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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Only four teams are left: who will survive?

The wait is over.

After five months of what was one of the wildest college basketball seasons in recent memory, we have finally reached Houston, the 2016 host of the Final Four.

In what was a season that saw a total of six different top-ranked teams, it turns out the team that started the year on top would also find themselves in the Final Four as the probable favorite to win it all.

That team is the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

The only remaining one-seed left among the field, the Tar Heels find themselves back in the Final Four for the first time since 2009, which happened to be their last National Championship season. On the road to their 19th Final Four, the Tar Heels have looked the best they have all year, beating each of their first four Tournament foes by double digits.

Senior guard Marcus Paige seems to have found his shot at the right time, and senior forward Brice Johnson has continued his regular-season tear throughout the tournament. In his four East Regional games, Johnson averaged 21 points and close to 10 rebounds per game.

Of course, North Carolina has also seen the team’s supporting cast step up the first two weekends of the tournament.  In each of the team’s four tournament games, the Heels have had at least five players score in double digits. With this type of balanced scoring, it really is hard pick against the Tar Heels going into this weekend.

So who will North Carolina be facing on Saturday evening? Well it happens to be a familiar face, fellow Atlantic Coast Conference foe the Syracuse University Orange.

Syracuse has made one of the more improbable runs in recent National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament memory, considering many feel they probably should not have been in the tournament in the first place.

Looking past head coach Jim Boheim’s suspension in the first nine ACC games of the season (which saw Syracuse go 4-5), the Orange lost five of their last six games prior to Selection Sunday. Many “bracketologists” did not have Syracuse in the field, and it appears Syracuse has turned that criticism into motivation.

The Orange are the first 10-seed to ever make an appearance in the Final Four, and they got there by what many thought to be an improbable comeback in their Elite Eight game.

Down 15 with 9:33 left to play against the University of Virginia Cavaliers, the Orange ended the game on a 25-4 run with freshman guard Malachi Richardson scoring 21 of his 23 points in the second half.

Senior guard Michael Gbinije has also been a big asset to the Orange throughout the Tournament by continuing his stellar regular-season production, averaging 16 points, four assists and four rebounds in four tournament games.

The Orange and Tar Heels played twice during the regular season, both games being North Carolina wins.

On the other side of the bracket, we have a matchup that pits a pair of two-seeds against each other.

One of these two-seeds is the Villanova University Wildcats, who are coming off of a 64-59 Elite Eight win over the tournament’s number one overall seed, the University of Kansas Jayhawks.

Prior to that tough game against Kansas, Villanova breezed through their first three tournament games. The Wildcats veterans have particularly stepped it up since their Big East Championship loss against Seton Hall University, particularly junior guard Kris Jenkins, senior Ryan guard Arcidiacono, junior forward Josh Hart and senior forward Daniel Ochefu.

It appears this Villanova team is attempting to prove all of the naysayers wrong after early tournament exits from the past couple of years. They could really silence the crowd with a win on Saturday, but the University of Oklahoma Sooners stand in their way.

In particular, senior forward Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners stand in their way.

The Sooners, a two seed, are led by arguably college basketball’s most valuable player in Hield. Hield is averaging almost 30 points per game in the Tournament and is coming off of a 37-point game in Oklahoma’s Elite Eight win against the University of Oregon Ducks.

Junior guard Jordan Woodard has also been a consistent threat in the Sooner’s tournament run, and when Woodard and Hield are both clicking, Oklahoma is a really tough out.

This is not the first meeting between Oklahoma and Villanova this season, and that non-conference game saw the Sooners hand the Wildcats their largest defeat of the season, a 78-55 result. But do not count on a similar final score the way each team has been playing of late.

It is apparent each team in the Final Four has taken their own unique road to get to Houston. And with the clock counting down on the 2016 version of the Big Dance, who will be cutting down the nets late Monday night?

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About the Contributor
Reese Setzer, Sports Editor

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