Final Four predictions for the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Projecting which teams will advance to the National Championship.
How are the predictions so far?
South Region: 10-6 SU, 7-9 ATS
East Region: 13-4 SU, 12-4-1 ATS
West Region: 12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS
Midwest Region: 8-7 SU, 8-7 ATS
No. 1 North Carolina (32-6) vs. No. 10 Syracuse (23-13)
Why North Carolina Will Win: There was no tougher team in the Sweet 16 than Notre Dame – at least Irish head coach Mike Brey said so – and North Carolina was tougher both mentally and physically in the win to get to the Final Four. The Tar Heels have the right makeup of talent, size, and passing ability to get around the freakish Orange zone – at least they did in the two wins in the head-to-head matchup. As aggressive as Syracuse has been, and as terrific as it’s been on the boards – they outrebounded Virginia – they’re not going win this game on the glass. UNC has the ability to slow down and play the half-court game, and they can get on the move. Syracuse has to muck it up, and that won’t work.
Why Syracuse Will Win: This isn’t the same Syracuse team that had so many problems down the stretch. This team is nailing its free throws. This team is attacking the boards. This team is getting on the move. It’s as if it’s playing loose, free and fun, and it showed in the phenomenal comeback over Virginia. Can the defense force enough steals and mistakes to translate into easy points? That’s how the comeback kicked in to get to the Final Four, and with this defense, and a week to prepare for the Tar Heel backcourt, this could and should look like the fresher team.
What’s Going To Happen: It’s over. It’s been over. This has been North Carolina’s tournament from the start. This has been North Carolina’s tournament since the 75-70 win over Syracuse in late February. This is the lone No. 1 seed left for a reason.
Line: COMING (best guess: North Carolina -8.5
Final Four Prediction: North Carolina 79, Syracuse 69
No. 2 Oklahoma (29-7) vs. No. 2 Villanova (33-5)
Why Oklahoma Will Win: Get ready for the Buddy love to kick in over the next week. Hield has been the singular star of the tournament, ripping through Oregon for 37 points and taking the game over by himself at times. But it was a team effort to get into the Final Four, doing a great job of moving the ball and overcoming a slew of uncharacteristic mistakes to not let the Ducks get back into the game. Oregon was Oregon with all the pressure and all the attacking on the perimeter, and it didn’t matter – the Sooners were too good. Hield was too good. But …
Why Villanova Will Win: Perry Ellis of Kansas is pretty good, too, and Villanova managed to shut out the Big 12 star in the first half. The attacking Wildcat zone pressured on the perimeter and collapsed all game long, doing exactly what was needed at the right times to get by the rock-solid No. 1 team. Villanova has the firepower from the outside, showed the toughness against the Jayhawks in the interior, and it knows how to stop the three.
What’s Going To Happen: Oklahoma destroyed Villanova 78-55 earlier in the year, but that was back on December 7th in Hawaii. A lot has happened since then – Villanova has gotten a whole bunch better. The defense is playing at a whole other level shutting down Iowa and Miami while keeping Kansas to just 59 points. With a week to prepare for Mr. Hield, the Wildcats will roll on to the national championship.
Line: Villanova -1
Final Four Prediction: Villanova 74, Oklahoma 69