No.1 Kansas is the top overall seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, while No.2 Villanova is playing better than any other team during March Madness. But only one can reach the Final Four with the two teams set to face off in the Elite Eight on Saturday night.
There have been no surprises regarding the Jayhawks in the tournament. After going 30-4 in the regular season and Big 12 Tournament, Kansas hasn’t had any trouble in the South region, getting three consecutive double-digit wins. Villanova, however, is college basketball’s hottest team, and they won’t be easy to beat.
Since being upset by Seton Hall in the Big East Championship Game, the Wildcats have been lights out from the floor. Scoring 88.3 points per game and averaging a 24-point margin of victory, Villanova is headed for their first national championship in 31 years if they continue to play at this level.
A look at Villanova’s shooting numbers makes it easy to see why they’ve rolled to the regional finals. The Wildcats are shooting 53.2 percent from behind the arc, hitting at least 10 three-pointers in each game. They were so unstoppable against Miami in the Sweet 16, shooting 62.7 percent from the field and missing just one of 19 free-throw attempts, the Hurricanes lost by 23 points even though they shot over 53 percent from the field themselves.
Kris Jenkins and Ryan Arcidiacono have been Villanova’s top scorers, going a combined 20-of-33 from the three-point line, though it’s been a complete team effort. After entering the tournament with the reputation of a team that underperforms during March Madness, the Wildcats have emerged as real threats to the national title favorites.
Kansas is a 2.5-point favorite at Las Vegas sportsbooks, via vegasinsider.com, following their 16-point win over No.5 Maryland. Their 17-game winning streak will come to an end if the Wildcats continue to stay red-hot from three-point range, but Villanova is making shots at an unsustainable rate that could to come to an end on Saturday.
Villanova is shooting just 35.6 percent from three-point range on the season, ranking 127th in the country. Three Sweet 16 teams make more threes per game than the Wildcats.
The Jayhawks rank 22nd out of 346 teams, holding opponents to 39.7 percent field goal shooting. They held Maryland to five-of-25 from behind the arc, and while Connecticut made 10-of-22 threes against Kansas in the second round, the Huskies made just 27.5 percent of their two-point attempts in a 73-61 loss. Kansas hasn’t given up 80 points since Jan. 30 against Kentucky, and the over/under in Saturday’s game is 145.5.
Kansas is a top-15 offensive team at 81.9 points per game. Leading scorer Perry Ellis has scored at least 21 points in all three tournament games, going 27-of-41 from the field. Wayne Selden Jr. is averaging 19 points per contest since the Big 12 Championship Game.
They don’t have the most NBA talent, but Kansas may be the most complete team in college basketball. Aside from a few hiccups in the first half of the season, they’ve overcome every challenge that’s been put in front of them, and that should continue on their way to the Final Four.
Prediction: Kansas over Villanova, 80-70