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Villanova Wildcats guard Collin Gillespie (2) instructs his teammates during a game against the Providence Friars on Feb. 15 2022. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire)
March 31st, 2022
The second-seeded Villanova Wildcats will try to overcome the loss of starting guard Justin Moore when they face the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks in the first Final Four game on Saturday, set for tipoff at 6:09 p.m. ET in New Orleans.
The Wildcats suffered a heart-wrenching blow in their 50-44 win over Houston in the Elite Eight when Moore went down in the final minute with a lower-leg injury.
An MRI later determined Villanova's second-leading scorer (14.8 points) had torn his right Achilles, which will sideline him for the remainder of the tournament. Senior guard Caleb Daniels (10.2 points, 3.8 rebounds) will start in Moore's absence, while reserves Chris Arcidiacono and Bryan Antoine should see increased minutes.
Jay Wright told me Justin Moore’s injury has brought a close team even close together. Moore WILL be traveling to the #FinalFour on Saturday! pic.twitter.com/ZSqcaciN0z— Jamie Apody (@JamieApody) March 30, 2022
Jay Wright told me Justin Moore’s injury has brought a close team even close together. Moore WILL be traveling to the #FinalFour on Saturday! pic.twitter.com/ZSqcaciN0z
Daniels was a key contributor in the Houston game, with 12 points and six rebounds coming off the bench. The only other reserve who saw playing time was Arcidiacono, who was on the floor for just two minutes and recorded one assist.
Against one of the country's best rebounding teams, Villanova went toe-to-toe with the Cougars and out-rebounded them on the defensive glass. The Wildcats also held Houston to 1-of-20 from beyond the arc and 29.8% from the field.
While Villanova had a bit of an off night shooting as well, the Wildcats did hit all 15 of their free throws, as should be expected from the nation's top team from the charity stripe (82%).
Kansas, on the other hand, struggled from the line, hitting just 50%, in its 76-50 regional final win over No. 10 seed Miami. The Jayhawks also failed to hit a 3-pointer the entire first half and finished 5-of-14 from beyond the arc, but their defense and rebounding (41 boards to Miami's 28) more than made up for it.
Both Kansas and Villanova last reached the Final Four in 2018, when the Wildcats sent the Jayhawks home in a 95-79 drubbing.
Villanova went on to dominate Michigan in the national championship game that year, and while three of the players on this year's roster (Jermaine Samuels, Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree) were reserves on that title team, this iteration of Villanova is not quite as strong.
With a lack of depth that will be put to the test against a bruising Kansas team that should control the boards, the Wildcats will need everything to go right to pull off a win on Saturday.
The Jayhawks aren't without weaknesses — Villanova will likely out-shoot them from deep — and center David McCormack (10.1 points, 6.8 rebounds per game) has been dealing with foot soreness, but this team has the upper hand, and an X-factor in Remy Martin.
Remy Martin in the NCAA Tournament:Round of 64: 15 points 4 assistsRound of 32: 20 points 7 reboundsSweet 16: 23 points 7 rebounds pic.twitter.com/m96KP7tTAj— Kansas Jayhawk Fans (@FansOfKU) March 26, 2022
Remy Martin in the NCAA Tournament:Round of 64: 15 points 4 assistsRound of 32: 20 points 7 reboundsSweet 16: 23 points 7 rebounds pic.twitter.com/m96KP7tTAj
The senior guard has been a star off the bench, with a pair of 20-point performances against Big East teams Providence and Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.
The Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Region will provide the boost the Wildcats lack with their shorthanded roster, and will help send Kansas to its first national championship game since 2012.
Score prediction: Kansas 65, Villanova 58
Our predictive engine is calling for Kansas to win outright and cover the spread.
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