Final Four 2014: Ranking Best Possible Title Matchups for NCAA Tournament

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2014

If you were to ask a diehard college basketball fan in an honest moment, they would say there are certain matchups they'd prefer to see in the NCAA championship game.

Of course, if you still have a chance to win a bracket pool, then you are going to limit yourself because winning a lot of money is more important than anything else.

Regardless of the motives there are to root for a championship game, it's no secret that some matchups are sexier than others. For all the talk of Cinderella being a great story in the NCAA tournament, people aren't watching in the same numbers that they do for traditional powers.

With that in mind, here is how we would rank the top possible NCAA championship games as we move closer to the Elite Eight and Final Four.


No. 3: Virginia Cavaliers vs. Michigan Wolverines

A game between Virginia and Michigan may not register on the national radar the way the other contests listed belowor other possible matchups—would, but it'd be no less compelling because of how diametrically opposed these two schools are.

Virginia is a defensive juggernaut, leading the NCAA in scoring defense (55.5 points per game), sitting sixth in opponent shooting percentage (38.6) and seventh in defensive efficiency (91.3 points allowed per 100 possessions).

Tony Bennett has done a marvelous job of building this roster in his image.

The Cavaliers know their limitations, particularly with an offense that ranks 294th in points per game, and have managed to hide them while highlighting their strong points.

According to, John Beilein admitted to changing the team's style this season when star forward Mitch McGary went down with a back injury. The Wolverines have become a perimeter-based offense thanks to shooters like Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III.

Without McGary, Michigan is vulnerable on the defensive side. It ranked 133rd in defensive efficiency and 172nd in opponent field-goal percentage.

In the battle between offense and defense, a Virginia-Michigan title game would be special to watch.


No. 2: Florida Gators vs. Arizona Wildcats

It seems strange to put a matchup between two No. 1 seeds andbased on where they were slotted on that linethe two best teams in college basketball as the second-best championship matchup.

Sometimes, though, there are just more intriguing games to watch.

The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos had the best records in the NFL when they met in the Super Bowl last month, but no one will argue that the NFC Championship Game between the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers was less intriguing.

Florida and Arizona share a lot of similarities.

Both teams rank in the top five scoring defenses and top 10 in defensive efficiency. They have balanced scoring, with five players who average at least nine points per game, and are essentially even in shooting.

2013-14 Shooting Stats
TeamFG%3-pt FG%Overall Rank

It's such a rare thing to have arguably the two best teams in college basketball in the regular season make it to the championship game. The last time you can argue that it happened was when Kansas defeated Memphis in 2008.


No. 1: Michigan State Spartans vs. Louisville Cardinals

Looking at the sidelines to see Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino matching wits would be enough to know that a Michigan State-Louisville championship game would be something special.

Izzo is one of the greatest coaches in NCAA tournament history, making it to the Sweet 16 12 times since 1998. It's not quite the same thing as UCLA winning seven straight national titles, but in this era of one-and-done players, the accomplishment is no less impressive.

There is also the play of Izzo's team this season. Michigan State battled injuries to key players, like Keith Appling, during the regular season and didn't get healthy until the Big Ten tournament.

The Spartans steamrolled a Wisconsin team that is in the Elite Eight and a Michigan team playing for a berth in the Elite Eight on Friday on consecutive days to win the conference championship.

Louisville is the defending national champion and got the shaft from the selection committee when it was announced as a No. 4 seed in the toughest region. The Cardinals defeated an excellent Connecticut team, also in the Sweet 16, by 10 points in the American Athletic Conference title game.

With the possible exception of a Kentucky-Michigan State matchup, no championship game would draw higher ratings.

Izzo and Pitino could put another cherry on their stellar, Hall of Fame resumes with another run to the title game.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted. 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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