Final Four: ‘No Stars’ Team vs Player of Year; Best Team vs. Nastiest

Malachi Richardson

Value Add indicates the Villanova “no stars” are the only team with four Top 200 players as they try to overcome Player of the Year Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) and then the best player in the tournament (UNC’s Brice Johnson) or the surprising Orangemen of Syracuse to give the Big East its first title in just its third year since realignment.

The only three conferences with a winning record in this year’s tournament — the ACC, Big East, and Big 12 — are the only ones still playing.

The following are the Final Four players worth at least six extra points to their team and/or with at least a 20 percent chance of making the NBA. We also included the only two other players who still rank ahead of Johnson in the updated rankings at

Rnk Player Team Ht Yr Pts Value GP Per game NBA?
1 Walkup, Thomas 0 SFAustin 6′ 4″ Sr 11.30 30 11.30 0%
2 Hield, Buddy 24 Oklahoma 6′ 4″ Sr 10.62 36 10.62 83%
3 Simmons, Ben 25 LSU 6′ 10″ Fr 10.09 33 10.09 96%
4 Johnson, Brice 11 UNC 6′ 10″ Sr 9.89 38 9.89 59%
18 Gbinije, Michael 0 Syracuse 6′ 7″ Sr 8.89 36 8.89 38%
99 Arcidiacono, Ryan 15 Villanova 6′ 3″ Sr 6.49 38 6.49 11%
102 Hart, Josh 3 Villanova 6′ 5″ Jr 6.47 38 6.47 36%
110 Jenkins, Kris 2 Villanova 6′ 6″ Jr 6.32 38 6.32 0%
111 Woodard, Jordan 10 Oklahoma 6′ 0 Jr 6.30 36 6.30 0%
171 Ochefu, Daniel 23 Villanova 6′ 11″ Sr 5.72 35 6.21 20%
123 Berry, Joel 2 UNC 6′ 0 So 6.17 38 6.17 20%
147 Lydon, Tyler 20 Syracuse 6′ 8″ Fr 5.93 36 5.93 36%
352 Paige, Marcus 5 UNC 6′ 2″ Sr 4.49 32 5.33 53%
237 Jackson, Justin 44 UNC 6′ 8″ So 5.18 38 5.18 68%
251 Cousins, Isaiah 11 Oklahoma 6′ 4″ Sr 5.08 36 5.08 15%
261 Spangler, Ryan 0 Oklahoma 6′ 8″ Sr 5.00 36 5.00 0%
514 Hicks, Isaiah 4 UNC 6′ 9″ Jr 3.83 38 3.83 29%
521 Richardson, Malachi 23 Syracuse 6′ 6″ Fr 3.80 36 3.80 23%
743 Meeks, Kennedy 3 UNC 6′ 10″ Jr 3.07 31 3.76 56%
768 Brunson, Jalen 1 Villanova 6′ 2″ Fr 2.99 38 2.99 33%
1123 Pinson, Theo 1 UNC 6′ 6″ So 2.11 38 2.11 43%
1505 Booth, Phil 5 Villanova 6′ 3″ So 1.38 38 1.38 26%

Villanova was trying to make the Final Four without a single top 100 player, but Ryan Arcidiacono’s incredible birthday upset of Kansas moved him up to 99th. Villanova was the only team with four top 200 players — the only other teams with even three top 200 players were Duke, Kansas, Notre Dame, Oregon, SMU (on probation), and Virginia.

Nova teams always spread the floor, which Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, and Kris Jenkins are sure to do, but the difference this year is the one dominant big man in Daniel Ochefu. At 6-foot-11, the center ranked 171st out of more than 4,000 players with a 5.72 Value Add, however, that was held down by three games missed to injury and he had a 6.21 point value in the 35 games he played.

Saturday at 6:09 p.m. Eastern on TBS the ultimate balanced team takes on the Breitbart Sports Player of the Year Buddy Hield in the first Final Four game. Ironically Villanova was one of the few teams to keep Hield in check early in the season, and they still lost 78-55.

Best Team vs. Nastiest Team: UNC vs. Syracuse

As great as Hield has been, the best player and the best team in the tournament take the court in the second game when Brice Johnson leads UNC onto the court a half hour after the first game ends.

Johnson was a 2nd team Breitbart Sports All-American and since then rocketed to the 4th-best ranking in basketball by towering over every opponent. UNC looks like a prohibitive favorite among the four remaining teams.

While Brice is joined by two other top 250 players, but that doesn’t start to tell you how good they are. Marcus Paige and Kennedy Meeks missed a bunch of games early to hold their rankings down (a player gets a 0.0 rating for any game they miss) and they are dominating as well.

Six players this weekend have at least a 40 percent chance of making the NBA – Hield and five UNC players. It looks like a miss match, but …

While UNC would likely dominate either Villanova or Oklahoma if they played them Saturday, they have to beat the nastiest coach in the game in Jim Boeheim, who has taken his 10-seed Syracuse to four consecutive upsets, including Virginia. A few years ago I was talking to another reporter at the Big East tournament, and he said, “If you talk to people about Boeheim, some tell you that he seems like a (jerk) the first few years you talk to him, but after five years or so you start to realize he is not. My response is that if someone seems like a (jerk) the first five years you talk to him, then he is a (jerk).”

Boeheim’s teams understand how to win. I watched them make another Final Four by roughing up Indiana and Marquette with pokes to the eye and other nasty shots away from the ball. They are the one team tough enough to go in with an attitude against UNC and just maybe use the 2-3 zone and an occasional surprise press to slow down the Tar Heel express.

Syracuse does not match up player to player, but they are the only team in the Final Four that is physically close to UNC.

My Virginia friends were livid earlier this year when Syracuse’s Michael Gbinije ranked higher than Malcolm Brogdon, but Brogdon’s 6-for-23 shooting last weekend played a big role in Syracuse’s late rally.  At 6-foot-7, Gbinije has three or more assists in 17 straight games to give a sense of his versatility.

UNC could roll through both games to take the title easily. But a nasty Syracuse team could rough UNC up enough to either stun them or send them wounded into the title game to give the Oklahoma-Nova winner a chance Monday.


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