Despite all of the absurdity in this year’s tournament, the first Final Four game features two of the best team’s in college basketball. The (2) Villanova Wildcats faced the (1) Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday night for a right of passage to the Final Four. Kansas, seen as the best overall team, was a two-point favorite over ‘Nova.
The Wildcats pulled off the “upset,” beating Kansas 64-59. Both teams played decently, and Kansas was able to stay in the game by limiting Villanova’s three-point barrage. In the previous contest against Miami, Villanova shot an outstanding 10/15 from three. Kris Jenkins and Ryan Arcidiacono, two of the team’s best shooters, combined for 2/10 from downtown and the team collectively shot 4/18 (22%) against KU.
Despite the woes from behind the arc, the duo above led with 13 points apiece, and Josh Hart pitched in 13 points as well.
Kansas struggled just as much as Villanova did, finishing 6/22 (27%) from downtown and 23/50 (46%) from the field. Senior Perry Ellis was virtually non-existent, and his extraordinary career at Kansas ended with a four-point, five-rebound performance. Even more perplexing, Ellis attempted just five shots. Devonte’ Graham (17), Frank Mason (16), and Wayne Selden Jr. (16) provided almost all the offense for the Jayhawks, accounting for 49 of their 59 points.
This is Villanova’s first Final Four appearance since 2009, and they’ll be pitted against the (2) Oklahoma Sooners and scorching-hot Buddy Hield.
Scorching-hot, however, might be an understatement. There is no question that Buddy Hield has been the best player in this year’s tournament, and his numbers back it up. Both OU and Oregon were coming off 14-point victories of Texas A&M, and Duke, respectively. Despite being relatively quiet against TAMU (17p/10r), Hield got going early against the Ducks and never looked back.
He finished with 37 points — 20 in the second half — on 13/20 shooting, including 8/13 from three and powered the Sooners to their first Final Four appearance since 2001. Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard were great, too. The duo combined for 24 points and nine assists and were effective enough for the defense to respect them.
Dillion Brooks had just seven points after going for 22 against the Blue Devils; Elgin Cook was the Ducks’ leading scorer with 24. Although you can’t overlook Hield’s performance, or pinpoint one thing that Oregon did wrong, missed threes kept Oregon out of the game. A 34% shooting team during the season, the Ducks shot 4/21 (19%) in their loss to the Sooners.
Both teams faced off in December, and Oklahoma handed Villanova their worst loss of the season, 78-55. The Wildcats’ offense struggled mightily in that game, shooting just 32% from the field and 13% from three. Buddy Hield managed to score 18 but did so on an inefficient 6/17 shooting.
The matchup is slated for Saturday, April 2 at 6:09 PM EST. Be sure to check back for our full preview coming later this week.