NCAA March Madness 2022: Teams’ road to the Final Four

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NCAA March Madness Men’s tournament is now entering the Final Four round. Image:

The NCAA men’s March Madness tournament is getting closer to crowning a champion. There were a lot of exciting games and upset wins throughout the first four rounds of the tournament.

The Final Four round of the tournament will begin April 2, culminating in the crowning of a national champion.

The Duke Blue Devils will take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in another installment of their rivalry, and the Kansas Jayhawks will face off against the Villanova Wildcats.

(2) Duke Blue Devils vs. (8) North Carolina Tar Heels

Duke had a very good regular season. The Blue Devils were fourth in the country in field goal percentage this season shooting 49%, making this team an offensive threat. They finished the regular season 26-5 and locked in the No. 2 seed in the West region of the bracket.

Duke got the ball rolling with a win over No. 15 seed Cal State Fullerton and pulled away late to win against No. 5 seed Michigan State. The road did get a bit tougher for Duke. They had to win a close game 78-73 against No.3 seed Texas Tech and fought off No. 4 seed Arkansas with a 78-69 win to get to the Final Four.

Future NBA lottery pick Paolo Banchero has been the catalyst of this successful offense this season and continues to shine. Banchero is averaging 18.5 points per game in March and has not slowed down.

The Blue Devils have also gotten help from Wendell Moore Jr. and AJ Griffin, who have been deadly from beyond the arc. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski in his final season has a rotation that is finally finding a rhythm.

For North Carolina, they have made a surprising run in the tournament. In the early part of the season, they looked like a team that would be missing March Madness. However, a six-game win streak to finish the season propelled them to a 23-8 record and a spot in the tournament.

As the eighth seed in the East region of the bracket, the Tar Heels have handled their own. They blew out No. 9 seed Marquette 95-63 and got a huge win against the defending champ Baylor Bears in overtime 93-86.

The Tar Heels went on to grab a surprising win against No. 4 seed UCLA 73-66 and ended the Cinderella story for the No. 15 seed St. Peter’s Peacocks with a blowout win to send them to the Final Four.

North Carolina has weapons in Brady Manek and Caleb Love, who have been on fire offensively in this tournament. Manek is averaging 21.5 points per game while Love is scoring 18 per game and averaging 52% from the three point line.

They also have help in the interior with Armando Bacot. He’s a forward who can make shots, clean up rebounds and record a double-double each night, averaging 16.5 points per game and 15.8 rebounds per game.

This will be the third time this season that these two teams meet. Duke won the first matchup 87-67, but North Carolina got its revenge by winning the second meeting 94-81.

I think this will be a close game to the very end, but I think Duke will outlast North Carolina. North Carolina has been playing excellent ball, but Duke has too many weapons that will be hard for the Tar Heels to keep up with.

(1) Kansas Jayhawks vs (2) Villanova Wildcats

Kansas has had a much better season compared to last year. Last season for them and for many teams was shortened due to COVID. The Jayhawks would finish 20-8 and did not go far in the March Madness tournament, getting knocked out in the second round.

This season, they finished first in the Big-12 conference and were 16th in the country in points per game and field goal percentage (122nd and 199th last season). The Jayhawks finished the regular season with a record of 25-6 which gave them the No.1 seed in the Midwest region of the bracket.

Kansas started off the tournament with a blow out win against No. 16 seed Texas Southern 83-56. The next two games would be challenging for Kansas. They had to squeak by No. 9 seed Creighton 79-72 and No. 4 seed Providence 66-61. Finally, Kansas used a huge second half swing to beat the No. 10 seed Miami Hurricanes 76-50 to get to the Final Four.

Kansas has weapons in the duo of All-American guard Ochai Agbaji and big man David McCormick. Agbaji is averaging 18.9 points per game in March while McCormick is averaging 10 points per game.

McCormick’s presence in the center position and their offense’s pick-and-roll style of play has opened up space for Agbaji and other guards, and has revealed how they play as a team.

Villanova had a much improved regular season this year. After finishing 16-5 in the COVID-shortened season last year, the Wildcats finished this season with a 23-7 record as Big East conference champions.

Despite the Wildcats averaging 71.9 points per game which was ranked 152nd in the country, the free throw shooting has been their main source of offense. They are shooting 83% from the charity stripe, which is the best in the country.

Villanova started off the tournament with a joyride over No. 15 seed Delaware 80-60 and a comfortable 71-61 win over No. 7 seed Ohio State. Villanova would go on to face No. 11 seed Michigan and No. 5 seed Houston and come away with single digit wins (63-55 versus Michigan and 50-44 versus Houston) to advance to the Final Four.

The Wildcats’ experience has helped them win games. Players like Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels took advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility because of COVID and are playing in their fifth year. What a difference it can make having fifth year seniors on the floor for your team.

Gillespie is averaging 15.6 points per game in March while Samuels is averaging 11.1 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game. These two play an important role for the offense.

The free shooting continues to be immaculate. Villanova is shooting 53/59 (88.9%) from the free throw line in this month alone. As long as they continue to draw fouls, the free throw shooting will stay dominant and the offense will find ways to get points on the board.

This is the first meeting between these two teams this season and it should be a close one. I have Villanova winning this one. From their incredible free throw shooting to the experience sprinkled throughout their roster, the Wildcats have the edge to win this game.

These two games are going to be exciting and fun to watch and I can’t wait to see who will finally hoist the trophy as the national champion. I predict Duke and Villanova will be facing each other in the National Championship game on April 4.

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