Consider this post your open thread for the Final Four.
I will be at the festivities before the game, and inside NRG Stadium for both contests sending out tweets during all the action. Follow along with me on twitter @DanSwany.
Time: 5:09 pm
Teams: #2 Villanova (33-5) vs #2 Oklahoma (29-7)
About Villanova: From villanova.com –
An impressive run has led the Wildcats to their fifth Final Four appearance all-time, and first since 2009. Villanova won its first three NCAA Tournament games by an average of 24.0 points and then ousted the tournament’s top overall seed, Kansas, in a 64-59 thriller in an Elite 8 game last Saturday night. Four different players are averaging at least 12.5 points per game for the Wildcats in the tournament thus far, and the team is shooting 55 percent from the field.
Saturday night’s matchup against the Sooners will be just the third game in NCAA Tournament history pitting a pair of #2 seeds against each other. The game is also a rematch from another neutral-site contest earlier this season. Villanova was defeated by Oklahoma on December 7 in Pearl Harbor.
Much has changed since that game, and a lot of the improvement shown by the Wildcats over the last three months has been thanks to the team’s exceptional balance. Villanova balances its scoring among several different players, has been successful shooting the ball from outside as well as scoring in the paint, and has won games in both high-scoring shootouts as well as slow-paced defensive duels.
About Oklahoma: From soonersports.com –
With the Sooners trotting out one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country and being led by perhaps the nation’s most lethal long-distance marksman in Buddy Hield, how will OU fare in Saturday’s 5:09 p.m. CT semifinal against Villanova?
Hield, who is shooting .465 from deep and leads Division I with his 4.1 treys per game on the year, was seen draining 15 consecutive 3-point attempts in a closed practice Thursday. Asked Friday in OU’s locker room about his thoughts on shooting inside the stadium, Hield acknowledged it’s different than he’s used to. But he also didn’t seem too concerned.
“Looking from one end of the court to the other, it looks like the other rim is lower than it is because of the raised floor,” explained Hield. “But as you walk to the other end it starts to change. We just have to look at the rim and trust our muscle memory when we’re 20 feet away. With me, I’m always good at blocking things out. And I feel like how it’s dark in background, that helps you focus on the rim.
“You just have to be confident. If you’re a shooter, you’re a shooter and there should be no excuse. If I shoot an airball everyone will probably blow it up and say it’s because of the depth perception. No. If I shoot an airball, I shoot an airball. That’s how the game goes. But I’m not worrying about it. I’m just going to lock into the rim and try to make shots.”
Time: 7:49 pm
Teams: #10 Syracuse (23-13) vs #1 North Carolina (32-6)
About Syracuse: From syracuse.com –
There are reasons for both the Orange and the Tar Heels to be confident. For Syracuse, it wasn’t like the Orange played great in either loss to UNC. In the first game, Gbinije, SU’s leading scorer, managed a season-low 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting. In the second game, Trevor Cooney, Syracuse’s other senior guard and it’s second-leading scorer, made just 3 of his 11 shots.
“I think it gives you some confidence going into this game,” Cooney said. “I mean, we can play with these guys. We had them at home. They went on a run at the end of the game. We went into Carolina late in the year and played well. Once again we were there at the end. We just couldn’t get the stops we needed or score enough to really get back into the game.
“I think it just gives us the confidence to go into this game, that we can play with these guys,” he added. “If we play the way we’ve been playing defensively, I think we’ll be fine.”
About North Carolina: From goheels.com –
Count Roy Williams among the people who don’t necessary believe in the “hard to beat a team three times” axiom. “With the close games we’ve had, those things don’t mean anything,” the head coach said. “In college basketball, it’s different…I’m not telling my guys it’s difficult. I’m telling them it had nothing to do with it.”
The Tar Heels, of course, won at Syracuse earlier this year, and then beat them again at the Smith Center on senior night. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim also wasn’t particularly impressed with the relevance of those games.
“We played pretty well in both games, and we still couldn’t win,” Boeheim said. “We know that. We also know we were close in both games…I’m not sure, other than familiarity, how much it plays into the game. It still comes down to who plays well tonight.”