The Final Four is two days away from tipping off in Houston. As always, there are plenty of talented players in the final weekend of college basketball, but there is a shortage of star power entering Saturday’s contests.
This week CBS Sports, and the Associated Press released their All-American teams. Only two players on the list are involved in the Final Four. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, and North Carolina’s Brice Johnson led their teams to magnificent NCAA Tournament runs. They also had two phenomenal seasons. Hield was named CBS Sports’ college basketball’s player of the year, but to be the only Final Four players recognized is a bit of a shock. .
For example, three first team All-Americans were represented in the Final Four last season. The Final Four also had Karl-Anthony Towns, who became the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. It’s a foregone conclusion that none of the Final Four players will be the No. 1 pick this season.
The biggest difference could be the skill level of the big men. Currently, 3 of the 4 starting centers aren’t averaging double figures. Some of it has to do with style of play. However, some of the front court players haven’t displayed the ability to be a dominant low post scorer.
Overall, there are nine seniors starting in the Final Four. There are two freshmen starting this weekend. Conventional wisdom says none of the younger players should enter the 2016 NBA Draft. However, stranger things have happened.
All four starting point guards are finishing up their senior seasons. Three of the teams run a dual-point guard rotation in the starting lineup.
Now let’s rank the 2016 Final Four starters.
20. DaJuan Coleman / Center / Syracuse: The Syracuse center came into the program as a heralded McDonalds All-American. Injuries curtailed a promising career until this season. From 2012-14, Coleman played in 37 games. When he takes the floor against North Carolina, he will be playing in his 37th game of the season. He’s averaging 4.9 points, and 4.6 rebounds per game.
19. Khadeem Lattin / Forward / Oklahoma: Khadeem Lattin helps control the paint for the Oklahoma Sooners. Averaging 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds this season, Lattin has one NCAA Tournament game where he reached double figures. He’s had six blocks in four tournament games.
18. Kennedy Meeks / Forward / North Carolina: Kennedy Meeks had an up and down year with the Tar Heels. Playing roughly half a game, Meeks is averaging 9.2 points, and 5.8 rebounds per game. In the first two tournament games, Meeks scored a total of six points. He averaged 12.5 points in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.
17. Trevor Cooney / Guard / Syracuse: Trevor Cooney has been a double digit scorer for three straight seasons. This year he averaged 12.7 points, and 2.3 assists per game. Cooney is shooting 34.9 percent from 3-point range, and he must be a threat from beyond the arc. He only took one 3-pointer against Virginia, but attacked the paint well, scoring eight points.
16. Ryan Spangler / Forward / Oklahoma: Ryan Spangler is averaging 10.3 points, and 9.2 rebounds per game. Spangler has only reached double figures scoring once in the tournament. He may have to increase production in the Final Four game. His defense will be key.
15. Jalen Brunson / Guard / Villanova: As one of only two freshman starting in the Final Four, Jalen Brunson has a unique opportunity. He shares point guard duties, and scores 9.8 points per game. Brunson can be a factor from 3-point range, but he will be measured by how well his defensive tenacity is on Saturday.
14. Tyler Roberson / Forward / Syracuse: When Syracuse is rolling, Tyler Roberson is playing well. Roberson’s activity on the offensive glass is key for the Orange. He must bring energy, while staying out of foul trouble. Roberson scored 10 points in the upset victory over Virginia.
13. Justin Jackson / Forward / North Carolina: Justin Jackson is scoring 12.2 points per game. He’s shooting 46.7 percent from the field, but only 28 percent from 3-point range. Jackson also produces in other areas. He grabs 3.9 rebounds, and dishes 2.8 assists for the Tar Heels.
12. Joel Berry / Guard / North Carolina: Joel Berry is the second leader scorer on the team by a hair. He averages 12.7 points per game, and leads North Carolina at 37.6 percent from 3-point range. Berry is second on the team with 3.6 assists per game, and gets over three rebounds per game.
11. Jordan Woodard / Guard / Oklahoma: As the second leading scorer, Woodard has the capability of scoring in bunches for the Sooners. He also gets three rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. Woodard shoots 45.9 percent from 3-point range.
10. MalachI Richardson / Guard / Syracuse: MalachI Richardson has had an interesting NCAA Tournament. Averaging 13.3 points per game, he’s second on the Orange in scoring, but he has the ability to be quiet or explode offensively. Against Dayton, Richardson scored 21 points. Then he combined for 14 points over the next two games. In the Elite 8, Richardson scored 23 points, 21 coming in the second half.
9. Daniel Ochefu / Center / Villanova: Daniel Ochefu anchors the Villanova defense. He leads the team with 1.7 blocks per game. He also can score in the post. Ochefu averages 10 points per game, shooting 62 percent from the field.
8. Isaiah Cousins / Guard / Oklahoma: Isaiah Cousins leads Oklahoma with 4.6 assists per game. Cousins is third in scoring on the team with 12.8 points per game, and also rebounds very well. He must run the offense against a tough Villanova defense. Coming into the game, he gives up 2.3 turnovers nightly.
7. Kris Jenkins / Forward / Villanova: If there’s one guy to get hot from 3-point range, Kris Jenkins could be that guy. Will he match Buddy Hield shot for shot? Probably not, but Jenkins shoots the ball with incredible range. He’s also a match up nightmare for other front court players.
6. Josh Hart / Guard / Villanova: Josh Hart leads Villanova with 15.3 points per game, but he hasn’t been the main guy on the offensive end in the NCAA Tournament. Still, he’s able to make big buckets when the game gets close. Hart must avoid early foul trouble.
5. Michael Gbinije / Guard / Syracuse: Michael Gbinije leads the Syracuse Orange in minutes, points, assists, and steals. Gbinije scores 17.6 points per game, and shoots 46.8 percent from the field. He also makes 2.5 3-pointers per game. Hart is second on the team in rebounds.
4. Ryan Arcidiacono / Guard / Villanova: Ryan Arcidiacono averages 12.3 points, and 4.3 assists. Arcidiacono connects on 38 percent of his 3-point attempts. His disruptive defense is a major factor for the Wildcats. Will he guard Isaiah Cousins or Jordan Woodard?
3. Marcus Paige / Guard / North Carolina: Marcus Paige has reached a new level during the NCAA Tournament. Paige takes 6.1 3-pointers per game, but he went through a long cold streak midseason. However, Paige made 13 3-pointers over the last four games.
2. Brice Johnson / Forward / North Carolina: Brice Johnson might be the most dominant player in college basketball. His 25 points, and 12 rebounds were too much for Notre Dame in the Elite 8. He shot over 66 percent in the game. For the season, Johnson shoots over 61 percent.
1. Buddy Hield / Guard / Oklahoma: Buddy Hield has two 30-point games in the NCAA Tournament. He leads the Sooners with 25.4 points per game, and shoots 46.5 percent from 3-point range. Hield might be the one player to face a tricky defense in the Final Four. Otherwise, good luck with stopping him.