#2 Villanova Wildcats (32-5) vs. #1 Kansas Jayhawks (33-4)
When: Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 8:49 p.m.
Where: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, Ky.
How They Got In: Won Big 12 Conference Tournament
NCAA Tournament Journey so Far:
– Beat #16 Austin Peay 105-79 in Opening Round
– Beat #9 UConn 73-61 in Round of 32
– Beat #5 Maryland 79-63 in Sweet 16
Key Players for Kansas: #1 Wayne Selden Jr. (6-5, 230) Jr., G; #34 Perry Ellis (6-8, 225) Sr., F; #33 Landen Lucas (6-10, 240) Jr., F
Scouting Report: Like Villanova, Kansas did not leave the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament alive in the past couple of years. It’s only fitting that these two teams will meet each other to play for the right to move onto the Final Four. Leading the charge is senior Perry Ellis, who was Kansas’ top scorer this season. Ellis averaged 17.2 points per game this season and 5.9 boards per game. Ellis has steady footwork in the post and finish with some finesse moves. He also has a reliable mid-range jumper to help diversify his attack. He has turned up his intensity on the floor, scoring over 20 points in each of the tournament games so far. Ellis had his best game of the tournament so far, putting up 27 points in the win.
On the defensive end of the court, he helps keep watch of hte paint. He isn’t a crazy shot blocker, but he does a good job of playing aggressively in the post without notching fouls. The 6-8 senior has shown his veteran knowledge, keeping out of foul trouble all throughout the season. So far this year, he has never fouled out and had four fouls in a game only once. Helping Ellis in the post is junior forward Landen Lucas. Lucas was pretty quiet throughout the regular season but like Ellis, he elevated his play in the tournament. Lucas has made 14-of-18 shot attempts and has cleaned up the offensive glass. He’s averaging around double-double figures through three games thus far.
Moving over to the backcourt, Wayne Selden Jr. has been a force on both ends of the court. Selden is a reliable second option for Kansas, right behind Ellis. He has been a consistent scorer in the tournament, averaging 18.3 points per game. He is an agile, quick guard that can attack the basket or pull up from long range. He is shooting a touch above 40 percent from beyond the arc. On defense, he is one of the top on-ball defenders there are. Selden, along with teammates Devonte Graham and Frank Mason III, compose a strong perimeter defense that has given opponents problems.
In the Sweet 16 game against Maryland, Kansas was able to pull away in the second half behind a staunch defensive effort that left the Terrapins disoriented. It was a close first half, but Kansas was able to win 79-63 after holding Maryland to just 8-of-23 (34.8 percent) overall and 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) from three-point range.
Even while Graham and Mason III have been inconsistent when it comes to scoring the ball and playing on offense, they have been big time contributors on the defensive end. Kansas is athletic and if it can get out in transition, it will punish opposing teams for making mistakes.
Lastly, according to KenPom, Kansas is the seventh best team offensively, the fourth best team defensively, and the top team overall. The Jayhawks are in the middle of a 17 game winning streak.
Outlook: Vegas has Kansas as a three point favorite over Villanova. The Wildcats have shot the lights out thus far, beating opponents in the tournament by an average margin of victory of 24.0 points. During this run, they shot a tournament-best 59.0 percent overall and 53.2 percent from long range. I don’t see Kansas falling to the same fate as Villanova’s past foes in this tournament.
The Perry Ellis-Kris Jenkins matchup will be one of the most interesting ones in this game. Ellis, a post moves and mid-range connoisseur, will provide an interesting challenge for Jenkins. While Ellis has the length, he’s not used to having to close out to quick-trigger shooters. On the other side, Jenkins will have to most likely cover Ellis.
Another matchup to watch is birthday boy Ryan Arcidiacono going up against Selden Jr. Selden will most likely be matched up against Arcidiacono on both ends of the court. Both point guards have been playing well in the tournament thus far.
The key to this game will be maintaining momentum all throughout the game. If Villanova takes the lead early, it cannot allow Kansas to have any breathing room for all 40 minutes. Miami was able to come back after being rocked in the beginning of the game, a team with more talent, experience, and discipline like the Jayhawks would have completed that comeback by actually taking the lead. The Jayhawks are not new to dogfights, getting into that double-overtime thriller with Oklahoma earlier in the season.
In the rematch of 2014’s Battle 4 Atlantis semifinal, both teams are now all grown up. Just like back then, it’ll most likely be another closely contested game that will come down to the last possession. There’s something about the way Villanova has been playing as of late that leans toward a similar result as last time.