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"The Stack" 4-1-16

The scoring machine that is Buddy Hield is looking to take Oklahoma to the national championship, but they will have to get by Villanova first. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The scoring machine that is Buddy Hield is looking to take Oklahoma to the national championship, but they will have to get by Villanova first.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Brice Johnson and UNC are looking to win against Syracuse for the third time this season.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Final Four Friday!  No jokes to be found here.  The Stack is here with previews and predictions of all four Final Four matchups in both the men’s and women’s tournaments so let’s get right to “the stack” for today, Friday, April 1st:

 

Men’s Final Four preview (Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX)

 

#2 Villanova vs. #2 Oklahoma 6:09 PM ET TBS

 

For the first time ever the NCAA men’s tournament champion will be crowned on cable television on TBS.  This is a fascinating matchup.  Buddy Hield has been dynamite in this tournament.  He is Steph Curry-esque.  He didn’t have a great day against Texas A&M with 17 points, but lit up Oregon for 37.  Villanova must find a way to slow him down.  Both teams like to shoot the three and there have been a bevy of stories and statistics about how playing in an NFL stadium, especially NRG Stadium in Houston, leads to poorer shooting.  Last year when the regional was in Houston, teams shot in the 30 percent range.  That isn’t good.  If anyone can change that it is Hield.  Villanova is a pretty good defensive team and they showed their wit against Kansas.  Kris Jenkins can shoot threes and he can score inside as well.  These two teams met in Hawaii in December and Oklahoma destroyed Villanova 77-54.  Villanova is a much younger team than Oklahoma.  They’ve learned and grown from that loss though.  This game will be much closer and don’t be surprised when Villanova finds a way to slow down Hield and take down Oklahoma.  Just can’t quite get myself to actually take it though.

 

Pick: Oklahoma

 

#1 UNC vs. #10 Syracuse 8:49 PM ET TBS

 

Ah, the academic scandal game.  OK, cheap shot out of the way.  Wonder how much this will be brought up during the game.  I’m guessing not much if at all.  It is a big deal, but so too is the way that Syracuse has found their way back to the Final Four, having to comeback in the second half of both their games in Chicago against Gonzaga and Virginia.  The Virginia win was especially improbable given that the Cuse was down by 16 with ten minutes to go.  UNC went 2-0 against Syracuse in the regular season, but they were both close games (84-73 Jan 9th and 75-70 Feb 29th).  Syracuse’s zone always causes a problem, but their defensive rebounding is not good and crashing the boards is UNC’s specialty, especially on the offensive end.  They are shooting really well in this tournament and I don’t see that stopping in this game.  Even if Syracuse is down, they know they can come back so this won’t be a blowout, but UNC is the better team and they will advance to the national championship.

 

Pick: UNC

 

Women’s Final Four (Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN)

 

#2 Oregon State vs. #1 UCONN 6 PM ET ESPN

 

I did predict Oregon State would make it to the Final Four, but their fantastic season ends here.  Hope they enjoy their first ever trip to the Final Four, because it is about to end in dominating fashion by Breanna Stewart and the UConn Lady Huskies who are near certain locks to win their fourth straight national championship.  And Geno Auriemma and his team should not apologize.  We need to watch this for the greatness and the history, because history will be made one way or another.

 

Pick: UConn

 

#7 Washington vs. #4 Syracuse 8:30 PM ET ESPN2

 

Come on now, no one had this matchup.  What is interesting about this matchup is it features one of the top scorers in the country in Washington’s Kelsey Plum.  Very few people know who she is.  Watch and you’ll see a star in the making.  Perhaps Washington should have been better than a #10 seed.  Quentin Hillsman is the Syracuse head coach and he looks a lot like Mike Tirico who also happens to be a Syracuse grad.  Toss up as to who wins, but and no offense to either of these two teams, they are going to get stomped by UConn in the national championship game. 

 

Pick: Washington

 

Coming up Monday: Final Four reaction, National Championship preview and thoughts on the US women’s soccer lawsuit.

 

Take a listen to “The Sports Block” podcast for this week right here.

 

Coming up later this week: 2016 MLB season preview

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