Viewer’s guide for saturday’s final four games

Viewer’s guide for Saturday’s Final Four games


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For a complete ESPN. com experience, please upgrade or use a supported browser Myron Medcalf , ESPN Staff Writer 4/2/2016 What to watch for in Saturday’s national semifinals Insider Men’s College Basketball, Oklahoma Sooners, Villanova Wildcats, North Carolina Tar Heels, Syracuse Orange

HOUSTON — For the diehards, the Final Four represents the last chapter of an exciting college basketball season. They understand the road that each team — Syracuse, North Carolina, Villanova and Oklahoma — has traveled to reach this stage at NRG Stadium in Houston.

The casual fans who arrived in March when the office pools began, however, might need some help preparing for this weekend’s action.

Well, we’re here to assist. Here’s a viewing guide to Saturday’s Final Four games:

1. No bathroom breaks when Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield is playing

In his first four NCAA tournament games, the Bahamian superstar launched fadeaways, jump shots, 3-pointers and layups over the outstretched hands of helpless defenders. He’s a perpetual highlight reel, adding new scenes every game. But he’s not just another “good player.” Hield (averaging 29.2 points in the NCAA tournament), who is shooting 70 percent inside the arc and 47 percent on 3-pointers in the tourney, is the first player to average 25 points or more entering the Final Four since former Georgia Tech star Dennis Scott in 1990. Some guys named Larry Bird and Glen Rice are the other two players since 1975 who’ve achieved that feat.

2. Teams can’t shoot at NRG Stadium

Whenever college basketball players compete in a dome, they’re asked the same question: Will the unusual dimensions affect your shooting? Hield says no.

“If you know how to make shots,” he said Friday, “you go out there and shoot the ball.”

But history suggests it might not be that easy. The last time NRG Stadium hosted a Final Four in 2011, teams averaged 56.2 PPG, the lowest sum in the past five Final Fours.

3. The NCAA might hand the national title trophy to a team or coach at the center of a recent academic investigation

Well, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim vacated 101 wins and served a nine-game suspension this season following an NCAA investigation. And North Carolina’s Roy Williams coaches a Tar Heels program that’s connected to an ongoing investigation for academic improprieties. So there’s a chance the NCAA’s national title trophy will go to a program that’s familiar with the governing body’s investigators.

4. Forget about the first Oklahoma-Villanova game

Yes, Oklahoma defeated Villanova by 23 points on Dec. 7. But that was months ago. Jay Wright’s squad held Kansas — yes, Kansas — to only 59 points in the Elite Eight, and the Wildcats are shooting 55.1 percent in the NCAA tournament, the highest mark for a team entering the Final Four since North Carolina in 2008.

5. North Carolina could bully every opponent in Houston

This is a scary North Carolina squad. The Tar Heels are the biggest team in Houston, and it’s not close. Last weekend, they outscored Notre Dame 42-30 in the paint. The Tar Heels are averaging 89.3 PPG in the NCAA tournament and 1.34 points per possession. They get buckets. So this could be a coronation for Williams’ squad.

6. Third time’s a charm for Syracuse?

It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season. It’s even more difficult when that adversary is a North Carolina team that has already outscored Syracuse 84-58 in the paint in the first two matchups this season.

7. Last shot at the national title for Roy Williams?

Sean May ain’t walking through that door, folks. UNC’s Williams assembled a special group for this year’s Final Four run, the program’s first since 2009. But Williams, 65, might struggle to put together another team with this potency before he retires. These Tar Heels might comprise his last great team.

8. Syracuse’s second-half run against Virginia was out of character

The Orange earned this trip to the Final Four with a furious rally from a 16-point deficit against Virginia in the Elite Eight. But remember this: there are 49 teams ranked ahead of Syracuse in KenPom. com’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings.

9. Houston native Khadeem Lattin most important Oklahoma player not named Buddy Hield

Lattin is a 6-foot-9 rim protector who must guard the paint and stay on the floor. In three of Oklahoma’s five most recent losses, Lattin (2.1 blocks) committed four or more fouls, which affected his playing time. That can’t happen against Villanova.

10. Some of these guys will join your favorite NBA team soon

Hield is probably a top-five pick in this summer’s NBA draft, assuming NBA executives don’t overanalyze his potential. But that’s not all. Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson, Michael Gbinije and Tyler Lydon, as well as North Carolina’s Brice Johnson could all crack NBA rosters in the near future, too.

11. Yes, you can pronounce Ryan Arcidiacono’s name, and we’ll help

Say it with us now: it’s Ryan ARCHIE-dee-ack-uh-no.

12. Which Marcus Paige will show for Saturday’s game?

That’s a significant question. Paige is 10-for-20 in his past two games (although he finished 3-for-8 in UNC’s Elite Eight win over Notre Dame), but that followed a tremendous slump. Good Paige could win most outstanding player. Bad Paige will diminish his team’s chances of winning a national title.

13. North Carolina’s defensive issues

We’ve got good news, and we’ve got bad news. North Carolina is ranked 22nd in KenPom. com’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. Only one team that has finished outside the top 20 (ratings began since 2002) has ever won the national title. That team? North Carolina (No. 21) in 2009.

14. Luther is back for “One Shining Moment,” and that’s a wise move

Why was this even a debate? You can’t just drop Luther Vandross from the tournament’s postgame montage and expect folks to be OK with that.

15. There’s a reason to root for every Final Four team

You don’t have to be connected to the schools to root for them in the Final Four. Syracuse is the first 10-seed to reach the Final Four. Hield left the Bahamas when he was a teenager to pursue his basketball dreams, and now he’ll be a lottery pick with a shot at the crown. Villanova failed to reach the second weekend for six consecutive seasons. North Carolina is the last remaining No. 1 seed and could save your bracket in the office pool. Now … this. © 2016 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information/Your California Privacy Rights are applicable to you. All rights reserved. More From ESPN:

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