Four teams remain in the 2022 NCAA men's basketball tournament, with four legendary schools looking to add to already impressive legacies.
The last hurrah and farewell tour for Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski has reached the 2022 Final Four. Already one of the best college coaches of all-time, Coach K is two wins away from retiring on top.
Standing in his way? A familiar foe to start things out and two other powerhouse schools on the other side of the bracket vying for their own glory.
No matter what happens, Coach K's illustrious career will be forever remembered. His name will be mentioned with the likes of John Wooden, Dean Smith, John Thompson, Roy Williams, Bobby Knight, Jim Calhoun, and Jim Boeheim as coaches who helped grow the game and establish winning traditions for certain schools. (The last of the breed will be Boeheim, still coaching at Syracuse).
The next stepping stone for Duke on this path is the North Carolina Tar Heels. This will be the 98th meeting between a Duke-led Coach K squad and the Tar Heels. Coach K holds the edge, 50-47. A victory will on Saturday will move Duke one step closer to tying the Tar Heels for the third-most National Championships, with six.
The Final Four is represented by four schools that have 17 men's National Championships between them. UNC (6) and Duke (5) are tops among these fours, with Villanova and Kansas with three each. It's been rare in recent years to see this much power and hardware represented in the Final Four. Kansas is the only 1-seed remaining, with two-seeds (Duke, Villanova) and an 8-seed (UNC) rounding things out.
For all the fantastic action we've seen in the first two weekends, this third weekend promises to be something else. Four powerhouse programs vying for the top spot of the 2021-22 season. Let's hope it lives up to the hype.
Duke vs UNC
The Duke Blue Devils (32-6) took care of business in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 with victories over the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Arkansas Razorbacks. Both teams, with strong defense and experience players, posed a threat to Duke. And the Blue Devils rose to the occasion. They shot 51.9 percent (including 71 percent in the second-half) in a five-point victory over Texas Tech and 54.7 percent in a nine-point victory over Arkansas.
The Blue Devils have been efficient all tournament, shooting over 50 percent in all four of their games. There were some nerves in the Sweet 16, falling behind 10-2 against Texas Tech but they overcame that and were much more relaxed against Arkansas.
This is Duke's first appearance in the Final Four since 2015 and Coach K's 13th-time reaching this far in the tournament. They are averaging 79.7 points per game in this year's event, with a +16 advantage on the boards, while holding opponents to 69.7 points.
One of the things often talked about when making a deep tournament run is solid bench play. This year is definitely an anomaly, with each team relying on their talented starters plus one or two key players off the bench.
Duke is no different, with the starters gaining the majority of the minutes. Paolo Banchero is averaging 18.5 points per game this tournament. Mark Williams has been the best all-around player in the tournament for the Blue Devils, totaling 58 points, 35 rebounds, and 16 blocks. He's also shooting 80.6 percent (25-31).
Wendell Moore Jr. has been steady with 54 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists and AJ Griffin had his best game of the tournament in the Elite 8 with 18 points on 7-9 shooting against Arkansas. Prior, Griffin was 10-25 from the field.
Jeremy Roach hasn't consistently been in double figures but he delivered against Texas Tech. On 7-11 shooting, with clutch shots down the stretch, Roach scored 15 points. He also had 4 rebounds and 5 assists that game.
This talented group will take the court against a Tar Heels (28-9) team with plenty of talent of their own. This will be the third meeting between the teams this season, with Duke taking the first and UNC winning the latter. And, despite their storied rivalry, the two teams have never met in the Final Four.
A high-flying UNC offense was grounded slightly in the last two games. 1st-year head coach Hubert Davis had the Tar Heels offense rolling in the first two games, averaging 94 points per game. That number dipped to 71 over the last two North Carolina was able to get stingy on defense.
UCLA scored 66 against the Tar Heels, while 15-seed Saint Peters finally saw their magical tourney run come to an end by scoring only 49 points in the Elite 8 contest.
UNC has been dominating on the boards, holding a +49 advantage in that department. Cleaning in the glass in style is Armando Bacot, who had 22 (to go along with 20 points) against Saint Peters. Bacot has a double-double in each tournament game, averaging nearly 17 points and 16 rebounds per game.
Bacot also has seven blocked shots.
Brady Manek is the leading scorer for the Tar Heels in the tournament, averaging 21.5 points. Manek is 16-34 from three-point range. Though he struggled against UCLA, shooting only 38.5 percent from the field, Manek knocked down over 60 percent in the other three games.
Caleb Love had one off game, too, this one against Baylor. Love was in foul trouble and had only 5 points while committing six turnovers. Love has been stellar in the other three games, totaling 67 points. He had 30 points in the victory over UCLA, scoring 27 in the second-half.
RJ Davis has the ability to catch fire, scoring 30 points in the victory over Baylor. However, Davis has scored only 25 points in the other three games, shooting 6-32 from the field.
Prediction: Duke 78 UNC 74
Villanova vs Kansas
A rematch of the 2018 semifinal carries with it just as much weight as the battle of ACC schools on the other side of the bracket. It will be each school's first appearance in the Final Four since that fateful meeting.
This time around, it will be the Kansas Jayhawks who aim to be on the winning side of things.
Villanova won that contest, later defeating the Michigan Wolverines in the title game.
The Wildcats (30-7) will be somewhat limping into this semifinal match-up. Starter Justin Moore went down late in Villanova's Elite 8 victory over Houston, an injury later determined to be a torn Achilles.
Moore was averaging 13 points per game in the tournament, with a high of 21 against Delaware, but was struggling to shoot well (17-45). The same shooting struggles can be said about Villanova altogether.
The Wildcats began the tournament decent enough, hitting 50.9 percent of their shots. As the tournament has progressed, that number has gone down, with the most recent a 28.8 percent performance against the Houston Cougars. Threes haven't been much better, with Villanova only 14-51 the last two games.
Free throw shooting has been a saving grace for the Wildcats, who have won nine straight and 14 of their last 15. They hit 15-15 from the charity stripe against Houston and have only missed six (53-59) in four tournament games.
Jermaine Samuels is leading Villanova in tournament play with 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Samuels had a double-double against Houston (16/10) and had 22 points in the Wildcats victory over Michigan.
Collin Gillespie is putting in 13 points per game, two points below his season average. Gillespie has struggled with his shot, going 15-45 (8-32 from deep), and has 16 rebounds and 11 assists in this year's tournament.
Off the bench, Caleb Daniels has scored 44 points and collected 25 rebounds. Daniels, too, is struggling with his shot, connecting on 14-43 (6-21 from three).
The Wildcats are locked in on defense, with Delaware's 44 percent the highest field goal percentage allowed in the tournament by Villanova while holding opponents to 17-80 from three-point range.
They've allowed only 55 points per game, which will be tested by the Kansas Jayhawks (32-6), who have averaged 76 points in four tournament games. The defense of Kansas has been steady as well, holding opponents to a shade under 60 points per game.
This will be the first Final Four appearance for Kansas since the 2018 loss to Villanova. They arrived here in style with a 26-point victory over the Miami Hurricanes, outscoring the Hurricanes 47-15 in the second half of that Elite 8 game.
Four players have been powering the Jayhawks, led by sixth-man Remy Martin. Martin has scored 67 points, shooting better than 50 percent the first three games. He also has 21 rebounds and had a stellar game against Providence with 23 points and 7 rebounds.
Ochai Agbaji has been consistent with 49 points and 23 rebounds. Agbaji has eight steals and, while he doesn't shoot many threes, has struggled a bit by going 4-15.
Jalen Wilson is a huge reason the Jayhawks hold a +47 advantage in rebounds during the tournament. Wilson has collected 10 or more in three straight games and has 42 for the tournament. He's also contributed 46 points but has struggled, going 16-47 (2-14 from beyond the arc).
David McCormack has chipped in 39 points, with a high of 15 against Miami.
Prediction: Kansas 68 Villanova 62
Final Four action takes place on Saturday (4/2) with the National Title game taking place on Monday (4/4).
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