How to watch Villanova vs. Kansas in the NCAA Tournament
Day: Saturday, April 2
Time: 6:09 p.m. ET
Watch Online: March Madness Live
How to bet on Villanova vs. Kansas in the NCAA Tournament
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Spread: Villanova +4.5 | Kansas -4.5
Moneyline: Providence +165 | Kansas -195
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Jay Wright’s talented back court is down a starter ahead of an NCAA Tournament matchup with the Big 12 champion.
Last season, the injury to Collin Gillespie was too much to overcome against eventual-champ Baylor. The Wildcats are hoping the loss of Justin Moore will not cause the same result this time around.
The Villanova Wildcats (30-7) face off with the Kansas Jayhawks (32-6) in the Final Four this Saturday evening. The two teams met on the same stage just four years ago when the Cats unleashed a barrage of threes early and never looked back. Only a few players remain on either roster from that one, with Gillespie the only returning scorer.
This iteration of Villanova doesn’t shoot the three quite as much as that 2018 group, but it does play the best defense of any Jay Wright group since the 2016 one that won it all. That defense will be a key against arguably the most talented group of guards in the nation.
Jam the Jayhawks
Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, and Remy Martin each have the ability to ruin any night for any opponent, as fellow Big East rivals Creighton and Providence have discovered the hard way over the past few weeks. Fortunately, Villanova’s defense has stepped up as of late. They’ll need it to do so once again this Saturday.
Villanova enters Saturday night on a 9-game winning streak. Their defense has allowed 58.4 points per game during the streak, with only Providence scoring more than 70 points. Houston managed just 44 points against Villanova in the Elite Eight; Kansas scored 47 in just the second half against Miami the same weekend.
Agbaji represents the biggest threat to Villanova’s title run. A finalist for Naismith Player of the Year, the senior guard is an electric scorer and true do-it-all guard. He can score from everywhere, shooting 53.5 percent on twos and 39.7 percent on threes. Agbaji had his worst scoring game of the season against Providence and still managed to impact the game on defense, tallying a career-high four blocks and forcing two steals.
Christian Braun starts next to Agbaji and is a talented scorer in his own right. Just ask St. John’s about him. Braun scored 31 against the Red Storm back in December during the Big East-Big 12 Battle.
Behind Agbaji and Braun is Remy Martin, the star of the tournament for the Jayhawks. Martin, a transfer from Arizona State and Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, only hit his stride as the calendar flipped to March. He set a season high with 20 points against Creighton in the round of 32 and then topped that in the Sweet 16 against Providence with 23. He is, quite simply, a problem. Jay Wright will need a solution.
Slow Your Roll
Saturday night will be a battle of contrasting styles. Kansas likes to push the pace, while Villanova’s pace can be charitably compared to molasses.
This is the slowest Villanova team in the KenPom era. According to the analytics site, the Wildcats ranked 349 out of 358 in average possession length. The Jayhawks ranked 40th.
When these teams met two seasons ago, Villanova was able to control the pace and grind the game to a halt. The result? A 56-55 win over the presumed overall No. 1 seed had the NCAA Tournament been played that year.
There’s no better way to slow an elite offense than to reduce the number of looks they get at the basket. It’s a strategy that has been effective against Kansas this season. It’s also one that can be difficult to execute.
Every Kansas loss has come at or below their average tempo, but they rarely play as slowly as the Wildcats. Oklahoma and Iowa State slowed Kansas down and came within one possession of an upset. TCU was actually able to complete one on March 1st. Those are the only times Kansas has played below Villanova’s average tempo this season.
Villanova can win a high-tempo affair - they’ve done just that at Providence and St. John’s this season - but that becomes a lot tougher without their second-leading scorer.
Who Steps Up?
Losing Justin Moore cannot be understated. Moore played more minutes than any other Wildcat, was second on the team in points, assists, and steals and third in rebounds, and is an emotional leader for the team.
The Wildcats have always played a small rotation under Jay Wright, and this year is no exception. Without Moore, only five players have averaged more than 10 minutes per game this season. Jordan Longino, one of the next guys off the bench, was also lost for the season a few weeks ago.
This thrusts Caleb Daniels into the starting rotation. He started 24 of 25 games for Villanova a season ago but has only started two games this season despite getting more playing time. Daniels is a good player; he’s not as good as Moore, but not one that worries you when he’s in the starting lineup. That anxiety comes when trying to figure out who’s next off the bench.
It’s not sustainable to play all five starters the length of the game. That becomes even more worrisome if Kansas is able to play with speed and push the ball up the floor consistently. Jay Wright will need someone to spell the starters and provide decent minutes while they get some rest.
Chris Arcidiacono filled that role very well against UConn in February. Moore missed that game, and Arcidiacono played 26 minutes off the bench while scoring a career-high nine points. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was enough to give Gillespie and Daniels time to rest.
Bryan Antoine is the other candidate. He has only played ten minutes in a game once since February, and the former five-star recruit has not lived up to the hype. Still, he has gotten playing time and will likely see more than usual on Saturday. He has the talent to be a contributor. This might be his best chance yet to show that.