Fam, we made it to the Final Four Weekend in New Orleans. It’s been one hell of a season and I truly think we got the four best teams in college basketball at this moment. Villanova, Duke, UNC, and Kansas four elite programs, with three legendary head coaches, probably a dozen NBA prospects, and one of the most highly anticipated Final Four matchups in tournament history. Aaron was at Final Four weekend, and did his own breakdown of the Final Four teams here:
Also, as always, our partners at Draftkings have tournament specials, player props, and everything in between. Without further ado let’s break it down
Villanova vs Kansas
Spread: Kansas (-4)
Let’s start with the undercard. Kansas is looking to win their first NCAA title since 2008 while Villanova is looking to win their third title since 2016. Jay Wright in March has been money and he is 4-0 against Bill Self in the tournament. Kansas played their best half of the tournament holding Miami to just 15 second half points and scoring 44. Villanova hung and beat a tough Houston team in a rock fight.
The main storyline in this game is Villanova playing shorthanded with the loss to Justin Moore. Nova was already thin to start with, now they will need former top recruit Bryan Antione to step up in his place. For Kansas, Remy Martin has emerged as the player we all thought he would be coming into the season. Martin won the Midwest Region MVP averaging 16.8 points through four games. Martin has been a spark plug off the bench for the Jayhawks. Can Martin have Mario Chalmers like magic and lead Kansas to another championship? Let’s break it down to find out.
When Kansas Has the Ball:
Villanova is known to slow the tempo on offense. Another reason they rank in the bottom of the country in tempo is they make opposing teams use the entire shot clock to get a good shot. Villanova forces isolation sets at a top 15 rate. Their smaller lineup allows them to switch 1-4. Jermaine Samuels and Brandon Slater are two of the most versatile wings in the sport. Missing Moore will be big on this end, but Antione actually grades better defensively than Moore, although the sample size is small. Villanova forced Houston into a lot of bad iso possessions. It was one of the reasons the Cougars shot 1-20 from three.
Kansas doesn’t play iso at all. Bottom 15 iso rate. The only ISO positive player Kansas has is Remy Martin. Martin can beat guys off the dribble, pull up from mid-range, and has some crafty moves. Self has mainly run a PNR oriented offense focused on Martin, but had to go away from that in the second half against Miami. Kansas's main source of success is attacking inside. They rank in the Top 20 in near proximity attempts and efficiency. Christian Braun, Ochai Agbaji, and David McCormack are all elite finishers. Villanova ranks 109th in two point defense, so that should be the point of emphasis in their attack.
With the way Villanova fronts post ups, their guards are going to need to do a good job feeding their slashers and post players when they are in good position. Kansas could try to dominate the offensive boards. Villanova ranks 207th in defensive rebounding percentage. The Wildcats did hold their own in that department against Houston and Michigan. I do expect Martin, Braun, and McCormack to do most of the damage for Kansas here.
When Villanova has the Ball:
This is the side of the floor where the lack of Moore’s play making will be felt. Antoine has shown he can defend, but he is simply not a threat on the offensive side of the floor. That may be a break because Villanova may not be able to take advantage of Kansas defensive inefficiencies. Offensively, Villanova runs pick-and-roll at a top-15 frequency nationally. It also scores at the 12th-highest rate in terms of points per possession in those sets. They can attack or reverse the ball to open shooters. Kansas can struggle with rotations and they have liabilities defending the post.
The problem here is what are they going to do with McCormack. Self’s teams tend to switch on ball screens. I think playing McCormack on Dixon is a problem. McCormack struggles guarding away from the basket and both Dixon/Samuels can hurt them in space. McCormack is a pretty awful defender in the post as well. This is an area Villanova should definitely attack. If you have to double Dixon, you know Nova will hit open threes. Expect Kansas guard Dajuan Harris to shadow Villanova star Colin Gillespie. While Harris is an A level defender, I’m not sure he can shut Gillespie down. Gillespie will be able to post up the smaller guard. The Wildcats will need to get great games out of Samuels and Dixon in this one. Gillespie doesn’t have the dynamic scoring ability to carry them here. Dixon has had games when he has dominated mismatches inside. I think he does it again here.
Prediction: Betting wise, there is tons of value on Villanova here. Moore is a huge loss, but it is embedded in the line. This game is probably a pick if Moore plays. As good as Moore is, he is not worth four points. I love the opportunity of backing Jay Wright as an underdog. Villanova is going to make this a 50 possession game. In a low possession game I will take the team that executes best.
Wright finds a way to scheme past Moore’s injury. Villanova wins this one in a tight contest.
Best Bet: Villanova +4/ML+166
* Remy Martin OVER 11.5 points
* Eric Dixon OVER 8.5 points
* Ochai Agbaji UNDER 16.5 points
Duke vs North Carolina
Spread: Duke (-4)
North Carolina vs. Duke for the third time. On one of biggest stages in sports: the Final Four. In what could potentially be Coach K’s last game on the sidelines. It’s the storyline college basketball writers have been drooling over the past week. It’s finally here. The Tar Heels gave Duke a loss in Coach K’s final game at Cameron, can they officially retire the legendary coach on Saturday?
Let’s break down whether they can.
How North Carolina Wins:
It's really simple: Three’s, Rebounding, Armando Bacot, and holding Duke to under 1.1 points per possession
The Tar Heels come into the Final Four ranked top 40 nationally in adjusted tempo, per KenPom.com, and No. 18 in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks to their low turnover rate and outstanding team-wide 3-point shooting. Coach K has adjusted Duke’s defensive struggles by going into an inverted 2-3 zone. Duke’s length and athleticism has given other teams trouble.
The way UNC can beat that, is by making Duke play defense on the run in transition, making threes, and letting Armando Bacot eat in the middle. Bacot scored 23 points on 10-11 shooting in the win at Cameron. He has to put on a similar performance here. Armando Bacot is a double-double machine, and it does not look like he will stop in the Final Four. He is going to also have to lead the charge on the glass. Duke ranks 73rd and 210th in offensive and defensive rebounding, compared to UNC who ranks 82nd and second. Grabbing rebounds is important.
The most challenging part is holding a Duke offense that has looked impossible to stop. Duke has lost all of its games when it doesn’t surpass the 1.1 points per possession threshold. Duke is going to score, Carolina has to make sure they don’t do it efficiently. Leaky Black has been one of the best defenders in the tournament. In the last matchup, the Tar Heels put tons of pressure on the Duke star and made him play hero ball. Banchero had 23 points but did on 10-26 shooting posting an offensive Ken Pom rating of 90-highs lowest of the season.
In the first matchup, Banchero scored 13 points on 5-17 shooting. Carolina’s game plan is going to spread Duke out and let Bacot on the inside. On defense, they have to continue to throw bodies at Banchero and pray Duke doesn’t shoot the lights out.
How Duke Wins:
Jeremy Roach is playing the best basketball of his life. When Duke’s point guard plays well, they are tough to beat. Duke’s offense has been unstoppable. They went the last seven minutes without missing a field goal against the toughest defense in college basketball in the Elite Eight against Arkansas. The Blue Devils have five NBA level players on the floor at all times.
Looking at the big picture, Duke was favored by 3.5 at North Carolina in the first meeting and 11 in Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game. The line in general just seems short at a glance. Duke has the most efficient offense in the country. North Carolina has had its share of defensive lapses all year. The key is defending Armando Bacot on the other side. Mark Williams is a pretty solid interior defender. Forward AJ Griffin has shot 55 percent from three during this tournament. When he is shooting like that, Duke is unstoppable. Griffin torched Brady Manek for 27 in the first meeting. Coach K is going to look to exploit that matchup once again. Coach K is going to have to do some real work here. Creating coverages for Love, Manek, and Davis. The Duke defense is going to have to communicate on the Tar Heels off the ball action. With the talent Duke has, they have a good shot at moving into the championship game.
Prediction: I don’t have a betting angle for this game. I would learn over 151.5 with the pace of play and the dynamic nature of both offenses. I like the live opportunity of either team. Both teams are peaking at the right time and this has the makings of an all time classic. As for player props, I love Griffin’s potential matchup with Manek. There is a chance Black may be put on Griffin. Even then, Griffin's shot making ability has been tremendous. UNC will have Manek involved heavily and Duke struggles covering off ball screens. Manek over 2.5 threes are in play. It’s best to sit back and relax just enjoy an all time final four classic.
The picks: Lean over 151
* Armando Bacot over 33.5 points/rebounds/assists
* Brady Manek over 2.5 threes
* AJ Griffin over 11.5 points
* Caleb Love over 3.5 assists
* Mark Williams under 9.5 rebounds
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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