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Kansas Jayhawks guard Ochai Agbaji (30) puts up a layup against the Stanford Cardinal. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)
March 29th, 2022
The 2022 NCAA Tournament has been whittled down to a quartet of college basketball powerhouses who know the Final Four all too well.
With a combined 60 appearances in the national semifinal round, Duke, Kansas, UNC, and Villanova are back in a familiar position and face a dogfight to the finish in this blue-blood laden championship round.
All four of these teams did a whole lot right throughout the regular season and caught fire during March Madness, but they are not without their flaws.
Let's take a closer look at the national semifinal round as we explore the most glaring weaknesses of each 2022 Final Four team.
Seed: 1Regular-season record: 32-6Biggest weakness: 3-point shooting
After winning the Big 12 regular-season and conference titles, Kansas earned a top seed in the Midwest Region, and ended up with an easier path than most to the Final Four.
The Jayhawks cruised past No. 16 Texas Southern, before eking by ninth-seeded Creighton and fourth-seeded Providence, then got an unexpected Elite Eight matchup with No. 10 seed Miami.
While Kansas sent the Hurricanes packing with a 76-50 thrashing, the game highlighted one major weakness to Bill Self's squad. Kansas failed to make a 3-point shot the entire first half, in which they trailed 35-29 at the break, and finished 5-of-14 from beyond the arc.
Canes not backing down to the No. 1 seed. Miami 35-29 up at the half. Kam McGusty leading the way with 14 points. Kansas is shooting 0% from 3 and 33% from FT line.— Will Manso (@WillManso) March 27, 2022
Canes not backing down to the No. 1 seed. Miami 35-29 up at the half. Kam McGusty leading the way with 14 points. Kansas is shooting 0% from 3 and 33% from FT line.
The Jayhawks rank 74th in the country in 3-point field-goal percentage and 283rd in 3-point usage, which could spell doom against a sharp-shooting team, like Villanova or Duke.
Seed: 2Regular-season record: 32-6Biggest weakness: Youth and inexperience
Mike Krzyzewski began the 2021-22 season knowing it would be his last and has been on a mission to retire in style, with his sixth national championship in hand.
THE LAST RIDE CONTINUES.@DukeMBB is going to the FINAL FOUR ⚡ pic.twitter.com/k4rKzQ8VbE— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 27, 2022
THE LAST RIDE CONTINUES.@DukeMBB is going to the FINAL FOUR ⚡ pic.twitter.com/k4rKzQ8VbE
Behind a star-studded group of freshmen and sophomores, Coach K has put together a team that at times looked like the best in the country, and at other times, showed a glaring lack of experience and maturity.
While Duke has five players who are projected first-round draft picks, backup center Theo John is the only roster piece to have started an NCAA tournament game before this season, and he got that start while playing for Marquette in 2019.
The youth on Duke's side can partially explain a pair of duds in two high-profile contests — Coach K's final home game and the ACC Tournament Final. Poor defensive play was the other culprit in those losses.
The Blue Devils appear to have addressed their defensive woes to some extent in games against No. 7 seed Michigan State, No. 3 seed Texas Tech, and No. 4 Arkansas. But in the Final Four, this young group will need to buckle down even more on defense and continue playing with confidence to provide a proper sendoff to the winningest coach in NCAA Tournament history.
Seed: 2Regular-season record: 30-7Biggest weakness: Lack of size, loss of Justin Moore to injury
This Villanova squad is not the same caliber as those 2016 and 2018 title teams, but it can play defense, hit big shots, and rarely misses from the free-throw line (83%).
The Big East conference tournament champions have won 14 of their last 15 games and knocked out No. 15 seed Delaware, No. 7 seed Ohio State, No. 11 seed Michigan, and No. 5 seed Houston along their path to the Final Four.
While Jay Wright has managed to shape yet another roster into a national championship contender, his team's momentum may come to a screeching halt with the loss of junior guard Justin Moore.
The team's second-leading scorer (14.8 points per game) tore his Achilles tendon in the final minute of the 50-44 win against Houston on Saturday, which will likely hamper a group that ranks just 150th in the nation in scoring offense.
Senior guard Caleb Daniels (10.2 points, 3.8 rebounds) will start in Moore's absence, but behind him on the bench, reserves Chris Arcidiacono and Bryan Antoine lack experience. Arcidiacono played just two minutes against Houston, while Antoine sat out the entire Elite Eight matchup.
Aside from being shorthanded, the Wildcats are also short. Their starting five averages 6'5" in height, and their tallest starting big man is 6'8". That could pose a major matchup problem with Kansas.
Seed: 8Regular-season record: 28-9Biggest weakness: Defense, streaky play
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Hubert Davis, UNC has transformed into the surprise team of the season. After stumbling to ranked opponents Purdue, Tennessee, and Kentucky early in November and December, and dropping games to Notre Dame, Miami, Wake Forest, Duke, and Pittsburgh in conference play, most people wrote off the perennial powerhouse.
An abysmal loss to Virginia Tech in the conference tournament made UNC look all the more questionable, but the defeat seemingly sparked a fire in the Tar Heels. In the NCAA Tournament, the No. 8 seed proceeded to knock off No. 9 seed Marquette, the defending champion and No. 1 seed Baylor Bears, No. 4 seed UCLA, and 15th-seeded Saint Peter's on the way to a Final Four berth.
UNC’s Hubert Davis is about to become the first first-year head coach to make the Final Four since… Bill Guthridge, who also did so for North Carolina.— Brendan Marks (@BrendanRMarks) March 27, 2022
UNC’s Hubert Davis is about to become the first first-year head coach to make the Final Four since… Bill Guthridge, who also did so for North Carolina.
Now, with a rematch with Duke on tap in the national semifinal, the Tar Heels should know what to expect from their rival. But which UNC team can fans expect to see on Saturday night?
In North Carolina's first meeting with Duke in the regular season, UNC was out-rebounded 40-24, hit 40.7% from the field, and shot just 66.7% from the free-throw line in an 87-67 beatdown.
Then, in Coach K's final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, UNC spoiled Krzyzewski's night, as the Tar Heels won the war on the glass and out-shot Duke from deep.
The Tar Heels are either hot or extremely cold — seven of their 10 losses are by 13 points or more, so when UNC is off, it's way off.
The defense also ranks 349th out of 358 teams at forcing turnovers, which doesn't bode well in the final stages of the tournament.
For a team that relies on momentum, UNC will be in danger if Duke comes out firing in their rubber match.
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