The final four is upon us and one team will be cutting down the nets soon. This tournament lived up to the hype of March Madness with its historical and unseen upsets. From UMBC rewriting the history books of college basketball to Sister Jean becoming a national sensation, the headlines kept getting better and better.
Now we are down to four teams: the Kansas Jayhawks, Villanova Wildcats, Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, and Michigan Wolverines. Which school’s colors will fall in confetti on April 2nd? Here is my case for the Kansas Jayhawks winning their fourth NCAA tournament.
Kansas has had the most impressive win of the four teams remaining with taking down the number two seeded Duke Blue Devils in overtime. Both Michigan and Loyola-Chicago faced a nine seed in the elite eight which doesn’t give them much of a test against tough talent and both would face a one seed in the final.
The Jayhawks have loads of offensive talent with five players averaging at least 12 ppg. Devonte’ Graham led the Jayhawks in the regular season with 17.2 ppg and has not slowed down in the tournament. He had 11 points in the overtime thriller game against Duke; however, it is his ball movement that has kept Kansas alive this tournament. Averaging just over six assists in the tournament Graham has a large role in four other players averaging double digits in points per game.
The 7’0″ Nigerian big man Udoka Azubuike is stealing the show for Kansas so far. Grabbing eight rebounds against Duke and 11 against Clemson, Azubuike is looking poised to bring his team all the way.
The Kansas offense doesn’t jump off the page like Villanova’s does. They ranked 29th in scoring compared to Villanova’s number one offense in basketball. On paper, this is a game Villanova should win. But Kansas has a chance when it is March.
Kansas ranked 11th in three-point percentage during the season and 19th in attempts. These Jayhawks are no strangers to launching the deep ball. This is where they could capitalize and move on to the championship game. Villanova’s defense against the three ball ranked 32nd. If Kansas can get hot beyond the arc the window for moving on becomes wide open.
The Big 12 was a crapshoot this year with teams rising and falling all season long. So for Kansas to walk away 13-5 in a conference that sent 6/10 of their teams to the tournament is impressive. Then to grind out a win against a great Duke team is just where the Jayhawks want to be going into the final four. Villanova played a quality West Virginia team but for that to be their biggest test of the season could spell doom for them if Kansas comes out and punches the Wildcats in the mouth.
Look to see if Kansas starts to heat up in their three-point shooting in the second half. If so, Villanova may find themselves in a spot they have not been in all tournament long.
Final score: 83-79
Written by: Matthew Peterson
Edited by: Colin Castleberry