Final Four preview: Duke and UNC meet in New Orleans



For the first time ever, North Carolina and Duke will meet in the NCAA Tournament. The two legendary programs will match up in the Final Four, set to take place in New Orleans in April 2.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

The first two weekends of the 2022 NCAA Tournament have come and gone with the same craziness that we as fans are used to seeing year in and year out. We’ve had thrilling finishes, unpredictable upsets and Cinderella runs from schools that most people counted out in the first round. But through all of the games, upsets and busted brackets, only four teams remain to determine who the 2022 National Champion will be, with this year’s Final Four being held at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La.

The first of the two weekend matchups in the Big Easy will take place between the Villanova Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks with tipoff scheduled for 5:09 p.m. The Wildcats won their conference tournament, the Big East, and rolled through the South region of this year’s tournament, defeating Houston in a 50-44 defensive battle in the regional finals. Head coach Jay Wright’s club has shown poise and experience thus far in the Big Dance, beating 15-seeded Delaware by 20 points in the first round, knocking out Big Ten teams Ohio State and Michigan in the Round of 32 and Sweet Sixteen, respectively, before grinding out the regional final victory over Houston. The Wildcats are seeking their third national championship in six years, having won it all in 2016 and 2018 (the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19). 

Matching up with Villanova will be the Midwest region champions Kansas. The Jayhawks are no stranger to the big stage, having won numerous Big 12 titles and consistently find themselves ranked amongst the highest seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Led by Big 12 Player of the Year Ochai Agbaji, Kansas will be matched up against a strong defensive team in Villanova. After a blowout of Texas Southern in the first round, the Jayhawks won two close, single-digit games over Creighton and Providence. Their Elite Eight matchup against Miami was close in the first half, but they outscored the Hurricanes 47-15 in the second half en route to a 76-50 win in the regional final. Expect this game between the two teams to be a close game, with Kansas holding the slight edge due to Villanova’s depth issues and the potent scoring ability of Agbaji. 

The second game of the night is no doubt going to be the most-highly anticipated college basketball games in history. Long-time rivals Duke and North Carolina will meet for the first time ever in the NCAA Tournament, with this season being the final year of legendary Duke head coach Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski at the helm. Coach K had announced at the start of the season that this would be his last season coaching, and it is fitting that one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports will be played on college basketball’s biggest state: the Final Four.

Duke certainly did not have an easy path to get to New Orleans. After an opening-round win over Cal-State Fullerton, the Blue Devils went through a gauntlet of Michigan State, Texas Tech and Arkansas in order to earn the right to play their longtime rivals in the Final Four. Led by Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams and Wendell Moore, Duke has five players averaging in double figures this season. Their matchup with the Tar Heels will be expected to be a high-scoring shootout. 

North Carolina had a bit of a more unconventional Final Four run. Under first-year head coach Hubert Davis, the Tar Heels went through a bit of a rough patch in the regular season before playing better near the end, earning a No. 8 seed in the East region. Carolina decimated Marquette by 32 points in the first round, took down the East’s No. 1 seed Baylor in the Round of 32, beat last year’s Final Four squad UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen and put an end to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s Cinderella run in order to get here. The Heels are led by four players averaging double-figures: Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, Brady Manek and R.J. Davis. Bacot has proven to be a hassle for many teams to handle due to his size on the inside, and Love has a tendency to take over games when he gets hot. Along with the tensions in this rivalry, expect this game to be one for the ages. The winner of this game will most likely end up winning the national title.