The big question surrounding this Final Four matchup is, “What will the Villanova Wildcats look like without Justin Moore on the floor?” The Wildcats learned that they’ll play the remainder of March Madness without Moore, after he tore his Achilles in final minutes of Villanova’s Elite 8 victory over the Houston Cougars. Even though Nova won that game with Moore scoring just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting, losing a member of your starting five who is your second-leading scorer (14.8 points per game) is a tough pill to swallow sitting just two wins from a national title.
Without Moore, Villanova head coach Jay Wright will be forced to dip into his already thin bench. He typically used a six-man rotation this season, which included Moore, meaning we could see more minutes from Chris Arcidiacono, who has played just 15 minutes in the Wildcats’ first four NCAA Tournament games. In short, the Wildcats only have five healthy players heading into the most important game(s) of their season.
Meanwhile, the Kansas Jayhawks got their first strong showing of the tournament out of Wooden Award finalist Ochai Agbaji (18 points, five rebounds and four assists on 8-of-12 shooting) in the Elite 8. The Jayhawks are the only No. 1 seed to make the Final Four and they have a clear size advantage with David McCormack — also coming off his best game of the tourney (15 points in 18 minutes). Kansas certainly attacked the interior in the Elite 8 against Miami, grabbing 39 rebounds and feeding their big man, who went 6-of-7 from the field.
But it’s both team’s defenses that could ultimately be on display Saturday night. I’m expecting a tight, low-scoring contest, which will be made clear by the following spread and total picks.
Villanova Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks Odds, Trends, and Picks
March Madness NCAA Tournament Final Four Betting Odds and Lines
|(30-7 SU, 20-16-1 ATS)
||(32-6 SU, 19-18-1 ATS)
When: Saturday, April 2, at 6:09 p.m.
Where: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Villanova Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks Spread Pick
The spread is going to be a tough play in this game because nobody knows what Villanova will look like without its starting shooting guard. I tend to think the Wildcats have enough veteran talent and a good enough coach to adjust, despite having just six days to game plan and execute sans Moore.
Whether they adjust enough to cover the 4.5-point spread may depend more on their opponent than it does on the Wildcats. The Jayhawks have a big edge in the paint on paper, and how aggressive Kansas is in getting the ball inside could be the difference here. Villanova faced a similar size disadvantage in the Sweet 16 against Michigan and center Hunter Dickinson, where the Wildcats held him to 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting. I think Nova can and will do the same with McCormack.
As long as the Wildcats control the flow of this Final Four matchup, I like them plus the 4.5 points.
Villanova Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks Spread Pick: Villanova +4.5
Villanova Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks Total Pick
Villanova was already a slow-paced team with Moore in the lineup. Without him, the Wildcats are likely to slow the game down even further. This is obviously a plus for under bettors.
Villanova has played to the under in six of its seven postseason games (Big East & NCAA Tournament), and no opponent has scored more than 65 points in those contests. Kansas also plays elite defense, which was on display in the second half of its Elite 8 win over Miami, giving up just 15 points in the final 20 minutes. Overall, the Jayhawks have held their NCAA Tournament opponents to an average of less than 60 points per game, and they rank 20th in the nation at defending the 3-pointer (opponents shoot 29.7% from deep).
With both sides likely to play stiff defense and what could be a very slow-paced game, I’m taking the under in this Final Four game.
Villanova Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks Total Pick: Under 132.5 points
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