THE FINAL FOUR IS SET

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Pregame photo of BUDDY HIELD

The Month of March is nearly over and with it, that frenzied period termed “March Madness”.  Come April 1st, the four remaining teams that started play on March 9th, will meet in Houston, Texas as The Final Four, to play for the National Championship.

The 2016 “Road To The Final Four” Tournament has been one of the best ever, with every single bracket having been busted, in almost every category.  Of the four top seeds in the tournament field, only the North Carolina Tar Heels made it to the Final Four, with the chance to play for the Championship.
And, even for the Tar Heels, the road was bumpy.  In the “Elite Eight” semi-final round North Carolina was pitted against the Irish of Notre Dame.  The Irish took an early lead, that looked as if they would eliminate the last of the Number 1 seeds,  but the size and patience of the Tar Heels wore the Irish down, and North Carolina escaped with the victory that made them one of The Final Four.
The hopes of the Western half of the United States boiled down to the Oregon Ducks, the top seed in the West Regional.  The Ducks had made a promising run, winning games over St. Joseph, Duke and Holy Cross and  looked like a sure bet to come out of the Elite Eight to get to Houston.
But, then, the Ducks played The Oklahoma Sooners, and ran into Buddy Hield, the best player in the nation, and the leading candidate for the John Wooden Payer of the Year Award.   Hield played up to and beyond his reputation, scoring eleven points, mainly by way of three point baskets, in the first five minutes of their game.   Hield, who averaged 25 points throughout the season,  made shooting the three point goal look as easy as a dunk throughout the game, as he led the Sooners to victory over the Ducks scoring 37 points and playing stifling defense.
The third team to become one of The Final Four was Villanova. The Wildcats qualified for the coveted spot by beating the over-all No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks in the South Regional Tournament.  The Jayhawks were not able to overcome the steals by Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges, and were held pointless while the Wildcats reeled off ten points in the second half.   Perry Ellis, the top Jayhawk player was held to four points, and without Ellis scoring the Jayhawks simply could not play effectively.  On balanced scoring by Kris Jenkins, Josh Hart, Daniel Ochefu, and Ryan Arcidiacono, Nova won 64-59, and will meet Oklahoma in the Final Four–a team that beat them 78-55 last December.
The last team to qualify for Houston was the Syracuse Orange, who toppled the top seeded Virginia Cavaliers in the Mid-West Region.  In spite of the objections of many to their inclusion in the Tournament, because of their woeful thirteen losses regular season, the Orange overcame a sixteen point deficit to stun the Cavaliers and earn the right to join the Final Four as the winner of the Mid-west Region.   The Cavaliers of Virginia were clearly shocked by the on-rush of the Orange after their halftime lead.  Syracuse employed their feared zone defense and hit the shots that steadily eroded the 16 point lead of Virginia, catching and passing the Cavaliers with 5:50left to play, and winning 68-62.
The Final Four will meet in Houston this coming Saturday, with the first game between Villanova and Oklahoma being shown on TBS at 3:09 p.m., Pacific Time.  North Carolina will meet Syracuse at 5:49 p.m.
Pregame photos of BUDDY HIELD