Final Four Game 1 Preview – Villanova vs. Kansas
The magic of March Madness arrives at its final few games this weekend in New Orleans. Three games will decide the national champion of college basketball. Saturday’s two semifinals will create Monday’s national championship game. First up on Saturday in New Orleans is Villanova versus Kansas. Villanova is going for a third national championship in the past six NCAA Tournaments. Kansas is the only No. 1 seed to make this year’s Final Four. It’s a big-time matchup worthy of a main-stage event such as the Final Four.
Villanova Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks
Saturday, April 2 – 6:09 p.m. ET
Superdome – New Orleans, LA
Odds: Kansas -4.5
The Wildcats are without starting guard Justin Moore in this game. Moore averaged roughly 15 points and five rebounds per game, and he played 34 minutes per contest, so that’s a lot of minutes and a lot of production coach Jay Wright has to replace. Senior reserve guard Caleb Daniels, who averages close to 10 points per game, will be asked to step up in Moore’s place and account for most of the minutes Moore would normally play. What helps Villanova here is that Daniels is a senior, not a freshman. He isn’t a starter but would be able to start for a lot of other teams around the country. Moore is simply better than Daniels, but that doesn’t mean Daniels is a mediocre player. If Daniels can step up, and if team leader Collin Gillespie can give the Wildcats a strong performance, this game can still become very close, and Villanova will go into the final few minutes of regulation with a great chance to win. One key for Villanova, which just won a 50-44 game against Houston to make the Final Four, will want this game to be slow, ugly, and low-scoring. With Moore out of the lineup, Villanova can’t get into a track meet with Kansas. A game with fewer possessions and shots will increase Villanova’s chances of staying close and having a chance in the final minutes.
The Jayhawks want this game to be faster, higher-scoring, and defined by more possessions, since they have more depth than Villanova and are therefore in a better position to use their bench, run a lot of players onto the floor, and ask more players to play fewer minutes with more intensity. Kansas scored 47 points in the second half of its win over Miami in the Elite 8 this past Sunday in Chicago. That 47-point half was almost as many points as Villanova scored in the entire game against Houston last Saturday in San Antonio. That tells you what these teams like to do. Kansas will want to run, Villanova will want to crawl. If Ochai Agbaji and Remy Martin can hit 3-pointers for Kansas and boost KU’s offense, it’s very unlikely Villanova will be able to score enough to win. Kansas isn’t a great 3-point shooting team, but when it does hit the long ball, KU is virtually unbeatable.
The tempo of this game will be important, but one of the familiar lessons of March Madness in particular and postseason basketball in general is that it is easier to slow things down than speed things up. Villanova will make this game a one-score game in the final minute and will upset Kansas, due to its elite defense.
Villanova vs. Kansas Pick: Villanova +4.5