Photos from: Wikipedia, Essentially Sport, Los Anglos Daily News, and Page six
After many upsets. Many busted brackets. Many surprises. We have finally arrived at the NCAA Men's final four. This article was obviously quite annoying to write considering my Florida State Seminoles choked in the Sweet Sixteen versus Michigan, who then proceeded to lose to UCLA, which was a pretty shocking loss to everyone. But enough of that because we have dropped down to four teams. The four teams that remain, contain two that a very small percentage saw making it here. We will first see a matchup against The Baylor Bears and The Houston Cougars, followed by a matchup with The Gonzaga Bulldogs and The UCLA Bruins. During this article, I am going to go through what I have seen from these four teams, why they will win, and why they will lose.
Houston Cougars (#2)
The success that the Cougars have generated thus far in the tournament has been spectacular, and there has been one thing that sticks out to me which I believe is the reason they are here, part of the Final Four. Defense. This is the first time they will make a Final Four appearance since 1984, and it's because of their defense. They can about match up to any offense, forcing turnovers, being aggressive, which makes them the second-best defense at the college level. Rebounding is also another quality that separates them from their opponents, especially Baylor who takes many three-point shot attempts, they need to make sure they take away their opportunity for those second-chance points. Transfer from Kansas Quinton Grimes leads the Cougars as he is averaging 18 points and 5.8 rebounds this season. But will it be enough to take down Baylor? Houston will need to be able to keep up with Baylor's offense, yes they can slow down Baylor's offense, but they have to create their own. So, if defense wins games, the Cougars can potentially take this one.
Baylor Bears (#1)
Making it to their first Final Four since 1950, Baylor has had a very impressive season. Like their opponents Houston, Baylor also has a very strong defense, but the one factor that separates them from any other college team is their perimeter shooting. They are phenomenal three-point shooters, leading college basketball with 41%. They have some of the best guards at the college level, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell, who combined score 46.5 of the team's 83 average points per game. Yes, Houston's defense is hard to get around but Baylor has the shooters to make it happen, if they come in hot, no shot Houston's defense can compare. The biggest weakness I have seen from Baylor consistently is their turnovers, and against a team with strong defense, they need to limit those making sure they don't make stupid mistakes. They average 11.7 turnovers per game, not pretty.
UCLA Bruins (#11)
The fact that UCLA is even in this position, CRAZY!!! I mean this is the team who had to play a game just to enter the round of 64 and hear they are in the Final Four are you kidding me?!?! They are the second team to ever do that! There is not one player on that team that has been to the NCAA Tournament, no experience, just a team with undeniable chemistry and passion. Their big dog Johnny Juzang is doing big things for the Bruins as he averages 15 points, and 4.1 rebounds, scoring 28 points in a big Elite Eight victory against Michigan, the number one ranked in their region. The main issue I see with UCLA is that they have no depth, no second-string guys that can go out there and make that difference. They don't want to overplay their starters because we know how quick Gonzaga's offense is, that will just tire them out. Yes, this is going to be the most difficult matchup of their season, they need to have their best game, leave it all on the floor. But, no one ever expected them to get here, who's to say they can't keep it going? I just have one word for this UCLA team. Resilience.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (#1)
I mean, by this point we know what Gonzaga can bring to the table. With a 30-0 season, this team can do it all. They average 91.8 points a game, along with 18.6 assists. No matter their defense, they can keep up with it. They also have some of the strongest individual players at this level. Corey Kispert is the leading scorer averaging 19 points this season, always making an effect when on the court. Close behind him, we have Drew Timme averaging 18.9 points and 7.2 rebounds, scoring 45 points combined in his past two games. Another key component of Gonzaga's team is guard Jalen Suggs who averages 14 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists shooting over 50% from the field. So far this tournament, nobody has really been a problem for Gonzaga, seems like it's been a pretty easy ride for them so far, so unless the Bulldogs have some off players or no chemistry, I don't see UCLA running away from this game with a win. But hey, it is March Madness.
I am very anxious and excited to watch how these two matchups play out. Can UCLA continue shocking the nation with a win against the favorite team Gonzaga? Will Houston’s defense be enough to stop Baylor's forceful offense? Can Gonzaga finish this season with a perfect record? Will Baylor control their turnovers? So many questions that will all be answered tomorrow night.