The 2022 men’s Final Four brings together four of the most successful programs in the sport, three Hall of Fame coaches, two bitter rivals, and one outgoing legend.
It must be something about New Orleans. Every time the men’s Final Four lands in the Big Easy, we get a legendary moment or performance.
Literally. Every time. Here’s a quick look at the history of the Final Four in NOLA:
- 1982: A North Carolina freshman named Michael Jordan hit a jumper with 15 seconds left to lift the Tar Heels over mighty Georgetown in the championship game. It was the moment that Jordan truly arrived on the national scene.
- 1987: Indiana’s Keith Smart hit the game-winner in the title game against Syracuse, sealing an undefeated season for the Hoosiers. No team has finished a season unbeaten since.
- 1993: Chris Webber’s infamous blunder helped North Carolina beat Michigan in the championship game. With Michigan down two, the Wolverine sophomore tried to call a timeout when facing a Tar Heel trap. Only Michigan didn’t have any timeouts remaining, resulting in a technical foul, and UNC was able to clinch the game at the line.
- 2003: Hakim Warrick had “The Block” in the final seconds as Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim avenged his 1987 loss with a win over Kansas for the Orange’s only national title. This Final Four wasn’t lacking for star power, as Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse) and Dwyane Wade (Marquette) both made it to the Superdome.
- 2012: This Final Four featured one of the best rivalries in college basketball — Kentucky vs. Louisville — and a positively dominant force in the Wildcats’ Anthony Davis. Few championship games in college basketball history could match the talent level of the Kentucky vs. Kansas title game, with eight of the 10 starters going on to be NBA Draft picks, including six first-rounders. AD was, of course, the No. 1 overall selection that June.
So what sort of historic moment does New Orleans have in store for us this year? While we can’t predict buzzer-beaters or game-changing plays, we know that Mike Krzyzewski is going to coach his last game on either Saturday or Monday, and that Duke and North Carolina will meet in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. But there’s so much more going on than the obvious. Let’s take a look at each participant in this blue-blood-heavy event.
(1) Kansas Jayhawks vs. (2) Villanova Wildcats, 6:09 p.m. ET, TBS
Undergraduate Enrollment: 19,135
Endowment: $1.81 billion
Men’s Basketball Operating Expenses: $2,805,940
Head Coach: Bill Self (19th season, fourth Final Four)
2021-22: 32-6 (14-4 Big 12, Big 12 Tournament champions)
Final Four History: 16 Final Fours, 3 National Championships (Most recent: 2008)
What to Know: Senior guard Ochai Agbaji is the name to know. He leads the Jayhawks in scoring (18.9 PPG) and shoots just under 40% from three. He’s destined to hear his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft — probably in the lottery — and is the 2022 Big 12 Player of the Year. Agbaji has been about as consistent as they come, scoring in double figures in every game but two this season. He’s coming off a masterful performance in the Elite Eight against Miami. Kansas’s opponent, Villanova, has been known to churn out elite guards for as long as Jay Wright has been head coach, but the Wildcats, who boast one of the best defenses in the country, will have their hands full to contain Agbaji.
Memorable March Moment: Chalmers for the tie!
Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,812
Endowment: $1.12 billion
Men’s Basketball Operating Budget: $3,590,384
Head Coach: Jay Wright (21st season, fourth Final Four)
2021-22: 30-7 (16-4 Big East, Big East tournament champions)
Final Four History: 7 Final Fours, 3 National Championships (Most recent: 2018)
What to Know: Is it possible for a 2 seed to be an afterthought? Because it seems like the Wildcats have been for much of the tournament, and they are again in the Final Four. With minutes-leader Justin Moore suffering a season-ending injury in the final minute of the Wildcats’ Elite Eight win over Houston, they have every excuse to lay an egg against Kansas. Don’t expect them to. Villanova is as disciplined as they come, led by ever-steady head coach Jay Wright and Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie. Villanova won’t beat itself, leading the nation in free throw percentage and rarely turning the ball over. It also plays at an incredibly slow pace, dictating the tempo and limiting possessions — perfect for a group as efficient offensively as the Wildcats. Kansas might win the game, but it won’t be because Villanova wasn’t prepared.
Memorable March Moment: Jenkins’ buzzer-beater
(2) Duke Blue Devils vs. (8) North Carolina Tar Heels, 8:49 p.m., TBS
Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,717
Endowment: $12.7 billion
Men’s Basketball Operating Expenses: $1,799,635
Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (41st season, 13th Final Four)
2021-22: 32-6 (16-4 ACC)
Final Four History: 17 Final Fours, 5 National Championships (Most recent: 2015)
What to Know: This is a different Duke team than the one that North Carolina blew out less than a month ago. At the time, the Blue Devils appeared to be too young, overcome by the moment as the sports world celebrated Coach K’s final game at Cameron Indoor. But at some point since then, Duke flipped a switch. The Blue Devils showed poise in holding off Michigan State in the Second Round, then followed that up by scoring 78 in consecutive games against two elite defenses in Texas Tech and Arkansas. Paolo Banchero might be the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, but Duke is so much more than its freshman phenom (though Banchero has been awesome in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 18.5 points and shooting 51% form the field). AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, and Wendell Moore have all come up huge at points throughout March.
Memorable March Madness Moment: The Shot
Undergraduate Enrollment: 19,742
Endowment: $5.1 billion
Men’s Basketball Operating Expenses: $2,766,573
Head Coach: Hubert Davis (First season)
2021-22: 28-9 (15-5 ACC)
Final Four History: 21 Final Fours, 6 National Championships (Most recent: 2017)
What to Know: Much like Duke turning it around after its season finale, North Carolina had a similar turning point. For the Heels, it came on Feb. 16 when they lost at home to ACC cellar-dweller Pittsburgh. At that point, North Carolina was almost certainly on the outside of the tournament bubble, looking in. Since then? They’ve netted 10 wins to just one loss, with triumphs over Duke, Baylor, and UCLA. Junior Armando Bacot has posted a double-double in all six of the Tar Heels’ postseason games so far, including 20 points and 22 rebounds against Cinderella squad St. Peter’s in the Elite Eight. On the wing, Caleb Love has the potential to catch fire and has two games so far in the tournament in which he made six threes. And that’s not even mentioning Brady Manek, who has scored in double figures in every game since Jan. 29. Bacot, Love, and Manek were all named to the East Region all-tournament team and could each be the reason North Carolina’s run continues.
Memorable March Moment: Jordan’s game-winner