The 2022 NCAA Men’s Final Four: Everything you need to know
The Final Four is ready and offers some of the best programs in college basketball. Combined, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Villanova have 8,773 wins, 17 national championships and 61 Final Fours. Of course, the encounter between Duke and North Carolina will get a lot of attention for obvious reasons, but I’m confident that Kansas and Villanova will put on a show for us in the first national semi-final contest.
For some strange reason, people like to focus on the teams that had the “easiest paths” to the Final Four, without acknowledging the fact that each march madness runner-up was tested at some point during the first four rounds. It’s important to commend them all for finding ways to win and extend their individual seasons. So, let’s dive straight into the Final Four team previews ahead of the whistleblowing in New Orleans.
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Villanova suffered a major blow when they discovered Justin Moore tore his Achilles tendon late in the Wildcats’ 50-44 win over the Houston Cougars last week. What’s the worst part about it? Well, Moore was a 14.8 PPG scorer when healthy and could make forward reads while supporting defenders at the low post. That being said, I will be the first to tell you that there is no reason to lose faith in head coach Jay Wright’s club. Why? Well, because the Wildcats don’t need just one player to shine to win.
Their methodical approach to the game creates headaches for opponents and allows them to consistently get high percentage looks. An average Wildcats offensive possession lasts 19.9 seconds, which means don’t expect Southern regional champions to bail out unruly defenses. It may not be the most exciting style of basketball to watch, but it often results in successful offensive trips for the Wildcats. If you’re able to tune in to their Final Four game against Kansas on Saturday, you’ll notice that every player Jay Wright takes to the floor is able to fake shot effectively, staying in control during his practices and going strong. stopping before playing in the paint. When defenses help and leave Collin Gillespie (40.9% three-point shooter), Caleb Daniels (37.7% three-point shooter) or Eric Dixon (51.4% three-point shooter) open on the perimeter, they usually struggle to put together multiple defensive takedowns (three consecutive saves).
Judging by Nova’s Elite Eight game against Houston, the Wildcats are poised to win horribly if scoring proves a huge challenge for them. They finished the contest with just 50 points, but managed to hold the Cougars to 44 points on 29.8% shooting on goal and 5.0% shooting from three points (they only scored a triple in ball game). I’m not saying the Wildcats will stop the Jayhawks (who score 78.3 points per game) to score more than 44 points, but they have all the defensive tools necessary to turn the contest into a brawl during tough times. They take away driving lanes from ball carriers, slide to take control when needed, and give shooters plenty of room to land while heavily challenging their long-range jumpers. It won’t be easy, but the Wildcats’ remarkable attention to detail and impeccable instincts will give them a chance to emerge victorious on Saturday.
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While Villanova likes to slow down play and execute their attack on the half court, Kansas prefers to push the ball down the ground quickly and distance their opponents on the offensive side. I mean, how are you going to score close to 80 points per game if you walk the ball around the field with every possession, right? In preparation for Saturday’s game, I suggest the Wildcats review the superb offensive performance of the Jayhawks against the Miami Hurricanes in Elite 8.
It looked like the Hurricanes were sulking after every missed field goal in the second half, which led to several fumbles and outfields in the final 20 minutes of the baseball game. If the Wildcats choose to feel sorry for themselves every time the ball misses the net on Saturday, the Jayhawks will feast on transition and force Jay Wright to burn his timeouts early. If they sprint back and have the Jayhawks operating in half court, they’ll still have their hands full defensively. David McCormack is a dominant force on the inside when he takes his time and takes balanced shots in the paint. The Hurricanes had no answer for him when the Jayhawks delivered the ball to him in timely fashion, prompting him to use his size advantage possession after possession (he finished with 15 dots on 6-7 shot from the field).
When it comes to Kansas guard play, I don’t know where the Jayhawks would be without Remy Martin. His two efficient outings against Creighton and Providence propelled the Jayhawks to victory in the 32nd round and 16th round. Although he didn’t have his best game against Miami in the next round, his dependable first-half shooting kept Kansas in the contest. Most Kansas fans are patiently waiting to see the version of Ochai Agbaji who lost 37 points to Texas Tech in January, but appreciate that the John R. Wooden Award Finalist showed up in the second half of the Jayhawks’ lopsided 76-50 win over Miami. He scored 12 of his 18 points after the break and was more assertive offensively. If Bill Self’s main offensive threats come through and the Jayhawks can score easy transition baskets, they’ll be in great shape throughout the competition.
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Prior to last week’s Western Regional title game, many college basketball writers/analysts were already considering a potential Duke vs. UNC Final Four matchup. Why? Well, because they knew the Blue Devils’ offensive firepower would overwhelm Arkansas. The Razorbacks can certainly defend better than many people give them credit for, but stopping several prolific goalscorers on the Blue Devils roster was a task that proved impossible for Eric Musselman’s group.
And now the Battle of the Blue Bloods arrived.
It’s hard enough to prepare for a team that has one or two elite attacking players, but when a team also has a whole starting line-up full of weapons and talent on the bench, it’s safe to say. fool that you are in big trouble. Let me explain it to you like this, the Blue Devils should never panic when one of their stars is having a rough night offensively. If Paolo Banchero doesn’t have the magic touch on the perimeter or in the paint, Jeremy Roach, Wendell Moore Jr., AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels and/or Mark Williams can take over at this end of the floor. In other words, there’s a reason the Blue Devils always convert clutch baskets when it’s time to go. Their top six scorers all shoot over 41% from the field and refuse to shy away from big moments. When Coach K lays the ground and gives Duke’s top point guards countless opportunities to create off the dribble, the Blue Devils are basically out of control in the half court.
Sometimes it feels like they happily take turns burning down their defenders on the attacking side. As a team, they rank 1st in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, which means they score more points per 100 possessions than any other Division 1 college basketball team. That should tell you the Blue Devils are offensive business and waste no time casting prayers that will result by bricks and airballs nine times out of ten. At the end of the day, the Blue Devils could find themselves trailing the Tar Heels late in the competition, but they’ll have plenty of options to turn to if they need to score some hoops quickly.
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Speaking of offensive weapons, North Carolina also has several guys who can warm up quickly offensively. They’ve already had four different players and lead the team in scoring in the NCAA Tournament. Brady Manek scored 28 points against Marquette, RJ Davis exploded for 30 points against Baylor, Caleb Love scored a career-high 30 points against UCLA and Armando Bacot scored 20 points against Saint Peter’s.
Love’s 30-point performance stood out to me the most, as he was called an inconsistent player throughout the season. Will Love show up and score more than 20 points? Or take the day off and score just five points for the Tar Heels? Well, you never really know, but it was great to watch the former McDonald’s All-American step into a zone against the Bruins and take control of the Sweet 16 contest. confident with the ball in his hands, he can effortlessly put the Tar Heels on his back. RJ Davis’ ability to get into the paint and Armando Bacot’s strong inside presence certainly help give Hubert Davis’ side a major offensive boost, but it’s a different team when Brady Manek passes it beyond the arc. The 6-foot-9 senior sniper shoots 39.8 percent deep and made at least three triples in every game of the NCAA Tournament. If he’s able to drop a few three-pointers early in a baseball game, defenders can only hope he misses rhythmic perimeter jumpers later on.
In the Tar Heels’ last game, however, the focus was more on their stifling defense than their steady offense. Unlike the Peacocks’ first three opponents, North Carolina made the MAAC champions uncomfortable early in the Eastern Regional Finals and never allowed them to find their footing. If you’ve been paying close attention to the game, you’ve probably noticed the Tar Heels forbidding the Peacocks from stepping into open jumpers, cutting loose to the rim, and moving them around defensively. Teams score 71.1 points against the Tar Heels on average, but Shaheen Holloway and company hung just 49 points in the game that determined who would advance to the Final Four. If the Tar Heels put on another defensive clinic on Saturday against Duke and bring their “A” game offensively, they could end up defeating the Blue Devils for the second time this season.