All previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: Big East
Conference: Big 12
Date: Saturday, March 31
Time: 8:49 pm Eastern
Location: San Antonio, TX
After all the upsets on the South/West side of the bracket, on the East/Midwest side it comes down to two 1-seeds.
Strength: #1 Strength: #6
Pomeroy: #1 Pomeroy: #8
Offense: #1 Offense: #5
Defense: #13 Defense: #42
BPI: #1 BPI: #7
LRMC: #1 LRMC: #9
Consistency: #210 Consistency: #319
Schedule Strength: #10 Schedule Strength: #2
Tempo (Pomeroy): #160 Tempo: #150
AP Final Poll: #2 AP Final Poll: #4
AP Pre-season: #6 AP Pre-season: #4
SportsRatings Genetic Model:
Model Rank: #1 Model Rank: #7
Villanova's defense began the tournament at #22 and has improved to #13 in efficiency in just the last four games, making them a much better match for the Kansas offense than they would have been in mid-March. Kansas' profile looks almost the opposite of Texas Tech's—the last team Villanova beat—with a very strong offense and weak defense. That defense is going to be put to the test by Villanova; the Jayhawks' best bet might be to put all their eggs into their offensive "basket" and not burn themselves out defending. With a good performance—and they are pretty volatile—the Jayhawks could make the final.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (16): =(3)Tennessee+9, (16)Penn+28, =(4)Gonzaga+16, (1)Xavier+24, (10)Providence+20, (8)Creighton+20, (8)Seton Hall+16, (10)Butler+11, @(1)Xavier+16, @(8)Seton Hall+OT, =(10)Butler+19, =(10)Providence+OT, =(16)Radford+26, =(9)Alabama+23, =(5)West Virginia+12, =(3)Texas Tech+12
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (3): =(4)Gonzaga+16, =(5)West Virginia+12, =(3)Texas Tech+12
- Wins vs. Final Four (0): none
- Losses to tournament teams (3): @(10)Butler-8, @(10)Providence-5, @(8)Creighton-OT
- Other losses (1): St. John's-4
Overview: Villanova has actually lost to some pretty pedestrian teams—10-seeds Butler and Providence, and 8-seed Creighton, as well as St. John's when the Red Storm were in Red Hulk mode. But they also beat 1-seed Xavier twice, 3-seed Tennessee, and 4-seed Gonzaga, and there's no arguing with 30-4 when your SOS is #11. The key to Villanova is their offense; we've seen loads of teams over the years with 5 players averaging double figures, but Villanova has 6, with Jalen Brunson at 19.4 ppg and Mikal Bridges at 18.0. Yes, they're dependent on shooting the three—even moreso than the last two years—which leads to some inconsistency in play, but they shoot it far better than in their championship year.
That held true against Radford, as six Wildcats scored in double figures, making 14 of 27 threes. Against Alabama, they made 17 of 41, not nearly as good but still 41% as Bridges had 23 points. Brunson dropped 27 on West Virgina as the Wildcats made 54% of their threes. They only made 4 of 24 threes (17%) against Texas Tech but that was enough; Brunson had 15 points.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (21): =(5)Kentucky+4, (12)South Dakota St.+34, (16)Texas Southern+43, =(11)Syracuse+16, @(10)Texas+6, @(6)TCU+4, (9)Kansas St.+1, @(5)West Virginia+5, (7)Texas A&M+11, @(9)Kansas St.+14, (6)TCU+7, (5)West Virginia+8, (10)Oklahoma+30, @(3)Texas Tech+2, (10)Texas+10, =(9)Kansas St.+16, =(5)West Virginia+11, (16)Penn+16, =(8)Seton Hall+4, =(5)Clemson+4, =(2)Duke+OT
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (12): =(5)Kentucky+4, =(11)Syracuse+16, (9)Kansas St.+1, @(5)West Virginia+5, (7)Texas A&M+11, @(9)Kansas St.+14, (5)West Virginia+8, @(3)Texas Tech+2, =(9)Kansas St.+16, =(5)West Virginia+11, =(5)Clemson+4, =(2)Duke+OT
- Wins vs. Final Four (0): none
- Losses to tournament teams (3): (11)Arizona St.-10, (3)Texas Tech-12, @(10)Oklahoma-5
- Other losses (4): Washington-9, Oklahoma St.-5, @Baylor-16, @Oklahoma St.-18
Overview: Kansas was an incredible 17-3 vs. the tournament field on Selection Sunday, helped by having 6 other conference teams in the Dance. Even more amazing, they had 10 wins over teams that reached the Sweet Sixteen! Seven of these are wins over the three other Big Twelve teams that made it—Kansas State x 3, West Virginia x 3, and Texas Tech—but they also played and beat Kentucky, Syracuse, and Texas A&M. Their poor consistency rating can be seen visually in the chart above; they win big and, on rare occasion, lose badly. The Jayhawks rely on their starters more than any other team in the tournament, something that hasn't given them trouble yet on the road to the Final Four.
The team's leading scorer Devonte Graham scored 29 against Penn in a gritty win. They beat Seton Hall by 4 with Malik Newman scoring 28. The Jayhawks had another 4-point victory over Clemson where Newman led with 17. Newman was a superstar against Duke, chipping in 32 points—on 11 of 12 free throw shooting—in the overtime win.
Game Analysis: The argument against Villanova is often: what if they go cold shooting threes? That was answered against Texas Tech, when they won despite making only 4 of them. But they held their opponent to 5 of 20 shooting outside the 3-point line, which shows that their defense can rise to the occasion. They'll need every bit of that against Kansas.
The Jayhawks have their own issues on defense, but they did enough to beat Duke. And 20 other tournament teams so far this season, too. But Villanova's offense is on another level of efficiency. Kansas will have to be at the top end of their variance to stay in the game, and hope Villanova's shooting has another off-night if they want to win.
Villanova by 5
Power rating: spread
Villanova by 5.2
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
The early line matches our Strength power rating's spread almost exactly. KU has about a 2 in 5 chance of winning, according to the team's performances this season. But in the 4 tournament games, Villanova has been better each time.
Bottom line: This one is actually pretty straightforward: both teams are playing very consistently during the 4 games of the tournament so far, with very little variation despite Kansas' high volatility. In that 4-game stretch Villanova has been about 9 1/2 points better, raising their game far more than Kansas. In fact, each of Villanova's 4 tournament games outrates Kansas' best performance (against Duke). We picked Villanova to win it all from the start, so we're sticking with them to make the final with a solid defensive performance.
Final prediction: Villanova 76, Kansas 68
More previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule.