Villanova and Kansas are meeting in one of the Final Four semifinal games, but it might just be the real title game. Oddsmakers have these two as the favorites to win, regardless of who the winner of this matchup ultimately faces in the championship game.
Villanova and Kansas are both No. 1 seeds, and the headliner for Saturday night’s Final Four festivities.
The opening act pits No. 3-seed Michigan taking on No. 11-Cinderella Loyola-Chicago. The Wolverines opened as a six-point pick, but since then the money has flowed toward the fan favorite Ramblers, moving the line to 5.5 and in some places 5 points. The over/under is 154.5 points.
The line for Villanova-Kansas has remained a rock solid five points in the Wildcats favor. After they dismantled Texas Tech, 71-59, in the Elite Eight game, oddsmakers thought they would take care of Kansas.
The Jayhawks needed overtime to get past a tough Duke team. The 85-81 victory didn’t impress gamblers and the money has come in pretty consistently on Villanova, who won the 2016 NCAA Championship.
The Wildcats have been a perfect 4-0 against the spread in the tournament. They easily covered double-digit lines against Radford and Alabama in their first two games. They did the same against West Virginia and Texas Tech.
Kansas has been spotty against the spread, with a 2-2 ATS record. In the first game against Penn they managed to cover by two points, but then lost ATS against Seton Hall and Clemson. In the Duke game, they covered by a half a point.
Why Villanova Will Win
The two teams are very similar to one another in offensive production, but the edge goes to the Wildcats in most categories. They are the No. 1 ranked team in the country in scoring offense, averaging 86.6 points per game.
They also are third from the 3-point line in attempts and conversions. They are just as deadly from other parts of the floor, ranking sixth in field goal percentage.
Guard Jaylen Brunson could be the deciding factor. The favorite at +240 to win the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, the point guard runs the offense with precision and is not prone to turnovers.
It will be up to Devonte Graham to defend and disrupt the usually unflappable Brunson. Kansas Coach Bill Self said his player is used to stopping star guards.
“I think if you look at our league as a whole, 40 percent of our teams had a point guard that was an All-American,” he said. “So, obviously, he’s as prepared as anybody could be. He’s played against the best. But he hasn’t played against the national player of the year.”
Why Kansas Will Win
They will have to have an epic night from behind the 3-point line if they are going to win. Their opponent ranks 32nd in the country in defense from that area.
Kansas ranks 11th in both 3-pointers and from other spots on the floor and will have to continue that performance. They are not known as a defensive team and will have to shut down Villanova’s offense as well.
A key match up for the Jayhawks will be the battle of the big men. Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is more of a around the basket player, while his foe, Omari Spellman, likes to venture to the perimeter and score with jumpers.
Azubuike has three inches on Spellman and the 7-footer is going to have to exploit that advantage.