KU, Villanova match high-powered attacks
Having put several years’ worth of Big Dance disappointment firmly behind them, the Wildcats’ path back to the Final Four only grows tougher from here.
In tonight’s South Region final, Villanova goes head-to-head with top overall seed Kansas. Oddsmakers from online sports book BetDSI prefer the Jayhawks as 2-point favorites at the KFC Yum! Center.
Jay Wright’s group nonetheless enters the fray performing as well as any team left in the field. The Wildcats (32-5) won their first three contests by a margin of 24 points, including Thursday’s 23-point thrashing of Miami in the Sweet 16. If junior forward Kris Jenkins (107 total points across six Big East and NCAA tourney contests) can continue to carry the load, Nova Nation seems primed to reach a national semifinal for the first time since 2009.
KU (33-4) clearly has other ideas. Despite an unusually slow start vs. No. 5 Maryland two nights ago, Bill Self’s bunch eventually hit the accelerator in a 79-63 victory. Junior forward Landen Lucas had season highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds, while senior post powerhouse Perry Ellis went for 27 and five.
In fact, seven of Ellis’ last eight outings have featured at least 20 points. He represents the beating heart of the Jayhawks’ offense, which will face a sterling interior presence in the form of Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu. The 6-foot-11 senior averages 7.8 boards a tilt and gives the Wildcats a great halfcourt option among the usual sea of shooters.
Make no mistake, though: Nova’s gunners are primarily responsible for the school’s recent roll. Is a 60-percent clip from the field sustainable against Kansas’ extremely interconnected personnel? That remains to be seen, but Louisville definitely won’t long for buckets this evening.
SATURDAY NCAA FREE PICK: VILLANOVA/KANSAS OVER 144.5 POINTS