How The Final Four Got There
NORTH CAROLINA, SYRACUSE, OKLAHOMA, AND VILLANOVA ARE THROUGH TO THE FINAL FOUR!
Entering the weekend, it looked like the NCAA Tournament was on track to have a battle of #1 seeds on Semifinal Saturday in the Final Four. But, one-by-one, those #1 seeds fell by the wayside. Oregon (a false #1 anyway based on computer ratings) was dominated by Oklahoma. Kansas, the official #1 seed in the whole event, couldn't make it past talented and dangerous Villanova. Virginia blew a huge second half lead to get SHOCKED by Syracuse Sunday. North Carolina finally represented for the top seeds...manhandling a very soft Notre Dame defense.
Let's review the key stats from those four games with an eye on handicapping this weekend's battles. Going in the order they were played...
Oklahoma 80, Oregon 68
Two-Point Shooting: Oklahoma 44%, Oregon 52%
Three-Pointers: Oklahoma 12/24, Oregon 4/21
Free Throws: Oklahoma 14/17, Oregon 22/30
Rebounds Oklahoma 38, Oregon 32
Turnovers: Oklahoma 15, Oregon 12
Phantom Score: Oklahoma 68, Oregon 66
The numbers make it look like a fluke victory based on treys. What really happened is the Buddy Hield was UNSTOPPABLE from wherever he was shooting from! Oklahoma built a 48-30 halftime lead on Hield's shoulders...then didn't attack the basket as aggressively as they might have while sitting on the lead. Oregon fell behind early, and never could mount much of a comeback. The Sooners were a big play for us here at NETWORK. Never in doubt as a pick-em or small dog that never trailed! (For you newcomers, Phantom Score is two-point scoring plus rebounding...a helpful "secondary" score that focuses on key factors. In this case, it just says that the game would have been close if Hield hadn't been such a dominating force.)
Villanova 64, Kansas 59
Two-Point Shooting: Villanova 50%, Kansas 61%
Three-Pointers: Villanova 4/18, Kansas 6/22
Free Throws: Villanova 18/19, Kansas 7/11
Rebounds Villanova 28, Kansas 32
Turnovers: Villanova 9, Kansas 16
Phantom Score: Villanova 62, Kansas 66
Amazing that Villanova could win while allowing 61% inside the arc to the Jayhawks. What happened there is that Kansas could score when they could get the ball inside. But, those 16 turnovers tell you that Villanova was being fairly disruptive before the ball got there. Villanova did a much better job of earning free throw attempts...then was pure MONEY from the charity stripe when sitting on their late lead. Two great teams ('Nova had the resume of a #1 themselves). The Wildcats overcame some possible headaches by forcing so many turnovers.
Syracuse 68, Virginia 62
Two-Point Shooting: Syracuse 39%, Virginia 44%
Three-Pointers: Syracuse 6/19, Virginia 8/21
Free Throws: Syracuse 20/25, Virginia 10/12
Rebounds Syracuse 36, Virginia 34
Turnovers: Syracuse 8, Virginia 13
Phantom Score: Syracuse 66, Virginia 62
An amazing second half. America had already turned off its televisions because Virginia was so far ahead! How could Syracuse come back in a low-tempo game with such a sluggish offense? Well, they dug deep and willed their way back to victory. Virginia's style does allow other teams to hang with them...even apparently when early holes are dug this deep! You can see that Phantom Score was almost an exact match for the final scoreboard. Syracuse kept battling on the boards, and helped their own cause by protecting the ball well. Virginia just quite isn't championship material, in their conference or nationally. They always bang their heads on that ceiling in this event.
North Carolina 88, Notre Dame 74
Two-Point Shooting: Notre Dame 58%, N. Carolina 72%
Three-Pointers: Notre Dame 9/18, N. Carolina 4/13
Free Throws: Notre Dame 11/14, N. Carolina 20/24
Rebounds Notre Dame 15, N. Carolina 32
Turnovers: Notre Dame 7, N. Carolina 6
Phantom Score: Notre Dame 51, N. Carolina 88
Hard to imagine a more non-existent defensive effort for Notre Dame. Though, they were only here because of a lucky draw in the first place. The Irish needed a big day from long range just to lose by 14! Phantom Score shows that Carolina's domination was much more significant than it showed on the scoreboard. That's 28 of 39 on two-point shots for the Tar Heels! Another easy win for the only #1 seed to survive the Elite 8.
Early thoughts for the weekend...Villanova is a small favorite over Oklahoma because of computer ratings and overall resume. They should have been a #1 seed to begin with...and beating Kansas is more impressive than beating Oregon. You probably know that these teams played in the regular season. Oklahoma won huge because 'Nova had no answer for Hield. They have a few days to come up with one.
North Carolina is a healthy favorite over Syracuse...who continues not to get the respect they deserve in the Dance. Syracuse may be 4-5 points better in Power Ratings in the Dance simply because their preferred style is so well suited to playoff-style basketball. Carolina brings a much more "relentless" attack than Virginia does though....which could drag the Orangemen out of their comfort zone and force some foul trouble. That will be a real battle of styles. Syracuse will try to keep it ugly. Things could get interesting if Carolina can't shoot over the zone in a dome setting...and if the refs swallow their whistles on contact inside.
More about those matchups later this week. For now, let's keep building bankroll with the NBA, the NIT Final Four, and remaining small-tournament action! You can purchase JIM HURLEY'S daily slate right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours for complete details on "rest of basketball" offers. (And, don't forget to ask about baseball...starting soon!)
The four regional champions have been crowned...and now it's time to focus on the National Championship. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
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