Final Four 2016: Expert picks for UNC vs. Syracuse, Oklahoma vs. Villanova

From 68 teams who made the NCAA Tournament we are down to four remaining — The Final Four.

The latest from SportsLine

It’s Villanova vs. Oklahoma at 6:09 p.m. ET followed by Syracuse vs. North Carolina at 8:49 p.m. from Houston’s NRG Stadium.

Here’s our predictions for Saturday’s semifinals both straight-up and against the spread as we tell you which teams will meet in the NCAA championship game on Monday.

VILLANOVA VS. OKLAHOMA: Saturday, 6:09 p.m. ET

Gary Parrish, CBS Sports College basketball Insider: This is obviously a coin-flip of a game, and I was thoroughly impressed with the way Villanova beat Kansas in the Elite Eight without shooting well. But give me Buddy Hield and the Sooners. He is, and they are, operating at a high level in this NCAA Tournament, and unless Oklahoma has a completely cold night from beyond the arc, which is possible but rare, my guess is that Lon Kruger will coach Monday with an opportunity to bring OU its first national championship in men’s basketball. Oklahoma 74, Villanova 73

Matt Norlander, CBS Sports College Basketball Writer: I think Oklahoma’s the pick here. The Sooners have been terrific on offense and are more dynamic with the ball than any team Villanova has faced this season … Except of course four Oklahoma, which wrecked Nova back in December. I don’t know how much that game really matters now, but I do think OU’s inside attack will wind up being a big factor. Khadeem Lattin going for one of his four or five best games of the season would not surprise me in the least. I also think this will be the best game of the weekend. Oklahoma 77, Villanova 73.

Chip Patterson, CBS Sports College Basketball Writer: I’ve run this game through every scenario, explaining simultaneously why both Oklahoma will win and why Villanova can win it all. Any result seems likely at this point, but my final is answer is to ride with Buddy Hield and the Sooners. Villanova’s run has been magical and ridiculously efficient (1.27 points per possession over four tournament games), but Oklahoma has our CBS Sports Player of the Year and I think that might be enough in what I expect to be a close, great game. I think Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard will need to be in top form, Oklahoma will need to limit its turnovers (since the Wildcats have been very good at forcing them to get easy buckets) and probably shoot 45 percent from the field or better to win. But I say it all happens. Oklahoma 73, Villanova 71

Sam Vecenie, CBS Sports College Basketball Writer: In the first game, I’m going with Oklahoma over Villanova. These are two different teams than when they played back in December, but the disadvantages are still there for the Wildcats. Oklahoma still has guard play to handle Villanova’s high-pressure defense and knock down shots, and still has a pair of mobile big men who can handle all of the screening action the Wildcats want to put it in. Oh, and the Sooners still have Buddy Hield, who has been the best player in the country this season. That seems important. Oklahoma 76, Villanova 71

Jerry Palm, CBS Sports Bracketology Expert: Oklahoma and Villanova are a lot closer in quality that their first meeting this season would indicate. The Sooners won that game back on December 7 by 23 points. It would be stunning if either team would run away like that on Saturday. I’m going with Oklahoma though because they have Buddy Hield, arguably the best player in the country and also one of the best closers. Sooners, by much less than 23. Oklahoma 72, Villanova 68

SYRACUSE VS. NORTH CAROLINA: Saturday, 8:49 p.m.

Parrish: UNC is 2-0 against Syracuse this season even though UNC didn’t play particularly well in either game. The Tar Heels beat the Orange back in January while only grabbing 10 offensive rebounds (FYI: that’s low for UNC) and shooting just 18.8 percent from 3-point range. Then, in February, the Tar Heels beat the Orange again even though they shot just 41.2 percent from the field, 24.0 percent from 3-point range and 68.4 percent from the free throw line. So what does that tell us? It tells us UNC can beat Syracuse when it doesn’t play well, and that UNC should be able to beat Syracuse by double-digits if it does play well. And UNC has been playing well. So give me the Tar Heels by a big number. North Carolina 79, Syracuse 67

Norlander: I expect Syracuse to keep it close in the first half. Wouldn’t shock me at all if the Orange went into the break with the lead. UNC doesn’t shoot it well from deep, but I think Paige is so familiar with the zone, and UNC has the wings play to hit the soft middle and short baseline. Carolina wins going away, but it won’t be a blowout. North Carolina 78, Syracuse 67.

Patterson: North Carolina has won every NCAA Tournament game by double digits, seems to be firing on all cylinders and is the oddsmakers favorite to cut down the nets when some combination of Luther Vandross and Ne-Yo are singing “One Shining Moment” (crisis averted). First comes a third meeting against Syracuse, though these rubber matches actually might favor North Carolina more than you would think. Roy Williams is 11-4 as UNC’s coach when playing a team for the third time in a season, and it’s hard to think that this Tar Heels team is anywhere close to playing like either of the teams Syracuse faced earlier this year. North Carolina 71, Syracuse 59

Vecenie: I’m taking North Carolina to win, but Syracuse to cover. Both of the games these two teams have played this season have been pretty tight contests because the Orange can really do a lot of the things that make the Tar Heels uncomfortable. Look for Syracuse to force North Carolina to bomb away from deep, and look for the Tar Heels to play some high-low action in the post with Brice Johnson and either Kennedy Meeks or Isaiah Hicks. If Johnson can control the game with his passing and rebounding — like he did in the first two games — I’m just not sure the Orange have enough in the tank to beat the Heels. Give me North Carolina, but closer than expected. North Carolina 77, Syracuse 72.

Palm: North Carolina’s front line talent and depth is a matchup nightmare for everyone, but especially a team like Syracuse, which does not do a good job rebounding in general. The Orange have relied on both skill and luck to get to this point of the tournament. The skill showed up in being able to come back in games against Gonzaga and especially Virginia. The luck was not having to play Michigan State and Virginia uncharacteristically falling apart. At the very least, the luck runs out on Saturday. North Carolina 80, Syracuse 65

Houston's NRG Stadium is ready for the Final Four. (USATSI)
Houston’s NRG Stadium is ready for the Final Four. (USATSI)


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