One more pair of games before next week’s Final Four is locked in. The Red Storm have, by the way, beaten two of the teams playing this afternoon, have defeated a bench player (Tommy Hamilton) on another (Texas Tech), but have no connection whatsoever to Kansas, besides once recruiting forward Mitch Lightfoot.
The year is coming to a close, and the games are getting more and more intense.
The side of the bracket that is closer to “chalk” stands a good chance of being the one that has this year’s national champion. But this year’s games have not gone by the book...
Which teams will join Loyola-Chicago and Michigan in the Final Four?
(1) Villanova Wildcats vs. (3) Texas Tech Red Raiders
Time: 2:20 p.m.
How to Watch: CBS | Stream
Odds: Villanova, -6.5
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce
The Big East’s last participant takes on one of the three Big 12 teams that made the Elite Eight, which reminds us that the Big East still has some improvements to become the land’s best conference (even if ESPN doesn’t really acknowledge the programs, but we digress).
The Red Raiders may have allowed one player to go for 30 points for Purdue, but held the rest to rough shooting nights, reminding us that teams that live by the three sometimes have off shooting nights.
Maybe most importantly, Texas Tech’s man defense kept the Boilermakers shooting only 31% of their shots from deep. Purdue shot 40% of their shots from distance this season, and took almost half their attempts from beyond the arc against Butler. The Red Raiders forced turnovers, assisted on each others’ shots, and otherwise put out an excellent performance. Keenan Evans will need to keep up the scoring.
Key for Villanova, who take nearly half their shots from beyond the arc, and struggled with West Virginia’s press despite the final score, might be: don’t have an off shooting night. Then again, the Wildcats have consistently won while shooting poorly from distance — 26% vs Providence in the Big East final, 25% against Alabama and Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, and 33% against Radford to start the tourney.
Jalen Brunson’s unflappableness will be key, but Mikal Bridges will need a bigger game, Omari Spellman will have challenges against Texas Tech’s size, and Donte DiVincenzo can’t have another career-high six turnover outing.
(1) Kansas Jayhawks vs. (2) Duke Blue Devils
Time: 5:05 p.m.
How to Watch: CBS | Stream
Odds: Duke, -3.5
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson
In a tournament that has felt as chaotic as any, a one-seed against a two-seed for a chance at the Final Four seems unusually normal. Kansas held off a late charge by Clemson on Friday, holding Clemson to 6 of 20 from deep. Kansas displayed a balanced offensive approach, featuring four scorers in double figures. Dealing with foul trouble, center Udoka Azubuike acquired a double-double (14 points off 7-9 from the field, 11 rebounds) in only 25 minutes of play. Kansas will have to continue to feature their balanced offensive approach and ball movement to be able to deal with Duke’s zone defense.
Duke disposed of former Big East power Syracuse 69-65. Duke had a lower field goal percentage (49.0 to 39.3), three point percentage (30.8 to 19.2), and rebounds (37-33). Duke did win the turnover battle (16-7) which was the difference that powered Duke to a victory. Forward Marvin Bagley III had a particularly good day on Friday, scoring 22 points (8-12 FG) and 7 rebounds (6 of which were offensive rebounds). Also in the front-court, Wendell Carter Jr. added a double-double with 14 points (3-6 FG) and 12 rebounds. Like Kansas, Duke also displays quality ball movement, however the Blue Devils also are elite rebounders and scorers. If Duke can keep the turnovers to a minimum like they did against Syracuse, they have a great shot at heading to San Antonio.