|THE FINAL FOUR
Sat, Apr 2, 2016
NRG Stadium (71,500)
|5:09 PM CT
(33-5, 16-2 BE)
(29-7, 12-6 B12)
|8:49 PM CT*
(23-13, 9-9 ACC)
|vs||(1) North Carolina
(32-6, 14-4 ACC)
|* - time approximate; tip 30 minutes after conclusion of game one|
Prepare yourselves, citizens. For the vast majority of you, tonight will involves two teams you don't mind at all playing for the right to face two teams you'd just as soon fire into the sun. What a world.
The games: The West Region champion Oklahoma Sooners take on the champions of the South Region, the Villanova Wildcats, in the first national semifinal of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. This is the Sooners' fifth trip to the Final Four; they have won twice in the semifinals, but have never reached the top of the mountain. It is also Villanova's fifth Final Four, although their appearance in 1971 was vacated. That action also erased one of Nova's two semifinal wins; the other was in 1985, when they went on to win the national title. This is, amazingly, only the third time in history that two #2 seeds will meet in the Final Four. Both were also semifinals: Arkansas/North Carolina in 1995 and Kansas/Ohio State in 2012. This is the fifth meeting all-time between Oklahoma and Villanova; Oklahoma tied the series up at two games apiece with their 23-point win at Pearl Harbor in December.
In the nightcap, the East Region champion North Carolina Tar Heels take on the Syracuse Orange, surprise champions of the Midwest Region. It's UNC's 19th trip to the Final Four, nine of which have resulted in semifinal victories and five ultimately leading to national championships. Syracuse has been to the Final Four on five previous occasions, winning three times in the semifinals and going on to win the national title in 2003. Syracuse becomes the first ten seed ever to reach the Final Four, although three 11-seeds have turned the trick. Surprisingly, even though they're both now in the ACC, the Tar Heels and Orange have still only played 11 times so far. UNC leads the series 7-4, including beating Syracuse twice already this season. In NCAA tournament games, however, Syracuse holds a 2-1 edge.
Odds: Villanova is favored by a bucket over the Sooners; they're sitting on a 144.5 over, so the touts are calling a 73-71 win for Nova. North Carolina is a nine point favorite, with a 144.5 total; that's 77-68 UNC for Vegas.
Television: Coverage on TBS begins at 2pm with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Reggie Miller outside NRG Stadium for the tailgate; they'll be joined by guests Grant Hill and Bill Walton, among others. At 3pm, Johnson, Smith, and Miller will head inside and join Charles Barkley, Clark Kellogg, Greg Gumbel, Steve Smith, and Seth Davis. Also appearing during the pregame: Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, George Foreman, Kendrick Lamar, and David Lattin of the 1966 UTEP squad and, of course, grandfather of Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin. Music performances from Twenty-One Pilots will dot the pregame as well, while Lamar will perform between games.
Finally, at 5pm CT the actual game coverage begins. Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, and Tracy Wolfson handle the duties. But there's more! On TNT, Chad McKee, Eduardo Nájera, and Jessica Coody present the Oklahoma Teamcast, followed by the North Carolina Teamcast with Wes Durham, Brendan Haywood, Dwayne and Ballen. Villanova's Teamcast airs on truTV featuring Scott Graham, Brian Finneran, and Kacie McDonnell (from Kansas City's channel 41, a Villanova alum); that'll be followed by the Syracuse Teamcast with Tom Werme, Roosevelt Bouie, and Donovan McNabb.
Both games will also air on ESPN International, if you happen to be abroad, with Sean McDonough and Dick Vitale on the call. (Yes, America is being spared Dick Vitale for the entire Final Four.)
Lastly, and I can't believe I'm typing this, if you've got an Oculus you can sit in the middle of the court and watch this game, figuratively speaking.
Radio: Kevin Kugler, John Thompson, Clark Kellogg, and Jim Gray will provide the call on Westwood One Radio affiliates. (In Kansas City, that's WHB 810AM; KFH-1240 in Wichita, and I guess if you're in Manhappiness or Topeka you're just out of luck unless you've got Sirius/XM, in which case the radio call will be on Sirius/XM 84.