Final Four: Who has the Best Odds to Win?

     It is that time of year again. The best team in college basketball will be crowned on Monday night. The confetti will fall, and the celebration will commence. 

     What started out as a pool of 68 teams, has shrunk to a mere 4 remaining schools. In March, anything can happen, and this year’s upsets have not disappointed. Each round has had its surprises and each team that made it to the Final Four has had their own different journeys. 

     The most shocking story in this year’s tournament was the Peacocks from Saint Peters. The small school from Jersey City made history, upsetting two seed Kentucky as a fifteen seed, and advancing all the way to the round of the Elite Eight. While the Peacocks have had quite the Cinderella story, the real story is the North Carolina Tarheels. Their success as an eight seed has been overlooked because of Saint Peters. They started the tournament with a decimating win over Marquette. After Marquette, the Tarheels faced one of the biggest opponents of their season, number one seed Baylor. The offense and defense were firing on all cylinders, and the Tarheels escaped with the victory. Coming off scorching hot from the big win, the Heels faced another tough matchup, in the experienced and well coached UCLA squad. The game was back and forth, and UNC eventually pulled away at the end, winning by seven points and advancing to the Elite Eight. In the Elite Eight, it was the tale of the two Cinderella’s, Saint Peters against UNC. The Tarheels experience and size proved to be the difference maker as they steamrolled the Peacocks by 20 points, ending their run. UNC moved on to the Final Four, where they will face Duke for the first time in tournament history. The two programs have a storied past, with Duke taking 50 of the 99 games against each other. 

     Duke came into the tournament with high expectations as a two seed. Their great coach Mike Krzyzewski announced earlier this year that this is his last season coaching the Blue Devils. The team has made it their goal to give Coach K his storybook last year, and it has been evident in the tournament. Their first opponent of the tournament was fifteen seed Cal State Fullerton, and unlike Kentucky they had no problems handling business. In the round of 32, they controlled the Michigan State Spartans and earned their bid to the Sweet Sixteen. There they met their first real challenge of the tournament, Texas Tech. Duke kept Coach K’s last ride dancing, moving past the Red Raiders. After the big win, they faced the Arkansas Razorbacks in an Elite Eight matchup. The Blue Devils secured their date with destiny in an impressive win by nine points. They will meet North Carolina for a historic game, marking 100 games played against each other. This will be a close matchup, but I think Duke will pull away. Their size and depth will play a huge role in this game. Duke fell to North Carolina in their earlier meeting, so I see the Blue Devils getting their revenge on Saturday. 

     On the other side of the bracket, Villanova and Kansas will meet for a chance to go to the national championship. Villanova has had a stellar tournament so far, destroying their opponents in the first two rounds. In the first round, they made it look easy, beating Delaware by 20 points. In the second round, they faced Ohio State and won comfortably. The two seed remained hot going into the Sweet Sixteen, punching a ticket to the Elite Eight with an 8 point victory over Michigan. In the Elite Eight they faced a tough opponent in Houston, but were able to sneak out a six point W. The Midwest bracket was one of the more challenging regions to pick, and in the end it was the Kansas Jayhawks who emerged victorious. In their first game, they went up against sixteen seed, Texas Southern. The Jayhawks won easily and moved on to face Creighton. The round of 32 was scary for Kansas, as the game came down to the wire in the final minutes. Ultimately, the Jayhawks were able to squeeze out a victory. In the Sweet Sixteen, they went against the Providence Friars. Kansas showed the Friars why they were the number one seed, winning by five. The Elite Eight marked another ending of a Cinderella Story as Kansas beat the eight seed Miami Hurricanes by 26 points. The matchup of Villanova versus Kansas will be a very close game. Villanova lost its second best scorer in Justin Moore, due to an injury in the Elite Eight game. Kansas is hot, and with the absence of Moore, I see the Jayhawks coming out on top in this game.

     In the championship game, I think the Duke Blue Devils will end Coach K’s career the best way possible, as a national champion.