A guide to the Final Four in Houston


By John Marshall

AP Basketball Writer

March Madness lived up to its billing with all those upsets, crazy finishes and memorable performances.

Now that the calendar is turning to April, it’s time for the main event: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Villanova and Syracuse in the Final Four.

Houston, here they come — and it figures to be quite a show.

To get you ready, we’ve got a rundown of the matchups, the top teams and players before the games start on Saturday:


Oklahoma vs. Villanova. These teams met earlier in the season and the Sooners turned it into a laugher behind a barrage of 3-pointers, making 14 behind the arc in the 78-55 win. Expect this one to be much closer and more entertaining.

Syracuse vs. North Carolina. Round 3 for the ACC rivals. The Tar Heels won both regular-season meetings by wrecking Orange’s zone with their strong post play. Fail to figure out how to stop North Carolina inside and the Tar Heels could sweep into the title game.


Buddy Hield, Oklahoma. Don’t know who Buddy Buckets is, you haven’t been following college hoops — or sports, for that matter.

Brice Johnson, North Carolina. All-American is a matchup nightmare on offense and has become a shot-blocking menace late in the season.

Josh Hart, Villanova. On a team with no true stars, Hart stands out because of how hard he plays — on every play.

Michael Gbinije, Syracuse. Need a basket, rebound, assist or steal? He’s the man for the Orange.


Marcus Paige, North Carolina. His senior season hasn’t lived up to his standards, but Paige is peaking at just the right time. Has made a big shot or two in his career.

Kris Jenkins, Villanova. Wildcats’ second-leading scorer can fill it up from long range.

Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma. The perfect backcourt complement to Hield, he can shoot and is the Sooners’ best perimeter defender.

Malachai Richardson, Syracuse. Scored 21 second-half points against one of the nation’s best defenses (Virginia’s). That’s pretty good.


Roy Williams, North Carolina. Hall of Famer vying for his third national title.

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse. Was suspended the season’s first nine games season for NCAA violations. May have done the best coaching job of his Hall of Fame career after he came back.

Lon Kruger, Oklahoma. Only coach to take five schools to the NCAA Tournament eyeing his first title.

Jay Wright, Villanova. Proved the critics wrong by getting the Wildcats to the final dance after all those early exits as high seeds.


8 — Final Four appearances by Roy Williams, with Kansas and North Carolina.

10 — Syracuse’s seed in the NCAA Tournament, making the Orange the first No. 10 and fourth double-digits seed to reach the Final Four.

13 — Losses by Syracuse this season, most by a Final Four team since Wisconsin and North Carolina in 2000.

16 — North Carolina’s average margin of victory in four NCAA Tournament games.

19 — Times the Tar Heels have reached the Final Four. This is North Carolina’s first since 2009.

22 — Years since Lon Kruger last coached in the Final Four, with Florida.

29.3 — Hield’s scoring average in the NCAA Tournament.

2,835 — Combined victories by the four Final Four coaches.


North Carolina: Actors Andy Griffith, Louise Fletcher and Jack Palance; comedian Lewis Black; composer Richard Adler; basketball player Michael Jordan; soccer player Mia Hamm; runner Jim Beatty; NFL player Dre Bly; two-term West Virginia governor Gaston Caperton; Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney.

Syracuse: Marmaduke creator Brad Anderson; NFL player Jim Brown; TV personality Dick Clark; sports announcers Bob Costas and Mike Tirico; actors Jerry Stiller and Taye Diggs; fashion designer Betsey Johnson; TV anchor Ted Koppel; playwright/screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Villanova: actors Maria Bello and Victor Buono; musicians Jim Croce and Toby Keith; astronaut Andrew M. Allen; Secret Service director Joseph Clancy; second lady Jill Biden; NFL player Howie Long; New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte; former Pennsylvania Governor and chair of Democratic National Convention Ed Rendell; former Connecticut governor John G. Rowland; basketball player Paul Arizin.

Oklahoma: Actors James Garner, Ed Harris and Olivia Munn; former House majority leader Dick Armey; New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez; astronauts James Alan Abrahamson and Shannon Lucid; Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen; football players Adrian Peterson and Troy Aikman.

By John Marshall

AP Basketball Writer

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