In the spirit of Easter, and devout agnosticism, I've been resurrected from speedbump-induced highway roadkill in time to give some fair, unbiased, and objective predictions and factoids about the upcoming Final Four in Houston, Texas. Let us dive in and see what REALLY matters in these heavyweight fights for national supremacy.
The semifinals feature a pair of North vs. South, Civil War-reminiscent match-ups. In the battle of good versus evil, Villanova takes on the Sooners of Oklahoma. It's worth noting that the Sooner nickname is a civil war artifact that has yet to offend enough people to get changed (and Lon Kruger was allegedly an assistant under Jefferson Davis). In the nightcap, we have the battle of evil versus eviler, as Syracuse faces off against the neo-confederates of UNC. A little known fact for the stat hounds out there: Leo DiCaprio based his role in Django:Unchained on how Roy Williams coaches, dresses, and generally carries himself.
This year, in order to maximize ticket sales, profit, and academic excellence, the final four will be played inside a library for the first time. This brings rise to many unfair advantages and disadvantages, just like last year when games were played in a football stadium:
- The venue heavily favors Oklahoma, a team of many volumes shooters.
- Look for Syracuse to exploit UNC early, as there is little to no evidence that the Tar Heels have ever stepped foot inside a library and there's a chance the whole team might just go play PS4 in their dorm instead of showing up.
- Fortunately, Bob Huggins, a master of the DUI decimal system, did not make it to Houston. Similarly, we are all saved from finding out on live television if Rick Pitino can differentiate between a restaurant table and a librarian’s desk. Also not to get away from competitive basketball, but Buzz Williams is a bad person.
- Villanova, widely considered the gold standard of class by everyone who, themselves, went to Villanova, clearly has the advantage here.
- The star not only the tournament, but the entire season, has been Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield. He's a lights out shooter who presents a major challenge for every opponent, and he demands attention at all times. But lest we forget what happened to the last overly-affable ‘bud’ that was apparently made in a lab and returned to school for his senior year for a chance at glory.
- UNC’s NBA-level frontcourt, headlined by Brice Johnson, has created match-up nightmares all season long. Their front line made Notre Dame’s defense look like the Maginot line, but don’t forget what happened at Stalingrad. They can be defeated with the right opponent finally intervening.
- Justin Jackson has two first names so I fundamentally do not trust him as a human being.
- As always, Syracuse relies on its length, athleticism, 2-3 zone, and complete lack of discipline. Playing a team with a coach who was frozen in time in the elite 8 helped, too. Also, contributing to their success was the blatant favoritism by the selection committee in order to open up the New York market and further boost the ACC. But I digress. Like any good Northern squad, 'Cuse players are granted freedom from Jim Boeheim (so long as they quietly endure his petulance). Boeheim has proven to be (bernie) fine with any wrongdoings in the program, so long as they don’t lead to NCAA sanctions.
- Everything is relative, and Villanova’s roster construction is no exception. The Wildcats have a revolving door of star players, so it’s difficult for outsiders to appreciate any single player. Kind of ironic that they've made it to Houston, where the NASA space center loves to arbitrarily label structures as starless.
- In my projected final, Kris Jenkins will go toe to toe with his former roommate, Nate Britt. This requires an adjustment for both of them since they're used to sleeping head to toe (!). The chemistry between these two is off the charts, as they are literally on the record as being in love with each other. Anyone who has seen the movie Love and Basketball knows the distractions that romance can cause for a team, and I’m interested to see how it plays out. Similarly, anyone who has seen the movie The Basketball Diaries also knows the potential breakdowns awaiting Syracuse and UNC.
- School mascots have an undeniable influence of a team’s success, and three of the four finalists are cheered on by abstractions: an orange, a 'southern progressive', and North Carolina citizenry. Look for this metric to heavily favor the Wildcats.
- Oklahoma had a woeful turnout for their Final Four sendoff, especially compared to the Main Line sendoff, which was the biggest blowout at Nova since Columbia came to town. That’s due largely to the fact that Oklahoma is a football school, which can only hurt in a game like this.
- Add UNC to the list of 'football schools', as their success on the gridiron this year has likely turned the campus against the basketball team.
- Of the four teams remaining, Villanova has most recently won a national championship in football. The only thing more lethal than a basketball school come tournament time is a basketball school with a D1-AA football program that was only recently recognized as a national university.
Everyone knows that in sports, as in life, the most scrupulous competitor pretty much always wins, and the moral-compass that is NCAA basketball is no exception. With that in mind, the most logical predictor for March success seems to be the recency of scandals at each respective university. This totally removes UNC from title consideration, as they are literally being investigated as we speak (although it appears Mark Emmert dispatched Fletch to do some digging) for sort of not even really having classrooms.
Syracuse comes in a close second, as they are fresh off a suspended season themselves for accomplishing the holy triumvirate of infractions: improper benefits, academic misconduct, and failure to enforce the school’s drug policy.
Oklahoma was under siege last year for having the most racist fraternity ever, which I think is a major compliment down there. They also basically invented gross collegiate misconduct with the hoopla surrounding the 1988 football team.
Villanova’s biggest misnomer to date has been not playing Taylor King enough, though they’ve also had (surprisingly separate) issues with credit cards and cocaine. Kind of ironic that that's where Nova Nation draws their line in the sand.
With these advanced stats now out in the open, all that is left is to play the games. The national championship can be won by any team in the country, besides the 351 other teams that functionally failed and are no longer playing organized basketball this season. Hopefully, none of the losing teams spend the next 150+ years pretending that never really happened!
Villanova 82, Oklahoma 77
UNC 88, Syracuse 61
Villanova 76, UNC 75
Editor's Note: The above piece is intended as satire. Sorry for the hot taeks!
yB's note: ignore that