It all comes down to this. A trip to the college basketball championship game is on the line.
We’ve got a super Saturday on tap as No. 2 Villanova takes on No. 1 Kansas and No. 8 North Carolina battles No. 2 Duke. Which storied programs will advance to the final tournament showdown?
Don’t miss our full preview in the Showstopper before you place your weekend wagers.
No. 2 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks
Saturday, April 2 | TV: TBS
We talked up the Jayhawks and Tar Heels in last week’s edition and they both delivered big time. Kansas narrowly overcame Providence, then crushed Miami, led by its impressive defense and rebounding efforts. Now, ESPN’s Matchup Predictor is leaning ever so slightly in Villanova’s favor (with a 50.8% to 49.2% edge over Kansas). The Wildcats have kept their tourney games low-scoring, holding every opponent to 61 points or less thus far. No. 5 Houston managed just 44 points against the Wildcats last weekend. Stopping Kansas senior guard Ochai Agbaji will be Villanova’s next challenge after he dropped 18 points on the Hurricanes.
Villanova lost star guard Justin Moore after he needed to undergo surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon. Villanova’s playmaking and backcourt defense will definitely be hampered, as Moore was second on the team in points, assists, and steals. It’ll be up to Bryan Antoine to help fill the void in Moore’s absence. The backup guard has only logged 19 minutes over his four tournament games. For the Wildcats to pull off the victory, they’ll have to control the tempo and limit Kansas’ transition buckets, which will be a tough task.
No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils
Saturday, April 2 | TV: TBS
Believe it or not, this is the first-ever meeting between Duke and North Carolina in the tournament. But this is far from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s first rodeo on the grand stage. This is Coach K’s 13th appearance in the Round of 4 compared to UNC coach Hubert Davis’ first berth. North Carolina spoiled Coach K’s farewell outing at Cameron Indoor Stadium by winning 94-81, so the Blue Devils will be trying to avenge that loss for their coach and take him to one more championship game. Also, Duke did blow out UNC 87-67 in the first head-to-head matchup of the regular season. Overall, Duke is averaging 79.7 points per game in the tourney, while North Carolina has been even more unstoppable, averaging 82.5 points per contest. No one has had an answer for either offense, setting this up to potentially be an explosive, high-scoring showdown.
Despite an inexperienced club full of freshman and sophomore stars, Duke has racked up the points by averaging 54% from the field in the tournament. That includes a dazzling run by future NBA top draft pick Paolo Banchero, who’s averaging 18.5 points per game in the tourney. Since Kansas’ big upset during the regular season, Duke has improved on the defensive end, especially in holding No. 4 Arkansas to 30% from three-point range in last Saturday’s win. Keeping the Tar Heels’ outstanding inside-out offensive attack will surely be difficult, but at least the Blue Devils proved they can do it once before.