The NCAA Final Four

AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR...NORTH CAROLINA, SYRACUSE, VILLANOVA, OKLAHOMA IN HOUSTON

The four teams remaining in the 2016 NCAA College Basketball Tournament have had a week to get ready for the task at hand. Win Saturday...win Monday...and you're the National Champs! North Carolina is the favorite to cut down the nets. But, pesky Syracuse will certainly have something to say about that Saturday. And the survivor of Villanova/Oklahoma definitely has the talent to outscore Carolina in a 40-minute sprint.

Let's first review how each of the four survivors made it past the Elite 8 round last weekend. Then, we'll look at JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats for offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, and pace (as listed in the publicly available data at Ken Pomeroy's college basketball website).

Here we go...

SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
Final Score: Villanova 64, Kansas 59
Phantom Score: Villanova 62, Kansas 66
Key Stat: Villanova forced a lot of Kansas turnovers, winning the category 16-9, and was also lights out from the free throw line making 18 of 19. You see that Kansas won "Phantom Score," which is two-point scoring plus rebounding. Villanova had to play great in other categories to make up for Kansas shooting 61% inside the arc.

WEST CHAMPIONSHIP
Final Score: Oklahoma 80, Oregon 68
Phantom Score: Oklahoma 68, Oregon 66
Key Stat: Three-pointers continue to be huge for Oklahoma...which is always very dangerous in this event. That's the stat players have least "control" over because you just can't make them on command every game. The Sooners were 12 of 24 from long range, compared to just 4 of 21 for the Ducks. And, this after going 11 of 25 vs. Texas A&M in the Sweet 16.

NATIONAL SEMFINAL #1
Villanova vs. Oklahoma: Offense, Defense, and Pace
Villanova: #4 on offense, #8 on defense, #272 in pace
Oklahoma: #13 on offense, #13 on defense, #90 in pace

Possibly the biggest single factor here will be whether or not Oklahoma can hit three-pointers against the dome backdrop down in Houston. There have been ZERO games played in domes so far this tournament...as pro arenas were used in the regional finals. Oklahoma turns mortal very quickly if the bombs aren't falling. And that's even with Buddy Hield as a dynamic force. (Don't forget that Oklahoma crushed Villanova in an early December meeting because they made a bunch of treys.) You can see above that Villanova has the better offense, the better defense, and a slow pace that's very comfortable in deliberate "playoff style" basketball. That frustrated Kansas last week in a similar type of "pace war." Villanova is a legitimate favorite all things considered. Oklahoma will need to make treys to win.

EAST CHAMPIONSHIP
Final Score: North Carolina 88, Notre Dame 74
Phantom Score: North Carolina 88, North Carolina 51
Key Stat: Carolina was great at so many things! The Heels shot 72% inside the arc while only turning the ball over six times. They won the battle of the boards 32-15. They also almost doubled up the Irish in made free throws. Phantom Score shows a slaughter, which Notre Dame helped hide by shooting 9 of 18 on treys. Carolina is definitely playing championship caliber basketball right now. Can they keep it going?  

MIDWEST CHAMPIONSHIP
Final Score: Syracuse 68, Virginia 62
Phantom Score: Syracuse 66, Virginia 62
Key Stat: As was the case with Villanova, a mix of turnovers and made free throws helped spring the upset. Syracuse went to a press when falling way behind that helped force Virginia mistakes. Then, when the game got close, Virginia panicked while Syracuse stayed cool. The Orange would win the turnover category 8-13, while doubling Virginia in free throws 20-10. Note that Syracuse also won the turnover category handily vs. Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, by a 9-17 count. So, that's a combined 17-30 going the Orange way last week

NATIONAL SEMIFINAL #2
North Carolina vs. Syracuse: Offense, Defense, and Pace
North Carolina: #1 on offense, #22 on defense, #62 in pace
Syracuse: #51 on offense, #16 on defense, #319 in pace

Whenever Syracuse plays, you have to evaluate the opponent's ability to handle their zone. North Carolina does have the #1 offense in the country when you adjust for pace and schedule strength. And, they've already seen it twice in two victories! So, it's hard to imagine an offense better suited to deal with what Syracuse brings to the table. That being said, a recent meeting in Chapel Hill ended 75-70, which isn't enough to cover this tall spread. And, Carolina does get mistake-prone when pressured. It's been a long time since they felt pressure. If Syracuse can keep it close, things can definitely get very interesting here. But, if Carolina can get easy buckets in transition, then make some treys over the zone in halfcourt sets (11 of 20 on treys vs. Indiana in the Sweet 16), a blowout will be in the offing.

What are the right bets against the Las Vegas lines? Don't make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say! The final word for the 2016 Final Four can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card on game-day. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 Friday during normal business hours or Saturday before the action gets started.

Back with you Sunday to check in on the Golden State Warriors as they continue to chase history. They host Portland Sunday night in a game you can watch on NBA-TV. Then, we'll have an in-depth preview for you Monday in the National Championship game matching Saturday's winners to close out the college basketball season. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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