To say the 2022 NCAA Tournament has been unpredictable would be the understatement of a lifetime. This year’s tourney has truly put the “madness” in March Madness. If you had Villanova, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina in the Final Four, congrats on being a liar!
The Wildcats and the Jayhawks will square off on Saturday afternoon in the first Final Four game of the day. The oddsmakers over at BetOnline have the top-seeded Jayhawks favored by four points in this one.
While just one of the players from Villanova’s 2018 title team still remains, it’s hard to argue with the winning pedigree Wright has fostered in recent years. Frankly, the second-seeded Wildcats haven’t endured much of a sweat through their first four tournament games of the year. Nova picked up double-digit wins over Delaware and Ohio State in the first two rounds. The Wildcats upended a Cinderella Michigan squad by eight points in the Sweet Sixteen before knocking off Houston by six points in the Elite Eight.
That one holdover from the last title team happens to be Collin Gillespie, the Wildcats’ heart and soul. Gillespie was the backup to Jalen Brunson on the championship team. The 22-year-old grad student is as battle-tested as any player in America, and his presence alone makes the Wildcats a legitimate threat to win it all again this spring.
Gillespie played just eight minutes the last time Villanova met Kansas in the 2018 Final Four. It’s safe to say he’ll play a more important role this time around. Gillespie averaged 15.3 points per game through the first three games of this year’s tournament, but he struggled in the Elite Eight win over Houston. Gillespie put just six points on the board on 1-for-6 shooting from the floor. He’ll have to be more of a scoring presence in this one if the Wildcats are going to pull off the upset against Kansas.
Defense wins championships, they say. Villanova held the high-scoring Houston team to just 44 points in the Elite Eight. Villanova hasn’t yielded more than 61 points in any of their four tournament games to this point, either.
Nova is 20-15-2 against the spread so far this year, which comes out to a cover rate of about 57 percent. The Wildcats have covered the spread in each of their four tournament games to this point, including as three-point underdogs in the last round against No. 5 Houston. The Wildcats also covered a sizable 15-point spread against Delaware in the round-of-64. As an underdog this season, Villanova is 2-3-1 against the spread.
While Gillespie is a battle-tested player, Kansas has about as impressive a resume as any team in America. Bill Self’s squad won the Big 12 regular-season title, which was no small feat given the overall quality of the conference. Kansas’ six total losses this season are more than we’re used to seeing from a top seed, but the Big 12 was deep!
In addition to a regular season title, the Jayhawks also stormed through the Big 12 tournament, culminating with a relatively easy win over Texas Tech in the championship game. The Jayhawks come to this one riding a nine-game winning streak since a late-season loss to TCU.
Kansas has dealt with some adversity, as well. The Jayhawks trailed by six points against a red-hot Miami team at halftime of their Elite Eight showdown. However, whatever Self told the team at halftime worked wonders. Kansas absolutely crushed the Hurricanes in the second half, using a 47-15 run over the game’s final 20 minutes to come away with a fairly easy victory in the end.
Kansas is 19-19 against the spread so far this year. The Jayhawks have successfully covered the spread in six of their last eight games, however, including as five-point favorites over Miami in the last game. Kansas is also 19-18 ATS so far this season as a betting favorite.
Villanova Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks March Madness Game Pick
Kansas is a top seed for a reason. While Villanova has more recently-won banners hanging in the rafters, the Jayhawks are arguably the best two-way team in the nation. Despite a lack of superstar-level talent, the Jayhawks’ fast-paced offense is incredibly difficult to stop.
Against a team of Kansas’ caliber, Villanova can’t afford another lackluster effort from Gillespie. Kansas has enough quality defenders to make things difficult for the Wildcats’ star. Given the quality of competition both teams have faced this season, I have a hard time thinking Kansas can’t win this game pretty easily. I like the Jayhawks to exact some revenge from their 2018 Final Four loss to Villanova with a stirring victory on Saturday night. Take Kansas to win and cover the four-point spread in New Orleans to advance to the National Championship Game.
Villanova Wildcats vs. Kansas Jayhawks Betting Recap
- Moneyline: Villanova Wildcats +165, Kansas Jayhawks -190
- Point Spread: Villanova Wildcats +4 (-110), Kansas Jayhawks -4 (-110)
- Over/Under: Over 132.5 points (-110), Under 132.5 points (-110)
- Pick: Kansas Jayhawks -4 (-110)