Usually, 50 percent is a pretty good mark. Hitting 50 percent of your three-pointers is exceptionally good. Getting a hit on 50 percent of your at-bats is legendary. But what about 50 percent of the Final Four games being good? Well, it turns out that is not a good thing.
That is exactly what we got on Saturday with the two games we watched. The blueblood double-header was one of the best Final Fours on paper, but it did not live up to that expectation in reality. Kansas versus Villanova was a bit underwhelming, meanwhile, the Duke-North Carolina was everything one could want from these semifinal matchups.
When two of the greatest college basketball programs that also happen to be embroiled in the best rivalry in the sport play with a spot in the championship game on the line, greatness ensues. Also, add in the narrative that this could be Coach K’s last game ever and the Tar Heels already spiled his last game in Cameron Indoor. This game had literally everything.
The game delivered on all fronts in a thrilling 81-77 contest. Brady Manek versus Paolo Banchero was a mouth-watering matchup but there was so much more to the game. This game ended up being a battle of the big men. Both Duke’s Mark Williams and North Carolina’s Armando Bacot don’t get as much credit as they deserve but they are integral to their respective teams.
Bacot won the battle of the big men which is a large part of why the Tar Heels were ultimately victorious. He put up 11 points and an incredible 21 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass. Despite not putting up the most points, Bacot was arguably the most important cog in the North Carolina machine on Saturday.
The other star for UNC was Caleb Love. He had shown in previous games that he could be the man for the Tar Heels and he did that again against Duke. Love led the game in scoring with 28 points and had what was basically the dagger with a late contested three-pointer that essentially put the game away.
Duke also played a very good basketball game and could have escaped with a win if a couple of things went differently. Star freshman and future top-three draft pick Paolo Banchero was once again the star of the show with 20 points and 10 rebounds, both the most of any Blue Devil. He got some help from Trevor Keels, 19 points off the bench, but the rest of the team didn’t do enough to ultimately get the win.
The amazing game between North Carolina and Duke helped fans forget about the previous game between Kansas and Villanova. That game was always going to feel a bit lackluster due to Nova’s Justin Moore missing the game due to injury. Kansas fans were certainly happy with the 81-65 game but fans of close and entertaining basketball games were definitely.
This game was 40 minutes of Kansas domination and what could very well end up being a prologue for an eventual Jayhawks national championship. They looked like a team worthy of the honor of the best team in the country with their performance on Saturday.
Ochai Agbaji had his best game of the tournament, hitting six of seven triples and scoring 21 points. David McCormack also had a great game, scoring a game-high 35 points on 10-12 shooting. Kansas was essentially firing on all cylinders and looked like a very dangerous team. If they can add even more firepower in the form of Remy Martin having his patented great bench scoring game and Christian Braun scoring in double-figures again, this team might be cutting down the nets on Monday night.
Villanova tried its best to overcome the loss of Justin Moore but in the end, Kansas was too much. At times they made the game much closer than the final score suggested but it never really seemed like they had a chance. Collin Gillespie played a very spirited game, leading the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points but there just wasn’t enough around him to get the job done. Brandon Slater and Caleb Daniels did their best to aid Gillespie. They hit some three-pointers and scored 16 and 13 points, respectively.
Now we are left with two teams that should provide us with another entertaining 40 minutes (or more) of basketball. I will be giving my thoughts on the game and official pick tomorrow so come back to check that out.