Sports

Final Four 2022: Meet the field loaded with blue bloods for Coach K’s last dance


The 2022 men’s NCAA tournament was defined by upsets from the very start. No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s set the tone for the rest of the field by stunning a powerful Kentucky team on the tournament’s first day. The Peacocks eventually eliminated Murray State and Purdue as well, becoming the first seed lower than a No. 12 to ever reach the Elite Eight. Meanwhile, national title favorites Gonzaga and Arizona were both knocked out in the Sweet 16, losing in shocking fashion to Arkansas and Houston, respectively.

While the underdogs once again captured hearts around the country, we’re left with a Final Four that exclusively features the sport’s top programs. Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Villanova are heading to New Orleans for the national semifinals, and it promises to be one of the most memorable Final Four fields ever.

The rivalry between Duke and North Carolina dates back more than 100 years, but they have never played in the NCAA tournament until now. The fact that it’s happening in Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season feels too good to be true.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Final Four teams in the men’s tournament.

No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils

Who they beat

  • First round: Duke 78, CSU Fullerton 61
  • Round of 32: Duke 85, Michigan State 76
  • Sweet 16: Duke 78, Texas Tech 73
  • Elite Eight: Duke 78, Arkansas 69

Why they can win it all

Duke simply has the most talented team remaining in the field. Freshman star Paolo Banchero is a 6’10, 250-pound shot creator who is playing like the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. A.J. Griffin is another freshman star projected to be a top-10 draft pick this year thanks to his huge frame for a wing and deadeye shooting. Sophomore big man Mark Williams has also built a convincing case that he deserves to be a first rounder as a rim protector and lob threat who leverages his immense 7’7 wingspan. The real key for the Blue Devils might be sophomore point guard Jeremy Roach, who struggled most of the season before becoming a hero a multiple occasions in this tournament. No one can match Duke’s on-paper talent, and that makes them the favorite to win it all.

Why they might lose

No team in the field is facing more pressure than Duke. A loss to North Carolina in the Final Four to end Coach K’s career would be absolutely devastating. The Blue Devils have been able to keep out the noise and stay in the moment so far, but it’s going to be more difficult as hype for this Final Four matchup against the Tar Heels reached unprecedented levels over the next week.

No. 8 seed North Carolina

Who they beat

  • First round: North Carolina 95, Marquette 63
  • Round of 32: North Carolina 93, Baylor 86, OT
  • Sweet 16: North Carolina 73, UCLA 66
  • Elite Eight: North Carolina 69, Saint Peter’s 49

Why they can win it all

The Tar Heels waffled between average and inconsistent all year, but their blow out win over Duke during Coach K’s last ever home game seemed to rejuvenate Hubert Davis’ team. UNC has been on fire ever since, with a roster that was always loaded with talent finally playing up to its potential. Carolina can win it all because they have a five-man lineup featuring size, shooting, playmaking, and experience. Caleb Love has been the scoring star for the Heels throughout this run, but senior wing Brady Manek and junior big man Armando Bacot have also been essential to North Carolina’s success. We’ve already seen this team whoop Duke in a true road game — there’s no reason they can’t do it again with the whole world watching in the Final Four.

Why they might lose

Carolina’s defense was shaky for most of the year before turning it on in the tournament. Even as they entered the Elite Eight against Saint Peter’s, UNC defense still ranked outside the top-40 in the country in terms of efficiency. Love and Davis can be overpowered at the point of attack by bigger guards, and Bacot will occasionally struggle to defend in space. The Heels will likely have to play their best defensive game of the tournament if they want to hang with the Blue Devils.

No. 1 seed Kansas

Who they beat

  • First round: Kansas 83, Texas Southern 56
  • Round of 32: Kansas 79, Creighton 72
  • Sweet 16: Kansas 66, Providence 61
  • Elite Eight: Kansas 76, Miami 50

Why they can win it all

Like Duke, Kansas was plagued by poor point guard play for most of the season. Like the Blue Devils, they finally found the answer they were looking for in March. Arizona State transfer Remy Martin gives the Jayhawks arguably the most dynamic lead guard in the field. Martin typically looks to shoot first and pass second, but his shot-making off the dribble has been a huge key for the Jayhawks in this tournament. With two potential first round picks on the wing in Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, the Jayhawks can match offensive firepower with anyone. They have the second-highest rated offense of any Final Four team this season, after Duke.

Why they might lose

Ball screen defense. Kansas’ big men lack the mobility to defend in space against great guards. Miami found success running isolation actions at David McCormack for the first half of their Elite Eight matchup before the Jayhawks ran away with the game after halftime. McCormack will have to be at his best defensively against Villanova if Kansas wants to play for a national title.

No. 2 seed Villanova

Who they beat

  • First round: Villanova 80, Delaware 60
  • Round of 32: Villanova 71, Ohio State 61
  • Sweet 16: Villanova 63, Michigan 55
  • Elite Eight: Villanova 50, Houston 44

Why they can win it all

The Wildcats have shown the ability to force their style of play on any opponent. Nova one of the slowest offenses in the country this season, grinding opponents down with ruthless execution on both ends of the floor. Fifth-year point guard Collin Gillespie is a master at controlling tempo and finding the best possible shot for his team. On defense, the Wildcats do a great job closing out on shooters, with opponents hitting just 30.1 percent of their threes against them on the season. Jay Wright has had more talented teams, but this one has perfected his vision for how this program can win big games.

Why they might lose

No depth. Villanova played six players throughout this tournament run. Unfortunately, they lost one of them — wing shooter Justin Moore — to a devastating torn Achilles in the Elite Eight. Can Nova really win it all by relying on only five guys? It’s possible, but it won’t be easy.



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