Final Four Preview Game #2 Villanova vs #1 Kansas

The first game of the 2022 Final Four from New Orleans on Saturday night features No. 2 seed Villanova against No. 1 Kansas with the Jayhawks favored on the NCAAB odds to advance to Monday’s title game against either Duke or North Carolina.

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Series History

The Final Four contest between the Jayhawks and Wildcats will be the 10th all-time meeting between the two schools, with Villanova holding the series advantage at 5-4.

Why Bet on Villanova?

Big East Tournament champion Villanova (30-7) advanced with a 50-44 win over Houston in the Elite Eight but lost one of its best players in guard Justin Moore to a season-ending injury. The junior averaged 14.8 points per game, second on the Wildcats, and played a team-high 34.5 minutes per game. Moore also ranked second in assists, with 81, third in rebounding at 4.8 boards per game, and third in steals at 35. He attempted the most shots of any player on the roster (456) and hit 80 3-pointers this season while shooting 36% from 3-point range. He scored in double figures in 28 of his 36 games, hitting for 18 points or better in 10 of those. He also was a 75% free throw shooter and ranked third on the team with 14 blocks.

“Our guys know there are other guys (who) will get other opportunities,” coach Jay Wright said, mentioning reserves Chris Arcidiacono, Bryan Antoine and Trey Patterson as players who will get the first crack at filling Moore’s minutes. “All of our guys that come off the bench will be given more minutes. Even Eric Dixon, who starts, will play more minutes. It’s opportunities for them.”

Prior to the start of 2021-22 Dixon had appeared in 21 games for a total of 172 minutes (8.2 minutes per contest). That all changed this season. He’s playing heavy minutes while averaging 10.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. Antoine was once a very touted recruit but his NCAA career just hasn’t worked out for many reasons. He has logged only 19 minutes in four NCAA Tournament games, and didn’t get off the bench in the Elite Eight against Houston. Antoine is averaging just 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 9.5 minutes this season. But Moore’s injury means that will likely change.

The Wildcats are the best free throw-shooting team in America at 82.6 percent. And they will enter the Final Four with top-20 marks in adjusted defensive and offensive efficiency per KenPom. After suffering a 79-59 loss at Creighton on Dec. 17, Villanova has won 23 of 26 games. The Wildcats are 28-4 this season when scoring 60 or more points in a game.

This is the second year in a row that a major injury could change Villanova’s chances of winning Jay Wright his third national title. Last year, the Wildcats entered the NCAA tournament without Collin Gillespie, who had suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Wright is 34-13 in NCAA Tournament action as Villanova’s head coach with two national titles.

Why Bet on Kansas?

Big 12 regular season and tournament champion Kansas (32-6) was down six at the half in the Elite Eight vs. Miami but dominated in the second to win 76-50. KU outscored Miami 47-15 in the second half to pull away and secure the Midwest Regional title. Kansas shot 60 percent from the floor in the second half, while holding Miami to 21 percent shooting, and outrebounding the Hurricanes 25-11.

With the strong defensive performance in the second half, Kansas improved to 24-0 this season when holding opponents to less than 70 points. With the win, the Jayhawks advance to the 16th Final Four in program history and fourth under head coach Bill Self.

This week, star guard and senior Ochai Agbaji has been named one of five finalists for the 2022 John R. Wooden Award Men’s Player of the Year. Agbaji seeks to become the third Kansas player to win the Wooden Award, joining Frank Mason III (2017) and Danny Manning (1988).

Agbaji was named the 2022 Big 12 Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring and he enters the Final Four with an average of 18.9 points per game. He is second in the league in three-point field goal percentage (39.8%, 35th nationally) and third in three-point field goals made per game (2.6, 71st nationally). The four-year starter ranks 16th on the KU career scoring list with 1,619 points, fourth on the three-point field goals made (243) and fourth on three-point field goals attempted (659).

Sophomore Jalen Wilson is one of two players in the Final Four that is averaging a double-double in the NCAA Tournament (11.5 ppg., 10.5 rpg.), joined by North Carolina’s Armando Bacot (11.7 ppg., 5.75 rpg.).

Kansas is 12-14 in Final Four games all-time, including 3-2 under Self, beginning in 2004. The Jayhawk most recently appeared in the Final Four in 2018, where Kansas lost to Villanova, 95-79 in San Antonio.

KU is 54-20 against the current membership of the Big East, including 3-0 this season. Kansas is 10-1 in neutral-site games this season.

Game Trends

  • Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
  • Wildcats are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 NCAA Tournament games.
  • Wildcats are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games after allowing less than 50 points in their previous game.
  • Jayhawks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a ATS win.
  • Jayhawks are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games overall.
  • Jayhawks are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games following a straight up win.

Expert Prediction

  • Kansas 69, Villanova 66


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