March Madness is back as we remember it this year with fans in the stands and scattered across the country in crowded arenas. The NCAA tournament has also given college basketball fans across the country a lot of historical upheavals and millions of broken braces, but there’s nothing Cinderella in the Blue Blood programs and matches in the Final Four on Saturday night. Kansas, Vilanova, Duke and North Carolina together played in 61 matches in the finals of four and 17 national championships, including winners in seven of the last 13 games for the title. It’s a field of “Final Four” blue blood with programs, wide coverage and recognition, making Saturday night one of the most anticipated evenings in college history.
The four programs even have some history against each other. Kansas and Vilanova played in the NCAA tournaments in 2008, 2016 and 2018, and the last meeting took place in the Final Four, and the winner is vying for the national championship in all cases. Duke defeated Kansas in Mike Krzyzewski’s first national championship in 1991. Vilanova defeated Duke on his way to Jay Wright’s first Four Final and then defeated North Carolina on a whistle to get Wright’s first title in the program. The only programs that do not have a history of NCAA tournaments are the two that know each other best: rivals on Tobacco Road from Duke and North Carolina.
Sowed at No. 1 in Kansas and at No. 2 Vilanova will receive historic fights at 6:09 p.m. on the ET fac from New Orleans, in a rematch with the national semifinals from San Antonio four years ago. After Game 1, around 8:49 p.m., Duke No. 2 will play with North Carolina No. 8 seeded. Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement tour has become one of the big draws for sports fans, and now the Blue Devils’ dream season will be on a conviction against their biggest rival. Given the history of both of these programs in the Final Four and the seriousness of where both the Duke and North Carolina are at the moment – the Blue Devils are finishing Coach K’s final season, and North Carolina has reached the Final Four in its first year with Hubert Davis – the scene could not be bigger.
You can understand why fans are so excited to watch and broadcast this Final Four, because that’s not half of what you should pay attention to on Saturday night. Let’s move on to the main plots of the national semifinal this weekend.
A historic milestone for the best rivalry in college basketball
The Duke and North Carolina have played 257 times, but never in an NCAA tournament, so the meeting took place not only in the final four, but in the whole context of this season, which gives this event a historic weight. Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils hoped to end the season here with a rich talent list of NBA’s future talents who started the year with a spot in the top 10, reached No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll and won the ACC’s first regular season crown since 2010. But on the way to No. 2 Duke had some setbacks, more notable than North Carolina’s 94-81 victory in coach K.’s final game at Cameron’s indoor stadium.
Publicly, Duke players have avoided establishing strong ties between this loss and Saturday’s national semifinals. It was a very businesslike approach by the Blue Devils – one that was very different from the passion that determined the rivalry between the Duke and North Carolina during Coach K.’s stay in Durham. Duke’s victory in North Carolina at Cameron on March 5 was the last in a long line of landmarks – wefor you before the game – in the competition that is there with the best not only in college basketball, but in all American team sports. Other competitions already had their post-season moment, but so far the Duke of North Carolina has remained within the friendly confines of the ACC regular season and the conference tournament. Now it’s happening in the “Final Four” with a wide audience and a national championship. Whatever happens, Saturday night’s game will be a historic moment in the rivalry.
Vilanov’s adjustments after Justin Moore’s injury
Apart from four wins, no aspect of the elite eight had a greater impact on Saturday’s national team semi-finals than Justin Moore’s injury in the last minute of Vilanova’s 50-44 victory over Houston in the Southern Region final. Moore suffered an Achilles injury and was ruled out the day after the game with Wildcats coach Jay Wright, noting the significance of the loss of the team captain, second-ranked scorer and “one of the best guards in rebounds” at the time in Villanueva.
Now that Wright and Wildcats are in New Orleans, the message has become clear: they need to adjust the way they play with Moore, off the lineup. Villana has already had a small rotation of six players, so even the loss of one will mean more responsibility for players who have not been in these places before. Look for Chris Archdeacon and possibly Brian Antoine to be the X-Factors with a bigger minute, but Wright also had to set up a variety of ways to play Moore in situations outside, press breaks and other sets that will be key to exit strengths. Kansas.
Lone seed № 1 somehow under the radar
The meeting of the Duke and North Carolina takes away a lot of oxygen before the final four, and Villan’s two national championships in the last five tournaments make it easy to focus on the Wildcats and their injury problems. One way or another, the most winning program in the history of Division I Men’s College Basketball is the least discussed finalist of the Four Blue Blood Finals, and besides, the Jayhawks are the only No. 1 left in this tournament!
But Kansas knows it’s not a competition for popularity, and being below the hype before the Final Four means nothing to their chances of winning the national championship. The riders really have the “Jayhawks” with the second best chance of winning (+180), on the list with a slight margin of Duke (+155) at the time of writing. Bill Self’s group is knowledgeable – four seniors, a junior and two sophomores make up a rotation of seven people – and has its own unique motivations after the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled when Kansas had the best team in the country. With several players from this team here in the Final Four, including the 2022 Big 12 Player of the Year Okahi Agbaji, there is an opportunity to win the fourth national championship program, an elusive achievement for the Jayhawks over the past decade.
Schedule of the final four for 2022
- (1) Kansas vs. (2) Vilanova – 18:09 on TBS (watch live)
- (2) Duke vs. (8) North Carolina – 20:49 on TBS (watch live)