The men’s Final Four gets underway at 6:09 p.m. on Saturday in New Orleans. ET when top seed Kansas takes on second seed Villanova in a national semifinal rematch from 2018. ‘Nova ran with that one, 95-79, and pitted Michigan in the national title game two days later.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that Saturday’s showdown will be very close, and very low-scoring. Before the action inside the Superdome begins, here are three things you need to know about Saturday’s first Final Four matchup.
Chasing the Kansas Championship looks like it would have happened two years ago:
Jayhawks has played down the “revenge” angle all week, but he hasn’t lost to anyone as Kansas is two wins away from the national championship, suggesting he may be on the verge of landing before the 2020 NCAA Tournament is canceled due to cowardice.
Before the World Cup ended, the Kansas team was 28-3, winning 16 games in a row, and almost certainly the NCAA Tournament no. 1 was on the verge of being nominated as an overall seed. Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack and Christian Brown were all primary contributors to the team, although none of them were playing as big a role this season.
Interestingly, he is a player with a very limited amount of NCAA tournament experience who has greatly accelerated the Jayhawks’ run to this point.
Remy Martin played four seasons in the state of Arizona before coming to Lawrence to end his college career. His only experience with March Madness as a Sun Devil was a pair of first four games at Dayton and a loss to Buffalo in the first round in 2019.
Martin, based in Kansas with a reputation as a player of the feast or famine type, predicted something up-and-down campaign. He has a low career average in points (8.6 ppg), the first since his new year.
Var was coming off the bench, had to return from a knee injury in February, and was rumored to have disagreements with the rest. The show has seemed a bit unfocused in recent episodes (Bill Self dismissed the rumors in mid-January, but they continued).
In March, however, Martin looked like a completely different player. Despite coming off the bench, he was named the Midwest Regional Player of the Year with an average of 16.8 points and 3.3 assists in Kansas’ first four wins. Perhaps more importantly, he made a total of four turnovers during the regional.
Martin wasn’t around for the frustration he felt throughout The Sunflower State two years ago, but he could play a key role in helping the wound heal.
Villanova will be without his second leading scorer:
The issue has been addressed at this point by about 15,000 people, but it is impossible to preview the game without addressing it.
This Villanova team no longer has the absurd offensive firepower that its last two championship teams have. When the other leading scorer Justin Moore (14.8 ppg) broke his Achilles tendon in Nova’s regional final win against Houston, the firepower he does has a significant impact. Moore also finished second on the team in assists (2.3 ppg) and third in rebounds (4.8).
Perhaps more important than all these outrageous numbers is the fact that Moore is widely seen as Villanova’s top defender throughout the season. His defensive prowess has been in full swing throughout the tournament, where the Wildcats have not allowed a single opponent to score more than 61 points, and have advanced to the final four with a 50-44 victory over Houston where the Cougars have been held in just one match. Shooting 1 in 20 of three.
Jay Wright uses short benches throughout the season. Only six Villanova players saw the floor in the game against Houston before Moore went down. In Wildcats’ Sweet 16 win over Michigan, Wright played 8 players, but only 6 of them were on the court for more than 3 minutes.
The bench against Kansas will almost certainly play a big role, but the question is where those minutes will go. Adding to the problem is the fact that newcomer Jordan Longino, a player who was in line for more minutes with Moore out, broke his meniscus during March practice and is also now unavailable.
Without Moore, someone from the group of Chris Arcadiaco, Brian Antoine and Trey Patterson would need to move significantly. The most likely candidate is from Arcadiaco, and if only because there is an example. The younger brother of Nova Legend Ryan Arcadiacono played 26 big minutes in the 85-74 victory over Yukon on February 5 where Moore was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Arcadiacono has scored just two points so far in the NCAA Tournament, but he manages the ball and defends as well as Wright’s best option against Kansas.
Villanova’s free-throw shooting could also make a difference in the near game:
If Saturday night’s game comes on the wire and turns into a final minute or minute free-throw shooting contest, Villanova is a safe bet.
The Wildcats are not only the best free-throw shooting team in the country, but they are currently the best free-throw shooting team in the history of college basketball. ‘Nova is currently shooting 83.0 per cent of the charity stripe. The Wildcats will also break Harvard Crimson’s all-time record of 82.2 percent of 1983-84, until it drops significantly this weekend in New Orleans.
At 75.0 percent, Moore was actually the worst free-throw shooter among Villanova’s core group contributors. Colin Gillespie (90.5%), Jordan Slater (87.8%), Caleb Daniels (85.1%), Eric Dixon (82.5%) and Jermaine Samuels (77.5%) all shoot absurdly high percentage from the strip and the light goes out. Is gone. Lines in late game situations.
Kansas vs. Men’s 2022 Final Four. How to watch Villanova ?
You can watch Kansas vs. Villanova in the men’s Final Four on Saturday, April 2 on TBS.
Game: No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas
Time: 6:09 p.m. ET