The Villanova Wildcats (34-4, 14-4 Big East) have arrived at their sixth Final Four appearance in school history - their second in three seasons - as the champions of the East Region. They will face off against the Kansas Jayhawks (31-7, 13-5 Big 12), the champions of the Midwest Region, in the second game of a Saturday night doubleheader.
This will be the seventh meeting between ‘Nova and Kansas, with the inaugural matchup occurring at the 1968 NIT. The series is tied 3-3. This is their sixth meeting in the Jay Wright era and their third in the NCAA Tournament.
Time & Place: 8:49pm ET or 40 minutes after the conclusion of Michigan-Loyola; Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
TV: TBS (Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson), TruTV (Villanova TeamCast; Scott Graham, Randy Foye, Kacie McDonnell)
Radio: Westwood One (National syndication; Kevin Kugler, John Thompson, Clark Kellogg, Jim Gray), 610 Sports (Villanova; Ryan Fannon, Whitey Rigsby)
Streaming: NCAA March Madness Live
Gambling (via OddsShark): Villanova opened as four-point favorites, but the consensus among other sportsbooks now has them favored by five points. The Wildcats are 25-12-1 against the spread this season; Kansas is 20-17.
About the Wildcats
Villanova arrives in San Antonio after beating the Texas Tech Red Raiders, 71-59, at the East regional final in Boston. Kansas will be the third consecutive Big 12 opponent the Wildcats will face in this tournament. ‘Nova also took down West Virginia, 90-78, in the Sweet Sixteen.
While Villanova has definitely faced their share of challenges over the course of the tournament, they’ve managed to win all of their games handily. The Wildcats have won by an average margin 18.3 points per game this March. Their last two games were their closest, but they won them by 12 points each.
Villanova has the best offense in the nation according to College Basketball Reference, producing 122.1 points per 100 possessions. That has been on display through most of the tournament, as they are averaging 82.3 points per game in the tournament.
The Wildcats shot a blistering 47.8 percent from 3-point range through the first three rounds. However, their outside shooting bottomed out against the Red Raiders. ‘Nova went 4-for-24 from beyond the arc on the evening. But in this instance, the defense helped Villanova prevail, holding Texas Tech to 59 points. The Wildcats will have to find their form again if they want to take down Kansas.
Jalen Brunson has been the leader all season and will be the go-to guy again on Saturday night. He is averaging 17.5 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game in the tournament while shooting 42.8 percent from 3-point range. Mikal Bridges has been excellent in his role as second-in-command, averaging 16.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in the tourney while shooting 45.8 percent from long distance.
About the Other Guys
This is Kansas’ 15th Final Four appearance, their third under Bill Self. They arrive in San Antonio after beating Duke 85-81 in overtime in a thrilling showdown at the Midwest regional final in Omaha. The Jayhawks have already faced a Big East opponent in this tournament, defeating Seton Hall 83-79 in the Round of 32.
Kansas also has a formidable offense. Their 115.5 points per 100 possessions ranks 12th-best in the nation. They are averaging 81.0 points per game in the tournament. However, their defense has given up 74.0 points per game. The Jayhawks have only defeated Penn by double-digits, taking them down by 16 in the Round of 64. Their other three tournament matchups were decided by four points each.
Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte’ Graham has been the quintessential senior leader this tournament. He is averaging 16.0 points per game, despite shooting a woeful 34.0 percent from the field. Graham is also pitching in 6.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game in the tourney. He will find ways to score, but if he can’t, he will work to get everyone else involved.
Redshirt sophomore transfer Malik Newman hasn’t had any problems scoring at all in the tournament. He leads the team with 21.8 points per game, shooting 48.2 percent from the field, 44.8 percent from 3-point range, and 90.9 percent from the line. His career-high 32 points ultimately helped Kansas get past Duke. He will certainly be a handful for Villanova on Saturday night.