- Final Four Preview
Final Four Preview
No. 1 Kansas will take on No. 2 Villanova (6:09 p.m. ET, CBS) and No. 2 Duke will face No. 8 North Carolina (8:49 p.m. ET, CBS) in New Orleans on Saturday.
No. 1 Kansas is a favorite based on being the only No. 1 seed to survive, with fellow No. 1s Gonzaga, Arizona and Baylor all falling short. No. 2 Villanova is the most experienced of the four teams, with several five-year seniors and a two-time championship coach in Jay Wright.
No. 2 seed Duke has hit its stride in these NCAAs while trying to send coach Mike Krzyzewski off in style in his final season. And North Carolina is a No. 8 seed but is hardly playing like it, as arguably the hottest team in the Final Four.
No. 2 Villanova vs No. 1 Kansas
Villanova beat (15) Delaware, (7) OH St, (11) Michigan, (5) Houston
Kansas beat (16) Texas Southern, (9) Creighton, (4) Providence, (10 Miami
Kansas has a reliable guard in All-American Ochai Agbaji (18.9 ppg) and a frontcourt presence in big man David McCormack (10.0 ppg). Both are seniors and provide a seasoned inside-out game that’s hard to stop. But it’s the supporting cast – Jalen Wilson, Dajuan Harris, and Christian Braun – in coach Bill Self’s high pick-and-roll offense that often determine how well KU plays as a unit. In an Elite Eight win over Miami, it was Braun’s dunk and three-pointer on back-to-back possessions that fired up the Jayhawks to go from six down at halftime to drubbing the Hurricanes by 26 points.
How the Wildcats (30-7) have the edge: The Experience factor. While the Wildcats are going up against a team with a similar arsenal of experience, the difference about coach Jay Wright’s team is that many of his best players have been playing college basketball for five-plus seasons. Collin Gillespie (15.6 ppg), the two-time Big East player of the year, took advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility due to COVID. So did Jermaine Samuels (11.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg). Having 23-year-olds on the court in the Final Four can certainly pay dividends in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet, especially if it’s a close game. One stat that speaks volumes for this group: Villanova leads the nation in free-throw percentage (83%) and put away Houston in the Elite Eight with a perfect 15-for-15 clip.
No. 2 Duke vs No. 8 North Carolina
Duke beat (15) Cal St. Fullerton, (7) Michigan St, (3) Texas Tech, (4) Arkansas
UNC beat (9) Marquette, (1) Baylor, (4) UCLA, (15) St. Peters
How the Blue Devils (32-6) have the edge: They have the best offense in the country statistically, ranking No. 1 in KenPom’s offensive efficiency ratings. This team has so many weapons, starting with future NBA lottery pick Paolo Banchero (18.5 ppg in NCAA Tournament), who has been playing with a renewed hunger. Every player in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s rotation has seemed to come into their own in this NCAA Tournament, with big man Mark Williams the latest to hit his stride with his interior impact in Duke’s Elite Eight win over Arkansas. Wendell Moore Jr. and AJ Griffin are marksmen from beyond the arc and their three-point shooting has been a difference-maker for the Blue Devils this March.
How the Tar Heels (28-9) have the edge: If North Carolina can control the glass and turn to Armando Bacot like it did in its March 5 road win over Duke, it’ll be in good shape to pull off the upset and reach the national title game. UNC ranks sixth nationally in rebounding margin and it starts with Bacot as a double-double machine. In the Tar Heels’ dominant win over Saint Peter’s, rebounding is where they set the tone. All that said, their backcourt has to play up to par. That means Caleb Love and R.J. Davis have to carry over their hot shooting. Love had 30 points in a Sweet 16 win over UCLA, while Davis had 30 in a second-round upset of Baylor.
Duke’s X-Factor: Jeremy Roach. Krzyzewski moved the sophomore guard into the starting lineup at the beginning of the tournament and it’s completely shifted the outlook of this team for the better. With Roach playing with more confidence and displaying takeover abilities in crunch time in wins over Michigan State and Texas Tech (15 points in each), Duke now has a player who can offset UNC’s great backcourt with his own ability.
UNC’s X-Factor: Brady Manek. It took four of UNC’s players scoring over 20 points to pull off their March 5 upset, and Manek’s dagger three-pointers drove many of the momentum shifts that turned in the Tar Heels’ favor. His ejection also led to Baylor nearly coming back in a second-round matchup that was likely going to be a blowout had Manek not left – illustrating his importance to this team. The Oklahoma transfer is versatile at 6-9 and Duke doesn’t have anyone to match up well with him.
Villanova’s X-Factor: Caleb Daniels. One issue this team could run into will be replacing the offense of second leading scorer Justin Moore, who tore his Achilles at the end of Villanova’s Elite Eight win over Houston. That means the senior guard’s offensive production could be a major difference-maker. He’s from New Orleans so the Final Four will be a nice homecoming
No. 2 Villanova vs No. 1 Kansas 6:09pm ET
NH: Kansas by 7pts
JG: OT Kansas win it by 2 or 3
No. 2 Duke vs No. 8 North Carolina 8:49 p.m. ET, CBS
NH: Duke by 7pts
JG: Duke by 10pts
Santiago Leon is the Founder and CEO of the Sports Cast. He covers NFL, NBA, and world soccer. He’s also founder of sleon productions, which he specializes in technology and serves clients with solutions to make their business grow.