The Final Four resumes tonight in Houston with three teams who have sat #1 in the AP Poll and a team that was pleasantly surprised to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Much has been made about the checked paths that North Carolina and Syracuse took to reach this point, but their program’s transgressions are another topic for another day; today is about celebrating college basketball and enjoying two dynamite National Semi Final matchups.
And of course, grabbing a winning pick in the process!
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Today’s FINAL FOUR PICK:
Game One: #2 Oklahoma Sooners vs. #2 Villanova Wildcats -2
One could make a cogent argument for these being the two most impressive teams so far in the NCAA Tournament. With the exception of a brief period again VCU in the Round of 32, Oklahoma hasn’t really been pushed. They took care of a big and athletic Texas A&M in routine fashion and then consolidated the break with a business-like dismissal of the #1 seeded Oregon Ducks. Oklahoma has the most dynamic talent and best shot-maker in the country in Buddy Hield, but it is more than just the Buddy Love Show for the Sooners. Their core four has started over 100 games together and the veteran leadership and unselfishness of Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard are invaluable. Add in the toughness, rebounding and ability to stretch the defense from the four-spot of Ryan Spangler and the Sooners first five is devastatingly diverse.
Meanwhile, scoring certainly hasn’t been a problem for Villanova. The Wildcats burnt up the scoreboard in their first three games, trouncing a game Iowa and solid Miami teams in the process. They might have gotten a little fortunate that Kansas couldn’t knock down a shot in the Regional Final, escaping with a 63-59 win, but if nothing else, it showcased that Nova can win with defensive toughness OR offense.
They are going to need every scrap of toughness tonight against Oklahoma. Much has been made about the “dome effect” on shooters, and how shooting in Final Four domes is 4% lower from behind the arc. Yes, that is a large statistical difference. BUT, in the course of one game, if 25 threes are attempted, it is just ONE MORE MISS. Throw in a 50/50 chance Khadeem Lattin grabs the offensive board, and the effect is neutralized. So let’s not get too carried away with the fact Oklahoma is three-point dependent. They will be just fine.
And I think Oklahoma is the better team. I assumed this would be a two point spread – just in the opposite direction. Did anyone else SEE what Oklahoma did to Villanova in December? It was a massacre. They outmanned them at every position and dominated the game. Yes, a lot of season has transpired since then, but these are two veteran teams playing the same guys and same rotations they did in December.
I’ll take the Sooners and the two, and would happily grab a little extra juice on the money line straight up.