The nightcap of Saturday’s Final Four in San Antonio will feature the Villanova Wildcats facing the Kansas Jayhawks in a battle of the two 1 seeds to win their region. The winner will no doubt be the favorite in Monday’s championship game against either Michigan or Loyola. The Villanova Wildcats enter the national semi-final as 5 point favorites over the Kansas Jayhawks.
The Wildcats have had a relatively easy tournament compared to the other three teams. Villanova has won all four of its tournament games by double-digits. Last weekend, they overcame an uneven first half against West Virginia’s pressure defense in the Sweet 16 and then a late charge from Texas Tech in the Elite 8, only to win both games by a comfortable 12-point margin.
Kansas, on the other hand, has had a little harder climb. After winning their 200th straight Big 12 title (slight exaggeration), the Jayhawks had to survive games against both Seton Hall and Clemson before their Elite 8 showdown with Duke. Against the Blue Devils, Kansas needed to hit a three-pointer and make a defensive stand in the final 30 seconds before taking care of Duke in overtime to reach the Final Four.
Villanova Wildcats Rolling Through NCAA Tournament
Aside from the experience they bring back from their title run two years ago, many people consider the Wildcats Final Four favorites because of their potent offense. Villanova led the nation in points per game this year with 86.6. Jalen Brunson is the player most people know, and he’s undoubtedly special, averaging 19.2 points per game. But the Wildcats have six players who average double figures, with all six of those players shooting at least 33% from three-point range and three shooting better than 40% from deep.
However, it was against Texas Tech when Villanova showed just why they are so good. The Wildcats had an off day on the offensive end, shooting just 33% from the field and going 4 for 24 beyond the arc. Nevertheless, the Cats tightened up on the defensive end and got to the free throw line 35 times, proving that they can win in different ways.
Kansas Jayhawks as the Underdogs
This is not the typical Kansas team, but that may actually work in their favor against Villanova. Udoka Azubuike is the Jayhawks’ only true inside threat. But playing with one big man should actually help Kansas matchup better against Villanova’s smaller, quicker lineup.
More importantly, the Jayhawks can shoot the ball just as well as the Wildcats. Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk can most of the headlines, but Malik Newman has been the team’s biggest difference maker in March. Newman has made a tournament-high 13 three-pointers and is averaging over 25 points per game over the last three games, including 32 points against Duke. He helps give Kansas the firepower to keep up with Villanova.
Cats Pounce on Hawks
There is little doubt that this will be an entertaining game between two teams that love to get up and down the court and shoot the ball from long range. However, Villanova is a lot tougher to beat when they get to play that style of basketball. They also have a deep contingent of scorers and more balanced attack. Kansas could also be in trouble if Azubuike continues to get into foul trouble. Bet on the Villanova Wildcats -5 over the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday.