Kris Jenkins (13 points per game) and Ryan Arcidiacono (12 points per game).
Nearly half of their shot attempts come from behind the arc. If your eyes have malfunctioned the last couple weeks and still think this team is too soft inside to survive in March, then I’d like to introduce you to Daniel Ochefu. He’s big (6’11”), experienced and he holds the fort down inside as their leading rebounder and shot-blocker. Villanova shoots a nearly choke-proof 78% from the free-throw line, which is better than nearly all NBA teams. With 5 players averaging double-figures, this 33-5 team is as balanced as Coach Wright is well-dressed.
Okahoma’s Final Four Preview
Who doesn’t love Buddy Hield? Ok, he probably won’t win any popularity contests in the state of Oregon this week, but even there it’s probably difficult to root against such a humble, likable, and exciting superstar. However, the exceptions are few when it comes to superstars unable to reach the Final Four on their own. From “Pistol” Pete Maravich (LSU), to David Robinson (Navy) and Stephen Curry (Davidson), three of the greatest college basketball players of all-time yet nary a Final Four appearance among them due to substandard supporting casts.
As amazing as Hield is, Oklahoma’s 29-7 season and appearance in the National Semifinal was not a one-man mission. As a team, the Oklahoma Sooners shoot 41% from the three point line on the season, good for second in the country. Jordan Woodard (13 points per game and 46%) and Isaiah Cousins (13 points per game and 42%) will need to supplement Hield’s output with sharp-shooting of their own if they are to reach Monday night.
Technically this is a rematch, but the evolution of college basketball teams from the beginning of December to the end of March renders that first meeting irrelevant. Both teams spent time atop the polls during the season, but are playing their best basketball now. Their team name may be preceded by a “2,” but this should be a great match-up of #1-seed caliber schools.