Final Four

A Preview to the Final Four

The Final Four, one of the most celebrated and loved sports events of the year, is finally here. It’s safe to say this year is going to be just as good, if not better, than previous years. It might also be safe to say that not many people actually believed that these four teams would be here.

Out of the 18,797,085 brackets that were filled out for the ESPN bracket challenge, only 657 had Oregon, UNC, Gonzaga and South Carolina in the Final Four. That’s just 0.00003 percent.

South Carolina and Gonzaga are making their first Final Four appearances in program history. Oregon is also making their first since 1939.

Needless to say, UNC has the upper hand in terms of participation and experience. Roy Williams has coached a total of 520 minutes in the Final Four while Mark Few (Gonzaga), Frank Martin (South Carolina) and Dana Altman (Oregon) all have zero minutes.

Let’s take a closer look at the upcoming Final Four matchups for this weekend.

UNC vs. Oregon

UNC is clearly favored by many to win this game and the championship because of their experience.

Final Four

North Carolina forward Luke Maye celebrates his game winning shot against Kentucky this past Sunday (Photo/ Brandon Dill).

The Tar Heels are led by coach Roy Williams and ACC player of the year Justin Jackson. They will look to capitalize after their last-second victory over second-seeded Kentucky in the previous round.

The Ducks are led by senior Pac-12 player of the year Dillon Brooks and coach Dana Altman. They will look to keep their hot streak going after a dominant win against first seeded Kansas.

These two teams are very similar on paper. Each rank in the top 20 in offense and defense. UNC has one of the best transition offenses in the NCAA and the Ducks have one of the best transition defenses.

The one thing that may define this game is on the glass. UNC is the best offensive rebounding team in the NCAA. That doesn’t bode well for Oregon, who is one of the worst rebounding teams in the NCAA.

UNC may be the favorite here, but don’t be surprised if the Ducks make something magical happen. It could go either way.

Gonzaga vs. South Carolina

Well this is a first for both teams. It is a tale of two completely different stories: the underdog vs. the favorite.

Final Four

South Carolina players celebrate their victory over Florida this past weekend to advance to the Final Four (Photo/ Maddie Meyer).

Gonzaga was a heavy favorite coming into the tournament as they are most years. They are led by head coach Mark Few, who became the third fastest coach to reach 500 wins in Division I history early in the tournament.

This game is going to be interesting because the Gamecocks and the Bulldogs preach defense. The Gamecocks defense ranks second in defensive efficiency in the country, and Gonzaga is first.

What many believe to be the deciding factor in this matchup is the offensive efficiency. Gonzaga is top 20 in the country while South Carolina ranks in the bottom portion of the country.

Gonzaga may have the best chance to win on paper. However, if we’ve learned anything from the history of March Madness, it’s that anything can happen.

 

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Tournament Madness for UNC: Luke Maye's Game-Winner

A Closer Look at Luke Maye: North Carolina’s Hero

One name: Luke Maye.

This isn’t the first name that comes to mind when talking about North Carolina basketball. However, it has been for the past 48 hours. Maye made the game-winning shot to send UNC to the Final Four, while simultaneously ending Kentucky’s season.

If you missed the last shot, you can watch it here. It’s well worth watching.

A quick recap: Kentucky comes down the court and Malik Monk hits a 3-pointer in Maye’s face to tie the game. Then Theo Pinson gets the ball up the court for UNC and pitches it to Maye for the last-second jumper. Rarely do you see two miraculous plays back-to-back like that, but it happened on Sunday.

There is normally discussion about Joel Berry II, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks or Justin Jackson when talking about UNC. The avid watcher might recognize Kenny Williams or Theo Pinson as well, but not Luke Maye.

Maye madness

Luke Maye isn’t your standout player. The sophomore averaged four rebounds and 1.2 assists in 14.4 minutes per game this season. He averaged 5.6 minutes per game as a freshman.

He might be average at the Division I level. However, he joined Christian Laettner and Scottie Reynolds on Sunday as the only players since 1985 to hit a game-winning shot to get into the Final Four. The kid even got a standing ovation at his 8 a.m. class on Monday.

Tournament Madness for UNC: Luke Maye's Game-Winner

Luke Maye shoots the game-winner for the Tar Heels on Sunday (Photo Courtesy of The Comeback)

His best game prior to the tournament was against NC State on Feb 15 when he scored 13 points and made 6 of his 11 shots from the floor. In other words, he hasn’t been consistently “killing it” for the Tar Heels.

However, he has picked the right games to show up for. Maye had a season high of 16 points against Butler and a new season high of 17 against Kentucky.

He might seem like the most unexpected player to win it for the Tar Heels, but Coach Roy Williams had him in for a reason. He shoots 41 percent from 3-point land (the highest on the team). He has only attempted 39 on the season, but he has made those count. He also shoots the fourth highest field goal percentage on the team.

It’s no accident he was on the court. It also isn’t a miracle he made the shot. Nonetheless, he is still a hero.

the tar heels are right where they need to be

As a team, this moment is everything that North Carolina has been working for. Marcus Paige hit a 3-pointer to tie the championship game last year, only for Kris Jenkins to come down and hit a buzzer beater to win it all for Villanova.

The Tar Heels are simply good at what they do. The are ranked first in rebounds per game (they pull down 43.7 per game). They also average 85 points per game (ninth overall) and dish out 18.2 assists per game (ranked third in Division I).

Roy Williams is confident in his team because they have the experience and the talent. This is their 20th Final Four, and they have all the reason to fight.

Isaiah Hicks was asked about their loss to Villanova last season, and he said: “We [were] four seconds away from that. Just to see your dream taken away right in front of you, that’s all the motivation you need. Of course nobody likes to lose, but that one, when you’re right there, all of us, we just need that second chance.”

Hicks and the rest of his teammates want that second chance. At this point, it is in their hands. Only Oregon stands in their way. The guys are playing some quality basketball and unexpected players like Luke Maye are peaking at the right time.

Catch all the action on April 1, 2017 at 8:49 PM ET on CBS.

 

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NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Tournament Time: Who You Should Cheer For

As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s tournament time baby!” I don’t know who is more excited, the fans or the players. Even if your team didn’t make it to the dance, there is still a lot to cheer for.

I know the term bandwagon fan carries a lot of negative connotation, however for bragging rights, you want to be cheering for the right teams. Now fair warning, these might not be the teams that have the best statistics or record. Half of the battle is figuring out how the bracket is set up, which has a large impact on how teams do rather if it is admitted or not. Here are the teams to root for if yours didn’t make the cut.

The underdog: Middle Tennessee State

The beauty of tournament time is that anyone can win on any given day. Pay attention to the season statistics but also expect the unexpected when the final buzzer sounds.

Middle Tennessee State is that Cinderella team that could get out of the first round and surprise us all. The Blue Raiders are 20-1 in its last 21 games and they only have three underclassmen. So if they want it to happen, this is the year to do it.

Their team is ranked in the top 50 for overall defensive efficiency. All four of their losses this season have been relatively close and they only allow 63.3 points per game (ranked 21st). Let’s not forget MTSU beat Michigan State last year and could very well do the same to Minnesota.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Root For

Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State (DNJ.com)

Giddy Potts is leading the charge for his talented squad. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. What makes him special is his work effort and ability to score at all three levels consistently.

He was named MVP for their conference tournament after putting up 30 points against Marshall. Potts is the guy who will hit contested threes, but burn his opponent with a quick first step if they close out too hard.

Potts may be getting buckets, but he isn’t out on an island. He has the help of JaCorey Williams who is shooting 54.1 percent from the field right now.

Reggie Upshaw and Tyrik Dixon are also contributing large minutes and statistics for the Blue Raiders.

After beating Minnesota, the Blue Raiders will take on either Butler or Winthrop. Butler is a good tournament team and known for upsets in the past, but Middle Tennessee State has proven to be a tough team.

Keep an eye on notre dame

The Irish have proven to be a wholesome team over the duration of this season. They are coming off a close loss to Duke which should propel them throughout the tournament.

The key to success for Notre Dame is sharing the ball. They are 37th in the nation for assists, averaging 16 per game. They have strength at all positions and when they share the ball, they can’t be stopped.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Credit to Zimbio.com)

If Bonzie Colson is having a game for himself, Notre Dame is just as good as any team in nation. Duke may have won the ACC tournament but Colson put up 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a stellar performance.

Colson isn’t putting on a one man show though. Matt Ferrell is a special point guard dishing out 5.5 assists per game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc.

The Irish are killer from behind the arc because of Ferrell and a few other key players. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem are shooting over 36 percent from three-point range. This will be tough to guard for their opponents.

The Irish often are over looked when it comes to tournament time. Last year they made it to the Elite 8 and lost to UNC. This year they have a better record coming out of regular season play and more experience.

Arizona deserves a lot more respect than they’re getting

All of the talk regarding the PAC-12 has been about UCLA mostly because of Lonzo Ball and his father’s interesting comments. Most recently LaVar Ball said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his hay day and his son is better than Steph Curry. One could see why the press would jump on that. UCLA is also ranked 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to pre tourney data (kenpom.com) which is a weakness for sure.

However the real team to watch from the PAC-12 is Arizona. They just won the conference tournament, and beat Oregon and UCLA to do so. They likely won’t see any true competition until the Sweet Sixteen if they play to the best of their ability.

Right now it’s the combination of Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier that are making offense flow for the Wildcats. Markkanen is a freshman with the skills to play inside and out. Trier is basically doing it all from scoring and rebounding to distributing the ball. Both guys are shooting over 40% from behind the arc.

The team itself is highly efficient from three point and on offense in general. Their top five player of Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, Rawie Alkins, Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen are all shooting over 37% from three-point land. They are also all over 44% from the field. Not only that, they also allow only 65.4 points per game on the defensive end.

The west is a tough region but the Wildcats have the personnel to do some damage.

Iowa state could go far in the midwest

Lots of people are saying that Kansas has a cake walk to the National Championship game. Everyone seems to forget that Iowa State has gone 10-2 in its last 12 games including a road win against Kansas.

They beat Miami early on in the regular season. They only lost to Baylor by two early on, then beat them by three in late February. The Cyclones also beat Kansas in overtime in early February as previously mentioned. To sum up, they have the heart and the gumption to beat some high caliber competition.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Monte Morris flexes on the baseline after a big play (Photo Credits to YouTube)

The team itself is comprised of a bunch of guys who put up good numbers. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they just get the job done. Monte Morris leads the team with 16.3 points per game but the next few guys are all putting up anywhere from 12-16 points on average.

After a win over Nevada, they will likely see a very good Purdue team.

When it comes down to it, all the statistics in the world can only tell so much. March is the month of madness for a reason.

 

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NCAA Football Week One Picks

Rob Doerger and Joe DiTullio (Staff writers and personalities on the DiTullio and Doerger College Sports Show), pick every game in the week one slate for FBS.

Away Home Location Rob Joe
Presbyterian College Central Michigan Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, MI C. Mich CMU
Charlotte #19 Louisville Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY Louisville Louisville
Tulane Wake Forest BB&T Field, Winston-salem, NC Wake Wake
Tennessee-Martin Cincinnati Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH Cincy Cincy
Maine Connecticut Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT Uconn Uconn
William & Mary NC State Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC NC State NC State
Indiana Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL Indiana IU
Appalachian State #9 Tennessee Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN Tennessee Tennessee
South Carolina Vanderbilt Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN Vandy Vanderbilt
Southern Utah Utah Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT Utah Utah
Weber State Utah State Romney Stadium, Logan, UT Utah St Utah State
Rice Western Kentucky L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green, KY WKU Wku
Oregon State Minnesota TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN Minnesota Minnesota
South Dakota New Mexico University Stadium , Albuquerque, NM New Mexico UNM
Montana State Idaho Kibbie Dome, Moscow, ID Idaho Idaho
Jackson State UNLV Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV UNLV UNLV
Mississippi Valley State Eastern Michigan Rynearson Stadium, Ypsilanti, MI E. Mich EMU
Ball State Georgia State Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA Georgia St Ga State
Albany Buffalo UB Stadium, Buffalo, NY Buffalo Buffalo
Colgate Syracuse Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY Syracuse Syracuse
Army Temple Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA Temple Temple
Furman #12 Michigan State Spartan Stadium , East Lansing, MI Sparty MSU
Northwestern State #23 Baylor McLane Stadium, Waco, TX Baylor Baylor
Colorado State Colorado Sports Authority Field, Denver, CO Colorado Colorado
Kansas State #8 Stanford Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA Stanford Stanford
Toledo Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Toledo Toledo
Cal Poly Nevada Mackay Stadium, Reno, NV Nevada Nevada
Georgia Tech Boston College Aviva Stadium, Dublin GT GT
#3 Oklahoma #15 Houston NRG Stadium, Houston, TX Oklahoma Oklahoma
Fordham Navy Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD Navy Navy
Eastern Kentucky Purdue Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN Purdue Purdue
Bowling Green #6 Ohio State Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH Ohio St OSU
Western Michigan Northwestern Ryan Field, Evanston, IL NW NW
Hawaii #7 Michigan Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI Michigan Mich
Margin of Victory 44 39
Boise State Louisiana Lafayette Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA Boise Boise
South Alabama Mississippi State Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, MS Miss St Miss St
Missouri West Virginia Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV WVU WVU
Howard Maryland Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD Maryland Maryland
Liberty Virginia Tech Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA VT Va Tech
Villanova Pittsburgh Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA Pitt Pitt
Abilene Christian Air Force Falcon Stadium, Usaf Academy, CO Air Force AF
Rutgers #14 Washington Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA Washington Wash
#16 UCLA Texas A&M Kyle Field, College Station, TX UCLA TAMU
#5 LSU Wisconsin Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI LSU LSU
Richmond Virginia Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA Virginia Virginia
Kent State Penn State Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA Ped St Penn State
Miami (OH) #17 Iowa Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA Iowa Iowa
Texas State Ohio Peden Stadium, Athens, OH Ohio Ohio
Murray State Illinois Memorial Stadium , Champaign, IL Illini Illinois
Southeastern Louisiana #21 Oklahoma State Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK OK St OK St
Louisiana Tech Arkansas Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR Arkansas Ark
UC Davis #24 Oregon Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR Ducks Oregon
#18 Georgia #22 North Carolina Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA Georgia Georgia
Southern Illinois Florida Atlantic FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, FL Salukis FAU
Hampton Old Dominion S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, VA Old Dom ODU
North Carolina Central Duke Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC Duke Duke
Western Carolina East Carolina Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC ECU ECU
Florida A&M Miami Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL Miami Miami
Savannah State Georgia Southern Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA Geo South Geo South
Austin Peay Troy Veterans Memorial Stadium , Troy, AL Troy Troy
VMI Akron InfoCision Stadium, Akron, OH Akron Akron
Alabama A&M Middle Tennessee Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN MTSU MTSU
SMU North Texas Mean Green Stadium, Denton, TX SMU SMU
San José State Tulsa Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, OK Tulsa Tulsa
Towson South Florida Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL USF USF
South Carolina State UCF Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, FL UCF UCF
Rhode Island Kansas Memorial Stadium , Lawrence, KS Kansas Kansas
Southeast Missouri State Memphis Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN Memphis Memphis
Alabama State Texas San Antonio Alamodome, San Antonio, TX UTSA UTSA
Southern Louisiana Monroe Malone Stadium, Monroe, LA ULM ULM
Southern Mississippi Kentucky Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY Kentucky UK
Massachusetts #25 Florida Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL Gators Florida
#20 USC #1 Alabama AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX Tide Bama
Northern Iowa Iowa State Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA Iowa St Iowa State
Fresno State Nebraska Memorial Stadium , Lincoln, NE Nebraska Nebraska
Eastern Washington Washington State Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA Wash St Wash St
New Mexico State UTEP Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX UTEP Utep
South Dakota State #13 TCU Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX TCU TCU
Stephen F Austin Texas Tech Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX TT Ttu
New Hampshire San Diego State Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA SDSU SDSU
#2 Clemson Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL Clemson Clemson
BYU Arizona University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ Arizona BYU
Northern Illinois Wyoming War Memorial Stadium , Laramie, WY NIU NIU
Northern Arizona Arizona State Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ Arizona St ASU
#10 Notre Dame Texas Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX Irish ND
#11 Ole Miss #4 Florida State Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL FSU Ole Miss
Gameday Guest Picker (Green Bay, WI) Aaron Rodgers Jared Abbrederis

Roller Coaster Ride for the Tar Heels

Brice Johnson (right) seen walking off the court with Kennedy Meeks (left) after the National Championship. (Photo courtesy of USAToday.com)

The North Carolina Tar Heels’ offseason began very abruptly after Kris Jenkins took the pass from Ryan Arcidiacono and sunk the game winning shot. Just moments earlier, Marcus Paige made the shot that looked like it would define his career and live in college basketball lore for years to come.The future was extremely uncertain for the school and it began to materialize that perhaps they would have insult added to injury.

NCAA sanctions were not unknown to UNC. For quite some time they have been under investigation by the NCAA for an academic scandal involving academic courses. There were rumors that, after this prolific group of players left the school, they could be in for some penalties that would stunt the reboot effort by Roy Williams and Company.

Another event this off-season was the graduation of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. These two seniors made major contributions to the program. Paige was one of the most talented distributors that the school has had in the past decade. Johnson, on the other hand, was a double-double machine averaging 17 points and just over ten rebounds last season. They were a huge part of the team’s road to the Final Four. However, they will be sorely missed as they have no remaining eligibility.

The unknown commodity enters when a discussion is started on players leaving early for the draft.  Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks each made the declaration that they would at least look into the NBA Draft as a possibility for their future this off-season.  The loss of both would leave the team with only one of its top five scorers in Joel Berry II.

Then, in mid-April, the school received a notice of allegations from the NCAA that surprised many. The men’s basketball team was not mentioned in the notice. This was quite unexpected from the NCAA and has many people questioning the reasoning behind it, especially after the school voluntarily submitted additional violations to the NCAA. In fact, the voluntary submission may have kept the school eligible for post season contention, due to the fact that it further delayed the investigation.  Without that, we may have never seen the dramatic conclusion to this season in the title game.

Justin Jackson is a very dynamic player whose return is essential for the Tar Heels. (Photo courtesy of USAToday.com)

The next bits of good news come from both players that had originally entered the draft. Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson will each return to North Carolina. In Meeks, the school returns its second leading rebounder behind the graduated Brice Johnson. While Meeks is not as dynamic of a player as Johnson, he does bring a strong post presence and strength. His size is off the charts even after he has shed a significant amount of weight in the past academic year.  Justin Jackson is a lanky wing player that brings some unpredictability to the Tar Heels game. His overall field goal percentage is good, but his outside shooting leaves something to be desired. This likely was a factor in his return, as the outside scoring left something to be desired in a transition to the professional level.

Jackson and Meeks’ return should benefit them in improving their games and the school in attempting a second straight run to the title game. Other notable returnees include, Joel Berry II, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt and Theo Pinson. Additionally, the Tar Heels have three more ESPN Top 100 recruits to supplement their roster. Tony Bradley will add some size down low to compliment and back up Meeks. Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson will add explosive athleticism as well as some shooting depth to help replace Marcus Paige’s production.

All in all, there was a lot that could have gone wrong for the Tar Heels.  As is, it will be business as usual for the Tarheels. With their returnees, as well as the recruiting classes of  Florida State and Duke coming in, ACC basketball will be quite interesting in the upcoming season. We still await a few draft decisions, that could shape the conference’s story for the year to come. However, the Tar Heels had a great outcome for the off-season that has prepared them for the next phase of the program.

Final Four Storylines

Well well it’s the Final Four and what can I say? It has been a wonderful year full of upsets, buzzer-beaters, and blowouts. But I did call UNC being in the Final Four. As of right now, my bracket looks like it got hit by an 18-wheeler on the highway. But on Saturday, the games will start no matter how bad my bracket is. It will be the Villanova Wildcats versus the Oklahoma Sooners and the UNC Tar Heels versus the Syracuse Orange.

Here is how we got here. Let’s start with the Wildcats vs the Sooners.

Courtesy of AP

Courtesy of AP

The Wildcats and the Sooners matchup in the tournament will be a rematch from an early matchup this year. In Hawaii, the Sooners crushed the Wildcats 78-55. But that game should not play in this Final Four matchup because the Wildcats went completely frozen from behind the arc. They shot 12.5% from the three, while their season average is around 35%. They also only shot 31.7% from the field, while their season average is closer to 47%. They will shoot the ball better in this game, I promise. But the Wildcat defense will have to find out a way to slow down the Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. In this tournament, Hield has averaged 29.3 points per game. Easy to say that he is on a hot streak.

Prediction: It should be a great game because both teams are riding high since they both just beat 1-seeds in the Elite Eight to get here. But I am going with Oklahoma to win this matchup behind the play of the best player in the nation, the Senior guard from the Bahamas, Chavano “Buddy” Hield.

Now to the other matchup between the second ACC final of the year, Syracuse versus UNC. One team could have been the overall 1-seed while the other team might have been playing in the three-letter tournament. This matchup in the NCAA Tournament will be the 3rd time Syracuse and UNC have played this year. Syracuse lost both games but in Chapel Hill late in the season Syracuse played them close and only lost by 5. To easily beat the zone of Syracuse is to drive to the basket and pass to the wing for a three.

UNC has not been a great three-point shooting team this year at a season average of 32%, but during NCAA tournament play they are around 38%. While during this NCAA Tournament, the Syracuse zone has held teams to a 34% from the three-point line.

Bob Donnan/ USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: UNC goes for the third win against the Orange this year. They might not shoot well from three this game, but UNC will be able to finish in lane against this team with their big men. Brice Johnson and the other great UNC big men will feast down low against Syracuse on Saturday.

On Monday, it will be the two best players in the nation on the same court at the same time. Double-double monster Senior forward Brice Johnson of the UNC Tar Heels versus sharpshooting Senior guard Buddy Hield of the Oklahoma Sooners.

ACC: The Best of the Best

All of us college basketball fans learned something during the first weekend of the tournament. We learned that upsets will happen no matter how strong the top seed seems to be. We learned that no one is ever gonna be 100% correct during March Madness. Northern Iowa knows that no lead is ever safe during the tournament. But the really big take away from last weekend is that the ACC is the best college basketball conference in the nation.

During the first weekend the ACC, had the most wins by any conference in the nation. The ACC went 12-1 in the opening weekend. The only loss the ACC suffered was a Pittsburgh loss to Wisconsin. They are also sending a record six teams to the Sweet 16. No conference has ever done this. This is an incredible thing to see in this day and age of college basketball, where there is more parity in the game. The ACC had seven total teams in the tournament, and if Louisville was not on probation it could have easily been eight ACC teams in the tournament. In the Sweet 16 matchups, it is very possible that the ACC could have six teams advance to the Elite 8.

All 6 teams come into the tournament with different storylines. Let’s start with lowest seed left, Syracuse. Syracuse came into the tournament as one of the teams many say should not have been in the tournament. But they have proven so far that their patented zone defense is hard to deal with. And during this tournament they had to “upset” higher-seed Dayton. In the round of 32, had to beat Middle Tennessee, the team that beat Michigan State. Now in the Sweet 16, they will face 11-seed Gonzaga. Whoever wins that matchup will be the highest seed in the Elite 8 this year.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Next is Notre Dame. The Irish came into this tournament with a pretty bitter taste in their mouth. The last time they were on the court the North Carolina Tar Heels ran them off the court. So the Irish were hungry to reclaim glory to their name. The Irish got their real first shot at righting their wrong against 11-Seed Michigan. They beat the surging Wolverines to move on to the Round of 32, where they had to play 14-seed Stephen F. Austin. And it took the late game heroics of Rex Plfueger, to propel the Irish over the Lumberjacks. But next up for Notre Dame is another team of destiny, 7-Seed Wisconsin.

4-Seed Duke comes into this tournament after one of its most scrutinized seasons in a while, after one of the worst stretches Coach K has ever had with the Blue Devils. Even with a limited bench, Duke is here in the Sweet 16. The Blue Devils are highly dependent on the strength of their starting five, that includes one of the nation’s best players, Brandon Ingram.

(Photo: Winslow Townson, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Winslow Townson, USA TODAY Sports)

3-Seed Miami has taken probably the hardest way to the tournament, but this team is definitely up to the challenge. The Canes were even underdogs to the 11-Seed Wichita State team and will probably once again be underdogs against the Villanova Wildcats. Miami G Angel Rodriguez and the Canes dare any “expert” to rule them out.

The two ACC number 1-seeds are still alive. UNC is in the East, and UVA is in the Midwest. UNC will have to fight it out with the historically great Indiana Hoosiers. And UVA will have to play the Iowa State Cyclones. These two matchups are very favorable for the two number 1-seeds. UNC has the height advantage over the Hoosiers and the Heels will force Indiana to cough the ball up. UVA will slow the pace down and make it hard for the Cyclones to get out in transition. The Cavaliers will key on Cyclones F Georges Niang and make the other players beat them.

Geoff Burke/ USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke/ USA TODAY Sports

If the weekend works how the ACC wants it to, there could be an all-ACC Final Four, which would lock in the ACC’s second title in a row.

Duke vs UNC

Gerry Broome/ AP

Gerry Broome/ AP

Looking at this matchup a few weeks ago when Duke was on course for a bad season, it looked like an easy W for the UNC Tar Heels but that is not case now. Duke is making a late surge and looking more like the Duke of old.

Grayson Allen and the Blue Devils are riding high after his thrilling and controversial buzzer-beater over a highly ranked Virginia team in front of the Cameron Crazies, but they will not have them tonight when they visit arch rival North Carolina at 9PM EST. Their Virginia win extends their win streak to four. During that streak, Duke beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta. They also beat rival NC State in front of the home crowd, and ranked Louisville and ranked Virginia in Durham.

Grant Halverson/ Getty Images

Grant Halverson/ Getty Images

Grayson Allen has started to play better and improve over these four games. He is averaging a little over 22 points a game and the offense is running more through him. And along with Allen is freshman, Brandon Ingram, who has scored in double figures in the last four games and has two double-doubles in that span. On a very short bench, Luke Kennard has started to shine and give key production to the Blue Devils in the last three games, including a 26-point game against NC State.

But how will that young core stack up against a veteran Tar Heel team?

The Tar Heels team come to this game with a 2-2 record in their last four games. They lost two straight against Louisville and Notre Dame both away from the Dean E. Smith Center. They were also against the ropes against Boston College, but the team rallied and won after Coach Roy Williams collapsed on the court after a vertigo attack. Then after those three road games they returned to Chapel Hill to play host to the Pittsburgh Panthers and they won to the tune of 85-64.

This North Carolina team is lead by a pair of seniors, G Marcus Paige and F Brice Johnson.

In this four game stretch, Johnson has scored in double figures three times and also has recorded two double-doubles. Guard Marcus Paige has also only had one game without double figures in the point column. And has been a sniper from behind the arc, shooting little over 46 percent in the last four games and in the last three it is at 55 percent. In four games he has only shot under .500 once.

Ethan Hyman/ Charlotte Observer

Ethan Hyman/ Charlotte Observer

The game in the Chapel Hill will be one for the books. The All-Time record is 133-107 in favor of the Tar Heels, but the Heels are looking for revenge because Duke has the latest win in the series.

Will UNC make it number 134 or will Duke make it number 108?

Best Remaining College Basketball Games

There is still one month of regular season college basketball to be played before teams get into their conference tournaments. A lot of teams will be fighting for spots in the tournament or for higher seeds, making this next month exciting. Here are some of the games that should be great to watch the rest of the way:

The first game between Kansas and Oklahoma was a close game with some controversy. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

#6 Kansas at #3 Oklahoma, Saturday February 13

The first time these two teams played in Lawrence, Kansas, it was an overtime thriller that many say was the best played game all season. Now the rematch has a chance to be another classic and could result in the winner being the Big 12 regular season champion. Oklahoma should have the edge playing at home and with Buddy Hield on their side.

#15 Texas A&M at LSU, Saturday February 13

Texas A&M dropped a game at home to South Carolina, which has made the SEC wide open. LSU now leads the SEC with an 8-2 record. This game specifically will be a good watch because Ben Simmons will be going up against a great team. If the Tigers can win this game it would help move them off of the bubble.

Alex Caruso has plenty of big game experience, which will be useful down the stretch. Photo courtesy d1nation.com.

#22 Kentucky at #15 Texas A&M, Saturday February 20

Kentucky only has three SEC losses and can win the conference with how wide open it is. Jamal Murray has been on fire and he looks like he is capable of carrying the Wildcats to a championship. Texas A&M has a few key games left and this will be there last big test of the regular season.

#12 Miami at #9 North Carolina, Saturday February 20

Miami is a team that no one is talking about, but is capable of beating anyone in the country. Angel Rodriguez has the potential to lead Miami to big wins down the stretch. North Carolina can really help separate the top of the ACC with a win in this game.

#3 Oklahoma at #10 West Virginia, Saturday February 20

These teams are currently tied at the top of the Big 12. Oklahoma can seal a Big 12 championship with a win over Kansas and West Virginia. West Virginia’s defense should make this a great game to watch. Their press going up against Buddy Hield will make it a very interesting game.

#7 Virginia at #12 Miami,  Monday February 22

The second game in the round robin that will decide the ACC is Virginia at Miami. Virginia’s defense, again, is always great to watch, but their offensive ball control drives some fans crazy. Miami isn’t a great scoring team, so they will have to make the most of each possession.

Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono has led Villanova to a number one ranking this season. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

#1 Villanova at #5 Xavier, Wednesday February 24

Villanova is number one for the first time in school history and is in the Big East driver’s seat. A win over Xavier in this game could seal it for the Wildcats as well as get them closer to locking up a number one seed. If Xavier is able to win every other game on their schedule and get a help in the form of a Villanova loss, or two, this game would put them at the top of the Big East. This is also a revenge game for Xavier, who lost at Villanova by 31 points earlier this season.

#9 North Carolina at #7 Virginia, Saturday February 27

The last of the ACC round robin features a culture clash. Virginia is going to play great defense and hold the ball on offense, while North Carolina will try to get out on the fast break every chance they get. The winner of this game could be the number one seed in the ACC tournament.

#2 Maryland at #18 Purdue, Saturday February 27

Iowa doesn’t have any marquee games down the stretch, making this the best game left in the Big Ten season. If Iowa slips up this could decide the Big Ten champion. Purdue has plenty of talented big guys making their team a Big Ten throwback. Maryland has enough talent on its roster to make this game interesting, but they will need to be tough to beat Purdue.

Jamal Murray has been heating up lately, making Kentucky a serious threat. Photo courtesy twitter.com.

LSU at #22 Kentucky, Saturday March 5

Another revenge game on the slate. Kentucky lost to LSU in Baton Rouge and now gets them in Rupp Arena. This game is the season finale for both teams and could decide the SEC. With Jamal Murray heating it up, Simmons and Murray will be a great battle of freshmen.

#11 Oregon at #23 USC, Saturday March 5

Oregon is leading the Pac-12 and this game could put the icing on the cake. The Ducks are playing great basketball and are capable of making a deep tournament run. USC has been a surprise this season and could still win the Pac-12.