Here's the thing about reaching the Final Four: You don't have to be perfect. You need to be good, and you probably need to get a little lucky. But the path to college basketball's biggest stage is littered with mistakes, even on the winning side.
Imperfections don't merely melt away upon arrival at the Final Four. Despite their accomplishments, this year's remaining teams all have flaws that could compromise their titles dreams.
Winning is a combination of playing to your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses. That offers each team a blueprint for prepping for this weekend's tournament action.
Strength: Its signature 2-3 zone.
Syracuse is the rare NCAA team that plays 2-3 zone defense and plays almost nothing else. That consistency is a great asset: The Orange plays defense well. But the other big benefit to playing a defense most teams have abandoned is the luxury of scarcity. Opponents aren't as used to playing the defense, so they aren't as versed in breaking it down.
By going against the grain of college basketball trends, Syracuse found itself a great asset. Its defense almost helped the Orange knock off North Carolina on the road in February, where Syracuse ultimately lost, 75-70. But that close game highlights the strength of the defense: Even against a high-octane, experienced offense, the Orange's defense can keep it in the game.
Weakness: Inconsistency on offense.
When you ride the hot hand, you're bound to get burned eventually. In that sense, it's a miracle Syracuse hasn't gotten burned yet, after needing shooting sprees in multiple tournament games to get past its opponents.
By most measures, though, Syracuse doesn't have a very good offense: The team ranks 117th nationally in raw offensive efficiency and 230th in two-point field-goal percentage. Against Virginia, it slumped through a terrible first half of scoring before catching fire and mounting a furious comeback.
It makes for great television, but it's a bad strategy for winning a championship. Even with its defense playing well, Syracuse needs to find more consistency on the offensive end.
Strength: Having the best player on the floor.
You've heard all the Buddy Hield stories: How his numbers have gone up since tournament time started, how he grew up playing basketball on homemade hoops, how he's putting together a legendary one-man NCAA tournament performance. True, true and true.
Every team will try to game-plan for Hield, and maybe one will succeed in containing him. But it's a case of picking your poison: Oklahoma is balanced enough that other players can step in and carry the workload for a double-teamed, oft-pressured Hield. Even if he isn't able to rip off 35 points, his ability to throw a defense out of balance will make a difference in the game.
Weakness: Turning the ball over.
Oklahoma can get sloppy with the ball, and in the Final Four, it could cost them. Even in their comfortable win against Oregon, the Sooners coughed up 15 turnovers. Hield alone turned it over eight times.
A team that ranked 209th in turnovers per game this season needs to make sure it protects the ball, especially considering the competition: Villanova forced Kansas into 16 turnovers in the regional final, and the Wildcats ability to turn the game into an ugly dogfight became a huge component of their upset.
They'll look to do the same to Oklahoma, and the Sooners better figure out a solution.
Strength: Superb team defense.
Villanova doesn't have the 2-3 zone that Syracuse has used to flex its defensive dominance. What it has is great players committed to tough defense and constant hustle. Villanova's defensive strength, on both individual and team levels, is making everything difficult for an opponent.
Villanova doesn't have a high-octane offense, but that's rarely a concern for the team, since its specialty is bringing opponents down to its level. Through presses, traps, double-teams and other defensive moves that might cause a breakdown of a lesser team, Villanova's defense is a rare find at the college level.
Weakness: A lack of athleticism at the perimeter.
All the praise for Nova's defense comes with a caveat: Against athletic backcourts this season, the Wildcats have struggled. Defensively, the Wildcats sometimes struggle to keep pace with the speed and strength of great two-man backcourts. In December, Oklahoma's potent backcourt led the Sooners to a 23-point spanking of the Wildcats.
If Oklahoma manages to control the ball, create movement on offense and stress the Villanova defense through a series of ball screens and side-to-side ball movement, it could open cracks in its vaunted defense.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Strength: The rise of Marcus Paige.
There are many strong points you could list for North Carolina here, starting with All-American center Brice Johnson. But none is tipping the scales in March quite like a rejuvenated Marcus Paige, who seems to have found the form that had many predicting him as an NBA lottery pick.
Paige's athleticism is a huge asset to the Tar Heels on both sides of the ball, and when he's playing well, he makes it harder to double-down on Johnson. If North Carolina goes on to win, we might look back and see Paige as the final piece to their puzzle.
Weakness: Scoring from deep.
Long-range shooting isn't a problem in most games for the Tar Heels, because they're almost always winning or close behind. But if they need to rally late in the game, their shooting from distance is a major liability. UNC shot just 32.1 percent this year, ranking a measly 284th in the country.
Again, it's not a problem if they're controlling the game, dominating the interior, and playing strong defense. But if an opponent gets hot and the Tar Heels need to rally late, their fate will be decided by their greatest weakness.