MB-SQUARES

A Who’s Who Final Four

March 28, 2022
Collin Gillespie Final Four

Remember a week ago when St. Peter’s Peacocks mania was sweeping the college basketball world? John Calipari and Kentucky were the tournament’s biggest disappointment, No. 1 seed and defending national champion Baylor was getting bounced, three of four 11-seeds won, a pair of 12s made it out of the first round and the favorites were taking a bath.

Well, the second weekend of the tournament is now over, and the heavyweights of college basketball have exacted their revenge. The Elite Eight began with the opportunity for two new Final Four participants and another who hadn’t been there in 27 years. In the end, it’s Blue Blood basketball all around.

Kansas is making its 17th visit to the Final Four. Duke has been there 17 previous times. Villanova has been to six previous Final Fours, and this is its third trip in six seasons. And then there is North Carolina, which leads all of college basketball with 21 trips to the Final Four.

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas (-4½)

Villanova was the national champion in 2016 and then again in 2018. The Wildcats were also at the heart of one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history when they shot a still-record 78 percent from the floor to knock off 35-win Georgetown to win the title in 1985.

Villanova heads to the Final Four with nine straight wins, but will be without leading scorer Justin Moore after he tore his Achilles’ in the Elite Eight win over Houston.

Villanova doesn’t have much depth at guard, but the Wildcats do play great team defense, which can hide other deficiencies. The Wildcats allowed just 62 points per game, and in their tournament wins, they have held opponents to 60, 61, 55 and 44 points.

Kansas last won a national championship in 2008, but the Jayhawks reached the Final Four in 2012, losing to Kentucky in the title game, and in 2018, when they lost to these same Villanova Wildcats in the semifinals.

Kansas is the lone No. 1 seed remaining in the field, and it’s worth noting that a No. 1 seed has won the last four national championships and 11 of the previous 14.

Like Villanova, the Jayhawks go to the Final Four on a nine-game winning streak. The Jayhawks average 78 points per game, and as we saw in the second half against Miami in the Elite Eight, they can score in bunches. Down by six at halftime, the Jayhawks outscored the Hurricanes 47-15 in the second half to punch their ticket to New Orleans.

Currently, the Jayhawks are 4½-point chalk against the Wildcats according to March Madness odds, with a total of 133 for the game.

No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 2 Duke (-4)

There are no bigger rivals in all of college basketball. And the legends that have participated in the 257-game history between North Carolina and Duke can make up a hall of fame by themselves.

For the first time since North Carolina beat Trinity College (now Duke) in 1920, these storied programs are meeting in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s a fairytale ending to Mike Krzyzewski’s Hall of Fame career. The winningest coach in college basketball history, making a final appearance in the Final Four, facing his biggest rival and the team that spoiled his final regular-season game in front of his home crowd with a 94-81 Carolina win.

This is the first matchup between the two teams on a stage this big, but the memorable meetings between Duke and North Carolina are some of the most legendary in the sport.

Michael Jordan won his final game in Chapel Hill by beating Duke in double overtime in 1984. In 1989, current North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis helped the Tar Heels beat Christian Laettner and the broken foot of Bobby Hurley. 

There was the game in 2015, just days after the passing of UNC coach Dean Smith, where the players and coaches from both teams gathered at center court for a moment of silence in memoriam. And then Duke won in overtime 92-90.

Who can forget Zion Williamson blowing out his shoe in 2019 in a game eventually won by North Carolina? Or his return from injury in the ACC tournament later that season and the 31 points he put up to beat the Tar Heels 74-73.

And now, there is the final meeting of this season and what could be the final game in the 47-year career of Coach K. Appropriately, March Madness odds line the Blue Devils as four-point favorites in the semifinals, and boast the lowest odds to ship the championship at +155.