44 fun, fascinating facts about the 2016 Final Four
Syracuse, No. 10 seed, Midwest, Jim Boeheim (coach)
1. Road to the Final Four: No. 7 Dayton, No. 15 Middle Tennessee State, No. 11 Gonzaga, No. 1 Virginia
2. Title odds/F4 line: +800 (win $800 on $100 bet), +9.5 vs. North Carolina
3. 2015-16 AP rank (high/low): No. 14 (Nov. 30)/Spent rest of season unranked
4. Overall Tournament record: 65-37 (39 appearances)
5. Overall Final Four record: 4-5 (1 title)
6. Sentence about the team you can use in conversation to make yourself seem informed and opinionated: Jim Boeheim’s a schmo.
7. Why you should be rooting for them: If you’re a fan of Cinderella, provided Cinderella had once been a queen but was now relegated to her lowly position only because of various foibles of her own making. Then again, there’s something calming about the familiarity of Syracuse teams: An upperclassman who leads the team in scoring, a three-point marksman and a 2-3 zone that’s very fun to watch and gives opposing teams fits, except for five of the teams Syracuse played in its last six games before the tournament. They were pretty good with it.
8. Annoyance factor if they win (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7. The only reason it’s not higher is because Boeheim, who is perhaps the funniest coach in college basketball, will have a tremendous, NCAA-needling press conference afterward. And, hey, ABC, amirite? (Anybody But Carolina, the long-loved acronym of the true ACC fan.)
9. Famous alumni: Taye Diggs, Vanessa Williams, Megyn Kelly, Jerry Stiller.
If you’re a Syracuse fan finding yourself panicking during the game, either yell at Donald Trump, follow everybody on Twitter or just tell yourself "serenity now."
10. If team was a TV character, which TV character would it be? Ross from "Friends" – Annoying and underperforming at the outset, they both become surprisingly good about halfway through their journeys and instead of cringing every time they come on screen, you find yourself entertained and even enjoying their work.
11. What Jim Nantz should say if they win the championship: "PROBATION ELATION!"
Villanova, No. 2 seed, South, Jay Wright (coach)
12. Road to the Final Four: No. 15 UNC Asheville, No. 7 Iowa, No. 3 Miami and No. 1 Kansas
13. Title odds/F4 line: +275, (-2) vs. Oklahoma
14. 2015-16 AP rank (high/low/): No. 1 (3 weeks)/No. 17 (Dec. 21)
15. Overall Tournament record: 55-35 (37 appearances)
16. Overall Final Four record: 3/2 (1 title)
17. Sentence about the team you can use in conversation to make yourself seem informed and opinionated: Josh Hart is the star, but the game will go through Kris Jenkins. If the junior, who grew up minutes away from where Kevin Durant did, is stroking ’em early, defenses will have to collapse on him, leaving Hart and senior three-point specialist Ryan Arcidiacono open to do their thing.
18. Why you should be rooting for them: It’s been 31 years since Villanova won the first-ever 64-team tournament with its "upset of the century" over Georgetown. (A designation I debate, not because it wasn’t a great win but because Villanova had hung tight with Georgetown twice during the Big East season.) With memories of that title slightly tainted because of its ugly aftermath, wouldn’t it be nice for ‘Nova to win one as a favorite rather than a Cinderella? Anyway, college basketball is more fun when the Big East is good. (The real Big East, not that old South Florida crap.)
19. Annoyance factor if they win (on a scale of 1 to 10): 1. Villanova doesn’t inspire the antipathy of other big-time programs, perhaps because it’s private (Duke sucks all the air out of that room) and is best known as the aforementioned championship darlings. And from what I can tell, even the schools who should dislike ‘Nova the most (the other Big Five) actually don’t mind them all that much when it comes to winning a title.
20. Famous alumni: Jim Croce, Jill Biden, Maria Bello, Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor and 1/4th of Bradley Cooper (he went for a year before transferring to Georgetown).
21. If team was a TV character, which TV character would it be? A dude loading boxes at the beginning of an episode of "Law & Order," "Law & Order" – They’re instantly forgettable, unless they end up being the focus of the episode, in which case you’ll always remember them, until the next episode comes on.
22. What Jim Nantz should say if they win the championship: "You can’t spell ‘victory’ without ‘Villanova.’" (Semantics take a backseat when a line for the ages is at stake.)
Oklahoma, No. 2 seed, West, Lon Kruger (coach)
23. Road to the Final Four: No. 15 Cal St. Bakersfield, No. 10 VCU, No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 1 Oregon
24. Title odds/F4 line: +350, (+2) vs. Villanova
25. 2015-16 AP rank (high/low): No. 1 (3 weeks)/No. 8 in preseason
26. Overall Tournament record: 41-29 (30 appearances)
27. Overall Final Four record: 1-2 (0 titles)
28. Sentence about the team you can use in conversation to make yourself look smart: Anything that goes against the narrative that Oklahoma is a one-man team. They aren’t — no teams are made of "one man," even Danny Manning from that famous ’88 Kansas "Danny and the Miracles" team. But since the narrative is all about Buddy Hield, switch it up, throw out Isaiah Cousins’ name and mention how nothing works with the point guard puppeteer.
29. Why you should be rooting for them: Buddy Hield. It’s been the year of the senior in college basketball, which is such a refreshing development in an era of one-and-done and John Calipari. Ben Simmons was a no-show this year. Brandon Ingram was great. But none were as good as the upperclassman, a field led by Hield. (Also, Buddy hails from the Bahamas, an island of about 350,000 people — which is around the population of Aurora, Colorado, which produces an unbelievable amount of world-class athletes. (Watch the Olympics this summer; you’ll see.)
30. Annoyance factor if they win (on a scale of 1 to 10): 4. There’s going to be a Buddy backlash if Oklahoma makes the finals because, seriously, there won’t be a single sentence spoken about college basketball from about 11:30 p.m. ET Saturday until 9:07 p.m. ET Monday that doesn’t include the words Buddy. But that’s a reason to be annoyed with Charles Barkley, not Buddy. Buddy. Buddy. Buddy. See what I’m talking about?
31. Famous alumni: James Garner, one of the dudes on Apollo 13 (Fred Haise), Olivia Munn (is she the one with Aaron Rodgers or on "Vinyl" — I can’t tell them apart).
32. If team was a TV character, which TV character would it be?Alex P. Keaton from "Family Ties." A well-traveled veteran at the helm of a television show that became solely about its breakout star. But what are Buddy Hield’s thoughts on Ronald Reagan?
33. What Jim Nantz should say if they win the championship: "Oh, what a beautiful evenin’!" (It’s a paraphrased line from a musical. No, not "Hamilton." You may be surprised to know there have been others. This is from, appropriately, "Oklahoma!" It’s a famous song written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. They were the most famous songwriting duo before those Lennon and McCartney guys came around. It’s from the ’40s. What? The nineteen-forties. During the war. Seriously? World War II. No, not the movie. That’s "World War Z.")
North Carolina, No. 1 seed, East, Roy Williams (coach)
34. Road to the Final Four: No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast, No. 9 Providence, No. 5 Indiana, No. 6 Notre Dame
35. Title odds/F4 line: EVEN, (-9.5) vs. Syracuse
36. 2015-16 AP rank (high/low): No. 1 (2 weeks)/No. 11 on Dec. 14 (FYI: This means UNC, the tournament’s overwhelming favorite, spent fewer weeks at No. 1 than either of its potential finals opponents. Oh, and Carolina’s two weeks came at the beginning of the season rendering them virtually meaningless.)
37. Overall Tournament record: 116-42 (48 appearances)
38. Overall Final Four record: 13-13 (5 titles)
39. Sentence about the team you can use in conversation to make yourself seem opinionated: It’s weird; Roy Williams could win his third title at North Carolina in his 13th year at the school, passing Dean Smith who won two titles in 36 years, and people still won’t put good ol’ Roy in the same sentence as Smith, let alone the same paragraph or chapter. Maybe he’ll finally get in the same book. But Dean was a legend, in more ways than one. Every old ACC coach has a story about Dean (Lefty Driesell has more than most) but the best quote about the ego-heavy Smith comes from former Duke coach Bill Foster: "I don’t know my basketball history all that well. I thought it was Naismith who invented the sport, not Dean Smith."
40. Why you should be rooting for them: You shouldn’t be, under any circumstances.
41. Annoyance factor if they win (on a scale of 1 to 10): 675,326,460. How’d we get there? Take the age of Dean Smith at his retirement (66), add the number of national championships won by the Tar Heels (5), subtract the number of titles UNC would have without Chris Webber and Fred Brown (2), then multiply it all by the number of North Carolinians who pretend to have gone to Carolina, which you get by subtracting the amount of living UNC alums in NC from the entire population of the state. That’s (66+5-2) x (9,944,000-156,660) = 675,326,460.
42. Famous alumni: Andy Griffith, Jack Palance, Stuart Scott, John "Remember Me?" Edwards, Dan "I’m evidently not a himbo" Cortese.
43. If team was a TV character, which TV character would it be?Carmela Soprano, "The Sopranos" – While a bunch of illegal stuff was happening around them, they were completely unaware of any wrongdoing. And like Carolina does with Louisville, Carmela often had to deal with people who spent a lot of times in strip clubs.
44. What Jim Nantz should say if they win the championship: "The Tar Heels leave their footprint on Houston!" It’s going to be something footprint related. I just have that feeling. I was considering a NASA line but these damn millennials would only care about the moon landing if they or Kendrick Lamar had done it.