Final Four 2022 – Best moments and breakdown of Villanova-Kansas and North Carolina-Duke

The calendar has moved to April, but we have reached the penultimate night of March Madness. Saturday’s Final Four 2022 action in New Orleans features the bluest matchups and corresponding ticket prices.

Between the Kansas Jayhawks, Villanova Wildcats, Duke Blue Devils, and North Carolina Tar Heels, the schools have combined to win 17 NCAA championships and produced college basketball and NBA legends.

The No. 2-seeded Wildcats took on the No. 1-seeded Jayhawks to start the night. It was the fourth time Kansas coach Bill Self and Villanova’s Jay Wright have faced these schools in the Sweet 16 or beyond. Each time the winner took the title – setting a positive precedent for Self’s side, who won 81-65.

Now, the Tobacco Road rivalry between Duke and UNC takes on new stakes. These schools, separated by about eight miles in North Carolina, meet for the first time in the Final Four. This will be UNC coach Hubert Davis’ first Final Four as a coach and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last. Coach K has won 101 NCAA tournament games. Two more and he’ll close his storied career in storybook fashion.

On the court, Duke should have the talent advantage. The Blue Devils have two of the top eight draft prospects in the class this year. Paolo Banchero is Duke’s leading scorer, averaging 17.1 points.

Continued: Social media reacts to Kansas’ dominating victory.

We have analysis and highlights from every game.

Fired

Potentially Coach K’s last game against his rivals after losing to them in his last regular season home game? This one could be good.

Familiar Enemies

Different shades of blue are well represented for both Big Easy teams.

McCormack and KU too much for Nova

Everyone will remember David McCormack’s poster dunk, but the truth is, the Kansas senior was too much for Villanova to handle all night in the Jayhawks’ 81-65 win.

First, the dunk. With just over 10 minutes remaining in the second half, McCormack slammed a deuce despite Jermaine Samuels’ best and ultimately futile efforts to stop him. A euphoric McCormack jumped into the air and began patting the top of his head, no doubt a reference to the fact that he had just dove on someone else.

McCormack had every right to celebrate. His 25 points on the night was his best tally since December 2019. It took just 29 minutes and 12 shots to advance his side to Monday’s national title game.

Not that McCormack didn’t have help. Ochai Agbaji hit six 3-pointers and Christian Braun came alive with 10 points after halftime. Kansas made 13 3-pointers, its most productive performance from outside the arc since February.

For the record, Villanova also connected 13 times in 3s. After a slow start, Collin Gillespie got in and hit five 3s en route to 17 points.

The Wildcats trailed and at one point cut the lead to six. But every Wildcats run was answered with another McCormack or Agbaji score.

If it’s any consolation for Jay Wright’s men, their year ended as the greatest free-throw team in Men’s Division I history. Villanova has made 83% of his free throws this season, breaking a record set by Harvard in 1984.

The Wildcats were 8 of 10 on the line in their last outing, but that wasn’t enough to stop the Jayhawks from playing for a title Monday night.

Jayhawks dominate early, then Nova recovers

The version of Kansas that beat Miami 47-15 in the second half of last weekend’s regional final came back with an early vengeance against Villanova. Agbaji had 12 points and the Jayhawks drained seven 3s en route to a 40-29 halftime lead over the Wildcats.

Bill Self’s side were dominant on both sides of the ball for much of the first half. Agbaji made a 3 on the first possession of the night, and on the other end KU repeatedly trapped and frustrated the usually unfazed Gillespie.

Kansas started the game with a 10-0 run and the Jayhawks stayed in control for the first 15 minutes. Then the Wildcats capped their own 10-0 streak with three offensive rebounds on a single possession from Brandon Slater. Slater’s hard work on the glass resulted in a Gillespie 3 and a frustrated Self called timeout.

The thinking of the game was that the Jayhawks could use their size to gain an advantage. McCormack made it wise with 13 points in the first half, many of which came early on post-ups deep in the paint.

If there was a surprise, however, it was that KU was unable to put this size to good use on their defensive lens. Villanova had nine offensive rebounds, and those second chances are pretty much the only thing keeping the Wildcats in this game.

Villanova must be happy that Christian Braun and Remy Martin combined for just three points. Again, Kansas didn’t need it. Agbaji and McCormack carried the charge for an offense that scored 40 points on just 30 possessions.

The game proceeds at the Wildcats’ preferred pace, but Jay Wright’s team was unable to get any saves. An adjustment that could help in the second half? Watch to see if the Villanova defenders stay on Agbaji and refuse to help with dribble penetration. — John Gasway

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