March Madness Review and Final Four Preview

Entering into the Final Four round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, we have decided to bring you something a bit different than a typical article. Below you will find John, Joey, Drew, and Alec’s reviews of each region, including their favorite game to watch, and why they think each team that made it this far deserves to be in the Final Four. The joint article concludes with a preview of the two Final Four matchups with their predictions as well. Enjoy!

East Region

UNC
UNC – Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

John: After the first two rounds the East region became very chalky with UNC really opening up and walking through the competition. As the only #1 seed left in the tournament they have shown they have definitely deserved it. My favorite game in this region has to be the Stephen F Austin vs. Notre Dame which robbed us of the opportunity of having a #14 seed in the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight but was a great example of the parity in men’s college basketball. Which there may be various reasons for. I appreciate UNC because they are the only final four I got correctly.

Joey: U-N-C! U-N-C! For those of you who don’t know already, I picked North Carolina to win the tournament this year. The outcome of the East Region gave me hope that I may have picked correctly after all. After a few first half stutter steps and some second half flurries of aggressive opposition, UNC withstood the storms to finish strong each game. Their decisive play solidified them as the top team in this region. The match of the region for me would be #14 Stephen F. Austin taking down #3 West Virginia. Talk about a bracket buster! I had WVU going far a few years ago and they burned me. They decided to again here, scratching themselves off in my Elite 8 with the help of a SFA team that really came to play. I expect UNC to represent the East Region well, continuing their strong play in the Final Four and ultimately taking down tournament Cinderella, #10 Syracuse, to advance to the Finals.

Drew:What more is there to say than UNC all the way. This is a team that has put away some of those doubts that followed it into the tournament. They took care of Indiana and Notre Dame and look good to beat Syracuse for the 3rd time. My favorite game in this bracket had to be that #7 Wisconsin win over #2 Xavier. A lot of people thought Xavier had what it took to make a run for the championship. Those same people thought Wisconsin wouldn’t make it past the round of 64. That buzzer-beating 3 to win the game may still be THE shot of the tournament.

Alec: UNC has arguably been the most dominant team in the tournament so far. They’ve posted double digit victories in every game they’ve played. I will say UNC’s path to the Final Four has been a little easier than the others. The way they blew through their region makes me question the strength of the rest of the teams in the region. Not to say they didn’t play good teams because they definitely did, but the gap between the top seeds and lower seeds in this region may have been smaller than other regions. No matter, UNC is on a tear and probably has the best chance of winning it all.

West Region

Oklahoma MBB 2016
OK – ESPN.com

John: This was the one region that I was punished for being creative. Texas….you failed me. It has been the Buddy Hield show. No one has done more to improve their NBA draft stock than him in the NCAA tourney. His major negative is that he is 22. He will still be in the top ten drafted. Easily. I love him. My favorite game was Yale over Baylor because I like promoting the games I picked correctly. The most HISTORIC game is Texas A&M defeating Northern Iowa while trailing by 12 points with 44 seconds left. Such a meltdown. It hurt to watch.

Joey: This was the region I previewed on the site prior to the tournament tip-off. Overall, I would say that I called it pretty well. I said that #8 St. Joe’s would push #1 Oregon more than most people thought and that game came down to the wire. I thought #5 Baylor was overrated and #12 Yale decided to prove that point. I also said that #11 Northern Iowa and #7 Texas would have a very close game and that regardless of the result a Texas team would make it to the Sweet 16 from this section. Overall, my bracket did pretty well down here. I went with my gut and took #7 Texas to make it to the Sweet 16 and it ended up being #3 Texas A&M instead. #1 Oregon also made it farther than I expected, but I was correct in calling #2 Oklahoma to emerge victorious from this region of the bracket. My favorite matches for this region were both of the ones that #11 Northern Iowa featured in. A buzzer beater win and a historic 12-point, 44 second flop; both incredibly exciting matches to watch!

Drew: I have this region pretty solidly nailed down. I missed on the #5 Baylor/#12 Yale upset and I missed by calling #4 Duke over #1 Oregon. Every other pick has been perfect for me which makes me pretty happy. This has been a pretty entertaining bracket to watch too. It’s hard to pick a favorite game here. I think that meltdown from #11 Northern Iowa against #3 Texas A&M may just take the cake. 12 points in 44 seconds is just a ridiculous margin to overcome. Oklahoma and should have been AP Player of the Year Buddy Hield will take down Villanova and knock off UNC to win it all. Keep on marching!

Alec: When I look at my picks in the West, it makes me feel like I actually know what I’m talking about when it comes to college basketball. The only game I picked wrong was the Texas-Northern Iowa game, which was the most exciting game, until Northern Iowa played Texas A&M. That game was the definition of March Madness. And I’d be crazy if I didn’t say something about Buddy Hield here. He has been playing out of this world and has actually drawn comparisons to Steph Curry throughout this tournament. Their NBA draft scouting reports are eerily similar. We could be witnessing history and the next big star of the NBA. I’m excited to see what he does in the Final Four.

South Region

Villanova MBB 2016
Nova – Andy Lyons/Getty Images

John: Kansas. You have failed me yet again. Despite knocking out the Jayhawks I have to appreciate the solid basketball that the Villanova Wildcats have played. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see them live until they rolled over Miami in the Sweet Sixteen. The only buzzer beater that comes to mind in this group is Iowa over Temple in the first round. This group was dominated by Kansas and Villanova with both teams not truly being challenged until they played each other.

Joey: Oh Kansas, I didn’t want to pick them because they have hurt me so many times in the past, but I sucked it up and picked them again. Yet another poor decision for my poor ole’ bracket. Honestly though, I credit the demise of Kansas more to a surprisingly strong Villanova team than I do to weak play by a strong Kansas team. Many people did not expect Nova to perform in this year’s tournament, but so far they have done just the opposite of that. Nova is a scary looking team bursting with talent; a team ready to put up a fight in the Final Four. My favorite (and least favorite) match of this region was #13 Hawaii against #4 California. I say my favorite because it was a great match and the crowd was so ecstatic for Hawaii that it made it even more entertaining to watch. I say my least favorite because I had Hawaii winning in my bracket and changed it at the last minute. Live and learn (or make a similar move next year, like I always do).

Drew: I am so glad that I listened to my instincts and didn’t put #1 Kansas in the championship. I did have them in the FInal Four but I am in a much better place than a lot of other people. #2 Villanova absolutely shocked me. I did not see them making it beyond the Sweet 16. There was so much baggage from past slip ups in the tourney but they are so resilient. It’s too bad they will have to lose to the Juggernaut OU. I have to pick the #1 Kansas/#2 Villanova game as the game of the region. Two powerful teams that either one could have won out to win it all.

Alec: Unfortunately, I have yet to watch Villanova play in this tournament, which seeing their results and hearing how well they’ve been playing, is like an insult to them. So I apologize to the Wildcats. As Joey has mentioned in previous podcasts, Nova seems to have been flying under the radar this entire tournament. And now they are in the Final Four. Their game against Oklahoma has the potential to be a great one, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see that game be the best of the final three games remaining.

Midwest Region

Cuse - Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Cuse – Jamie Squire/Getty Images

John: A bomb went off and the source was the zone from Syracuse. I watched both their Elite Eight win and their Sweet Sixteen win. The reasons why they were my “favorite” are because 1) both had numbing collapses from the other teams and 2) I witnessed the 2-3 zone choke the life out of teams. How many times must I watch a college basketball game and watch a team struggle to inbound the ball, Gonzaga? How many times must I watch a team playing against a zone fail to penetrate because their coach did not coach, Virginia? I am happy for Syracuse but pray they do not beat UNC because watching the 2-3 zone is boring basketball. Or rather, watching an offensive team pass the ball around beyond the arc is boring basketball. But hooray for Syracuse for getting both a Men’s and Women’s team into the Final Four.

Joey: The Midwest Region was by far the “craziest” region of the tournament. From #2 Michigan State falling to #15 Middle Tennessee in the first round to #12 Arkansas-Little Rock advancing with a win over #5 Purdue in the same round. This region was already busting brackets all over the place in just the first round. #11 Gonzaga made a nice run as well taking down #6 Seton Hall, who many expected good things from this year, and #3 Utah before falling to the winner of the region, #10 Syracuse. Even with Michigan State falling early, I would still credit Syracuse with being the story of this region. For starters, many experts did not think that Syracuse deserved to be in the tournament at all, yet here they are preparing to play a Final Four match as the first #10 seed in history to make it this far. I expect their journey to end here with UNC coming out on top, but no one can deny that Syracuse came to prove something this year and win or lose I think a record finish is a pretty good consolation prize.

Drew: Oh Midwest region, where I had only UVA make it to the Sweet 16 and that didn’t last long either. This is truly the definition of March Madness. #15 MTSU most certainly has the biggest upset in tournament history. Enough said. Syracuse will lose to UNC to end the Midwest.

Alec: Like I said in my preview of this region, none of the teams can be trusted. I would have never picked Syracuse to come out of this region. But hats off to Coach Jim Boeheim and his team. He is once again proving that he is one of the best coaches in the nation. They are the first #10 seed to reach the Final Four. Unfortunately, UNC will probably end their unlikely run, but who knows? After seeing how this region played out, anything is possible.

Final Four Preview

MM16 Final Four2
Final Four – courtesy of sportstravel.com

#1 North Carolina vs. #10 Syracuse

John: I see UNC handling Syracuse and the zone just because of their dominant big men. I don’t see a blowout though. Syracuse has too much experience and savvy in their starting five to be rolled over. What to watch: Brice Johnson of UNC play for a top 3 draft spot. The loser of this game should have to accept additional NCAA sanctions.

Joey: On the right side of the bracket I expect #1 North Carolina (UNC) to end #10 Syracuse’s Cinderella story. Syracuse is the first #10 seed to make it to the Final Four and I fully expect them to be the first #10 seed to lose in the Final Four as well. Syracuse has continued to mount comebacks and squeeze through to the next round throughout the tournament behind their signature 2-3 zone style, strong determination, and the strength of will to never give up. As much as I would like to give Syracuse all the credit for their run, I think a good part of it comes down to their opponents not being able to close the game out as well. This is where I expect UNC to change things up. The #1 seed has looked strong throughout the tournament and has been able to quickly extinguish all comeback attempts so far. For Syracuse to win they would have to be able to keep up with UNC for the duration of the game, something that no team has been able to do so far in the tournament. I am sticking with my bracket, fully expecting to see UNC in the National Championship Game.

Drew: With a slight change to the old saying, third time will not be the charm for Syracuse. They have played close with UNC in their two previous matchups but UNC is playing like a whole new team now. I just don’t see them losing. It’s less about what Syracuse can do and a lot more about what UNC has been doing. One caveat, Syracuse can never be discounted, not with Jim Boeheim coaching them. So we will see if the Madness continues. My money’s on UNC.

Alec: Picking UNC is definitely the safest pick in the Final Four. I’m picking them to beat the Orange but I can’t help but get this funny feeling that Syracuse will pull off the upset, defeating another ACC rival to reach the title game. Do I think it will happen? No. But I do think the chance of it happening is greater than most people think. Even if Syracuse does win, I don’t think they would have enough left in the tank to beat either Villanova or Oklahoma. UNC is the team here that can actually win the whole thing and they will get their chance after beating Syracuse.

#2 Villanova vs. #2 Oklahoma

John: Buddy Hield! Save this tournament and take me to the promised land! Despite having a terrific first two rounds this tournament has failed to inspire. Except with Buddy. Villanova is a real challenge and the location where they are playing (Houston Texans football stadium) has been a dead zone for the three pointer in past years. If Villanova can do what no team has done yet, stop Hield, they will win. I expect UNC and Oklahoma in the game…ride or die. Let’s take Oklahoma to win it all!

Joey: On the left side of the bracket I am expecting one heck of a good game. In my bracket I picked #2 Oklahoma to advance to the National Championship Game behind an impressive Buddy Hield performance. #2 Villanova has been a quiet surprise throughout the tournament so far. I mentioned this in our post-Round of 32 podcast, but Villanova won their first 2 games by 20+ points. From there they went on to dominate Miami by a large margin as well before sliding by tournament favorite, Kansas. Entering the tournament many thought that Villanova was seeded too high and was going to flop early, now one could argue that they have been the best looking team in the tournament so far. If Villanova can keep Hield in check then I see them taking this game with a breeze, but if they can’t then I am expecting another clutch Hield performance to continue building his Tournament MVP and NBA draft resumes. I am beginning to lean toward Villanova in this one, but for my bracket’s sake I am going to stick with Buddy Hield and Oklahoma to advance.

Drew: Wow I want this game to be an easy choice. I love Buddy Hield. I love his game. I love the way he lifts everyone around him to be better. This OU team is phenomenal. But then we have Villanova. Nova has let down expectations for the last few years, but this year they are playing lights out. 20+ point victories, solid shooting, and great defense. This is a complete team that could take down OU. I think I will still bet on Buddy and Oklahoma. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and OU will get going strong.

Alec: Like I said earlier, the OU-Nova game could be the best of the tourney. I’m expecting a tight contest going down to the final seconds. My gut is telling me that Nova is the better overall team, but they don’t have Buddy Hield. If he continues the tear he’s on, the Sooners could very well be National Champions. However, I have similar feelings about the winner of this game to if Syracuse wins. This game could be so exhausting that neither team will be able to replicate that performance against (most likely) UNC. So who wins? It’s really tough to call, but I’m taking the hottest player in the country in Hield to carry Oklahoma to the final.

National Championship Game: Who will make it?

John: My original finalists were Kansas and Michigan State. Burned again. I should have changed my picks after President Obama had very similar ones – he has been bad luck.

Joey: Both of my National Championship teams are still alive in North Carolina and Oklahoma, but they have steep tests ahead in this round of the tournament. Here’s hoping that they both advance to keep my bracket alive!

Drew: I can still have a winning bracket which is more than so many others can say. UNC vs. OU for the championship with OU winning it all, 78-73.

Alec: Like John, I also originally had Kansas and Michigan State in the ship. And like the rest of the guys, I have UNC and OU winning their Final Four games. I would love to see Buddy put the team on his back and win the title, but I think North Carolina will take it. I also just want to throw out there that the last time UNC won the title in 2009, their arch rival Duke took the crown the following year. Who won it all last year? Oh yeah, Duke. I see the Tar Heels continuing the trend of “anything you can do, I can do better,” replacing their rivals on top of the college basketball world.

So there you have it! This is what we have thought of this year’s tournament so far and what we expect to come in the two Final Four matches! Happy viewing and be ready for our National Championship preview next week! Cheers!

Featured Image courtesy of betvega.com.