North Carolina forward Brady Manek
North Carolina forward Brady Manek (45) and forward Armando Bacot (5) react following a play during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


Mike Shara

Just when you start to think this tournament can’t possibly offer anything more exciting, it outdoes itself. Despite the miraculous, ‘root for the underdog’ part of the tournament coming to an end with the ousting of Cinderella #15 seed St. Peter’s Gamecocks in the Elite Eight, there is still no shortage of fun coming up this weekend in college basketball. This year’s Final Four features four dyed-in-the-wool Blue Blood NCAA Men’s Basketball programs : Villanova, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas. It will mark the first time in history that each of the four schools involved in the Final Four has won at least three previous National Championships each. The fortunate folks watching live at the Superdome in New Orleans and on TV will be witnessing history before the games even start. There promises to be lots more historical stuff happening once the games get underway, too. LOTS.

The early game features Villanova taking on Kansas. The Jayhawks are the only one of the remaining four teams that were actually a #1 seed in their region, winning the Midwest fairly comfortably, with their closest game coming in the Sweet Sixteen round where they beat #4 Providence by five points. Villanova, the #2 seed from the South Regional, emerged without facing any team ranked higher than 5th in their region, holding Houston to just 44 points in their Elite Eight game.

Let’s be honest, though – the second game on Saturday is the one everyone will be talking about. It is nothing short of incredible that things turn out this way, and yet somehow it feels like it was perfectly inevitable: Duke vs. North Carolina. The greatest rivalry in college basketball and among the best rivalries in all of North American team sports along with Red Sox/Yankees, Ohio State/Michigan, Lakers/Celtics, Maple Leafs/Canadiens and Jaguars/Dolphins (just making sure you’re paying attention). Incredibly this will be the first time in their rich rivalry’s history that these two iconic Tobacco Road schools will be meeting in the NCAA Tournament. That fact alone would make this game one of the most anticipated in history, but there’s even more to the story:

This is legendary Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season and he is trying to end his illustrious career by riding off into the sunset having just won his sixth career National Championship (all with the Blue Devils). To achieve the Hollywood ending he wants, his team is going to have to knock off their arch nemesis first. This is the kind of story you couldn’t make up, because no one would believe it. To add to the stakes of this game, this will be the 100th meeting between these two squads during Coach K’s career and Duke’s record in those games is 50 wins and 49 losses. If rookie UNC Head Coach Hubert Davis can somehow lead his underdog Tar Heels (they were the 8th seed in the East Region) to a win Saturday night, they will ruin any chance of Krzyzewski having career bragging rights, especially after UNC upset Duke in their final meeting at Cameron Indoor Arena. The stakes couldn’t be higher unless they were playing two days later in the national championship game. Hopefully, the finale on Monday night won’t turn out to be an anti-climax after this game. Somehow I doubt that will happen. This tournament rarely disappoints.

TBS will be broadcasting the two Final Four games and will also be showing the finale on Monday night as well. I’m not sure if they have the rights to “One Shining Moment” or not but I sure hope they’ll be playing that cheesy montage once it’s all over. It won’t feel the same if I don’t get to hear it. 

All three games will be played at the Caesar’s Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

Game One :  Villanova (#2 South) vs. Kansas (#1 Midwest)   6:09 pm   TBS
Game Two:   North Carolina (#8 East) vs. Duke (#2 West)    8:49 pm    TBS

North Carolina (#8 East) vs. Kansas (#1 Midwest)    9:20 pm   TBS

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