Men’s college basketball gearing up for historic Final Four

The men’s Final Four is set to take place in New Orleans in Ceasars Superdome.


The men’s Final Four is set to take place in New Orleans in Ceasars Superdome.

Luke Sugar, Sports Editor

For college basketball fans, there’s no better time of year than March Madness. And this has truly been one of the maddest March months in the history of college hoops. 


We’re down to just four teams for both the men’s and women’s tournaments. This year’s Final Four is set up to be one of the wildest finishes of all time. On the men’s side, it will be a true battle of the blue bloods with North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Villanova remaining in the 68-team tournament. 

The biggest headline of the men’s Final Four is, of course, North Carolina and Duke — facing off for the very first time ever in March Madness. Many fans are already calling this the biggest college basketball game in history — even bigger than the championship game will be. UNC vs. Duke is the biggest rivalry in college hoops and one of the biggest in all of sports. 

This is Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last season for the Duke Blue Devils. In his legendary career, Coach K has won five national championships and is sitting on 1,097 career wins — the most all-time. The North Carolina Tar Heels spoiled Coach K’s farewell tour in his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, beating Duke 94-81. Earlier this season, Duke beat UNC on their own floor 87-67. And so, it only seems fitting that the long-awaited third matchup is set. 

Duke desperately wants revenge for their final home loss to UNC and to give Coach K a chance at another title. But, make no mistake about it, the pressure squarely rests on the Blue Devils’ shoulders. UNC desperately wants to send Duke home and end Coach K’s career in historic fashion. This will be a high-powered, back-and-forth contest that should go right down to the wire. 

Let’s give a quick recap of Duke. They are the 2 seed from the West region and currently sit as 4.5-point favorites. In the tournament, Duke has notable wins over Texas Tech, who are regarded as one of the best defensive teams in the country, and a skilled Arkansas team, who the Blue Devils completely overwhelmed 78-69. Stud Freshman Paolo Banchero has been incredible all season, averaging a team best 17 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He won the West region’s Most Outstanding Player. 

Duke boasts four other players averaging double figures. Wendell Moore provides veteran leadership, while AJ Griffin is the sharpshooter, and Trevor Keels gives solid production off the bench. The Duke big man, Mark Williams, is a true rim protector and one of the best shot blockers in the country (2.9 per game). Duke recently slotted Freshman Jeremy Roach into the starting five, and he has played very well this tournament. 

Despite being the underdog, UNC might be the hottest team in the country. Other than Saint Peter’s being the first 15 seed to make the Elite 8, the Tar Heels have been the surprise team of the tournament. 

UNC is only the 8 seed in the East region, but they are playing far above their seed line. To get to the Final Four, UNC destroyed Marqutte by 32, the largest margin of victory ever in an 8-versus-9 matchup. In the next round, UNC handled the defending champs and 1-seeded Baylor Bears 93-86 in OT. However, the Tar Heels dominated the first 30 minutes, being up 25 before starting forward Brady Manek was controversially thrown out. In the Sweet 16, UNC beat an experienced UCLA team that went to the Final Four last year, and in the Elite 8 the Tar Heels routed the 15 seed, Saint Peter’s.  

UNC may not have the deepest team, routinely only playing  six or seven players. However, UNC features one of the best and most complete starting fives in the country. Guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis are a great 1-2 punch — both averaging double figures. Forward Brady Manek stretches the floor and is deadly from long range. He’s averaging 21.5 ppg in March Madness, the highest of any remaining player. Star player Armando Bacot averages 16.5 ppg and just under 13 rebounds per game, also winning the East region’s Most Outstanding player. Guard Leaky Black is one of the most dynamic defenders in the country, locking down the opponent’s best player.        

Tune into UNC vs Duke on Saturday at 8:50 pm to watch an instant classic.      

Kansas and Villanova face off Saturday at 6:09 pm on Saturday. As the sole 1 seed remaining, there is definitely some pressure on this Jayhawks’ squad. Kansas has been one of the most successful regular-season teams in recent memory, winning the Big 12 conference regular season title for their eighth time in the last decade. However, the Jayhawks have been the least successful of these blue bloods in March Madness. They have not cut down the nets on the final Monday since 2008 — their first title since 1988.   

Will this be the year for Kansas? It very well could be. This roster boasts plenty of depth. Point guard Remy Martin transferred from Arizona State, where he was one of the best Pac-12 players, to play his graduate year at Kansas.

A new system of basketball resulted in an underwhelming regular season for Martin at Kansas. However, he’s turned it on at the right time being the x-factor in March Madness. Martin playing well paired with the always-dangerous Ochai Agbaji, who averaged 19 ppg for the Jayhawks and was a first-team All-American this season, could be a recipe for success. The Jayhawks also roster Christian Braun, Jalen Wilson and big man David McCormack, who all average double figures. Clearly the Jayhawks will be a load for Villanova to handle. 

Unlike Kansas, Villanova has been the most successful school in March Madness as of late, winning two titles in the past six seasons. It seems head coach, Jay Wright, always puts Nova in a position to win. However, Nova will have their hands full after star player Justin Moore tore his achilles in their Elite 8 win over Houston. Moore was the Wildcats’ glue guy, doing a little bit of everything. He was the team’s second-leading scoring and assist man and the third-leading rebounder. 

With Moore out, leading scorer and assist man, Collin Gillespie, will have to take over against Kansas to give Nova any real shot at winning. But Gillespie is capable of this, being a third team All-American, and he is no stranger to the NCAA tournament, playing in his third. Forward Jermaine Samuels will also play a huge role in this matchup. He’s been on a tear, averaging 17.5 ppg in March Madness and being named the South region’s Most Outstanding Player.     

College basketball fans couldn’t have asked for any more. We have a Final Four loaded with blue bloods and the first-ever, historic matchup between UNC and Duke. It’s shaping up to be a wild weekend of hoops.