Besides two top seeds facing off, this matchup has an interesting subplot, with Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Kansas’ Devonte Graham battling for Player of the Year honors.
These are both perimeter-oriented teams, meaning the squad that gets hot from outside could very likely move on to the championship. But on the other side, the team that forces in its opponent off the three-point and focuses on the intangibles can also claim victory.
I’ll continue discussing this matchup by looking at the GTBets Final Four odds and analyze both team’s chances of covering their spread.
Kansas vs. Villanova Odds – 8:45pm on March 31 (Saturday)
- Villanova -5 / -235 moneyline
- Kansas +5 / +200 moneyline
- Over/under 154.5 (-110)
How Both Teams Got Here
In a tournament where two No. 1 seeds didn’t make it out of the second round – including Virginia’s shocking loss to No. 16 UMBC – Kansas and Villanova stand out. In a way, these two teams are punished for being on the same side of the bracket, because they now have to play each other in the first leg of the Final Four.
The Jayhawks began their tournament run by easily beating Penn and slipping by Seton Hall in the second round. They didn’t have much trouble with Clemson in the Sweet 16, but needed overtime to beat a talented Duke squad in the Elite Eight.
The Wildcasts dominated Radford in the first round, and needed a good second half run to put No. 9 Alabama away. Villanova was down to No. 5 West Virginia in the second half, but went on a big run to win this Sweet 16 matchup. They also outplayed No. 3 Texas Tech in a close Elite Eight game.
Why Villanova Will Cover -5
This isn’t just some run-and-gun team, though, because the Wildcats also rebound, pass, and play strong defense. Highlighting the passing, Villanova ranked fourth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio. This is the best Jay Wright squad ever when looking at statistics alone.
Jalen Brunson, who averages 19.2 PPG and 4.6 APG, is the top leading player that Wright has had in his coaching career. Villanova also has a future NBA lottery pick in Mikal Bridges, who averages 17.8 PPG and 5.4 RPG.
In addition to having elite guards, the Wildcats feature big men Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall, who give this team a good presence down low. And guards Donte DiVincenzo and Phil Booth are experienced role players who help this team click.
Why Kansas Will Cover +5
The Jayhawks already played a championship-style game against Duke, a team that was loaded with first-round of NBA prospects. The fact that Kansas came out on top of this game prepares them well for what could be an even tougher opponent in Villanova.
Graham has been a great leader for this squad all season, so I expect him to play well once again in this contest. He’ll need a sidekick to step it up, which could come from either Malik Newman or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
This is an unconventional starting lineup that includes four guards and one center. And Kansas’ mid-major style offense has produced great results. The big man down low is 7-footer Udoka Azubuike, who has the ability to contain Villanova’s solid frontcourt. Bill Self’s squad will hope that freshman Silvio De Sousa can also provide important contributions down low.
Kansas has been truly battle tested, given how they navigated through the toughest region (Midwest) and the nation’s strongest conference in the Big 12. Nobody is better prepared to face and possibly defeat Villanova.
X-Factors for Kansas and Villanova
The 6’6″ shooting guard no doubt has the talent to excel against any opponent. But he’ll need to avoid a repeat of the Texas Tech game, where he went 0-for-5 from three-point range. If Bridges gets going, then it frees Brunson up to play even better.
Kansas is in a similar situation to Villanova, where they can count on Graham to play like a national player of the year candidate. But they also need Newman to continue stepping up and providing support in order to win.
Newman has been huge throughout the tournament, including a 32-point performance against the Blue Devils and 28 against Seton Hall. He’s come through in the clutch when the Jayhawks have needed him most. And they’ll definitely need him against Villanova.
Final Thoughts on Kansas vs. Villanova
The Wildcats are favored by 5 points on the spread, which is a significant amount in a game between two top seeds. They also have the best odds of winning the Final Four. This team does pretty much everything right, and they have elite players in Brunson and Bridges leading them.
Of course, Kansas is no slouch either. They’ve proven themselves again and again against other top-tier competition. So it would be no surprise if they also won this game.
Either squad can claim victory here. But Villanova has the look and feel of an eventual champion. I expect them to win, but I also think that Kansas will make it close and cover their spread.
Final Score Prediction: Villanova wins 84 to 81 – Kansas covers their +5 spread.