Final Four 2022: Best moments and breakdowns from Villanova-Kansas and North Carolina-Duke
The calendar has turned to April, but the last night of March Madness is drawing to a close. Saturday’s 2022 Final Four action in New Orleans featured a blue-blooded matchup and the highest ticket prices for the match.
Between the Kansas Jayhawks, Villanova Wildcats, Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels, the schools went on to win 17 NCAA championships, creating college basketball and NBA legends combined.
Check your parentheses
The No. 2 seed Wildcats faced the No. 1 seed Jayhawks to start the night. It was the fourth time Kansas coach Bill Self and Villanova’s Jay Wright faced Sweet 16 or beyond with these schools. Each time, the winner has won the title – setting a positive precedent for Self’s squad, which came out in the top 81-65.
Late in the game, the final Tobacco Road rivalry matchup between UNC and Duke in the Mike Krzyzewski era comes to an end. After an incredible game filled with lead changes and clutch shots, Hubert Davies’s Tar Heels squad won 81–77. Caleb Love led all scorers with 28 points, while Armando Bacot pulled down 21 rebounds to drop 11.
We have analysis and best moments from each game.
Loves 3 makes a difference for UNC
Duke and North Carolina played a game worthy of their rivalry on the biggest stage of the game. The national semi-final was everything it was promised. In the end, Love scored three of his 28 points on a clutch shot in the 40th minute to help the Tar Heels take an 81–77 victory.
For Krzyzewski, the loss marks the end of an incomparable career. It is true that his last team surpassed many expectations. Coach Kay did the same thing throughout his career at Duke.
The last game in a coach’s career also represented an outstanding effort by first-year coach Davis and his team. North Carolina beat the Blue Devils 13-0 at the start of the second half to take a six-point lead. The Duke then replied with his 10-2 streak, and the game continued.
After the first half of cold-shooting, the 3s started falling for Love and Brady Manek. At the other end of the floor, the Blue Devils were happy to run the ball over Manek. The player who often did this was Paolo Banchero.
Both teams feasted on aggressive boards and scored their fair share of second chances. Armando Bacot once again put up impressive numbers in that area, pulling down 21 rebels, eight of whom were on offense.
Love in particular was excellent for UNC, while Trevor Kielce came off the bench and scored 19 for Duke. With less than two minutes to play, the teams traded both 3s and a lead on three consecutive possessions, as Kielce, Manek and Wendell Moore Jr. all shot shots beyond the arc.
In the end, it came down to a free throw at one end and a clutch shot at the other. Mark Williams missed two free throws in the final minute, and on the ensuing possession, Love tops the heels with a 3 to four that will go down in North Carolina history.
The Tar Heels ended Coach Kay’s career, and would now play Kansas for the national title. — John Gasway
UNC survives and moves on!
In one of the most exciting games of the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils to reach the NCAA Tournament Finals, sending the legendary Krzyzewski with a defeat in their final March of Madness just weeks after defeating Duke. Coach K’s final regular season home game.
You know how sometimes big-time matchups just don’t live up to the hype? This is not one of those times.
‘Mark Williams’ big blow
Things are neck and neck at UNC-Duke, and Williams is cleaning up in style.
Do not look now…
…but the UNC is on fire. Duke made two baskets before the break, but the Tar Heels lead 13-0.
Fouls keep mounting but Duke’s lead is slim
Despite the phrase “foul trouble” being bandied about early and often, North Carolina and Duke played an entertaining half that ended 37–34 with the Blue Devils. Much enthusiasm came from Banchero and RJ Davis, who set the pace for their teams with 10 and 14 points respectively.
There’s also the fact that, oh well, it’s Duke and North Carolina in a national semifinal at the Superdome. These teams know each other inside and out, and they are leaving everything on the court.
As far as the problem of malpractices is concerned, it came to the fore immediately. Krzyzewski seated Williams just five minutes into the competition, when Sophiej was hit with his second foul. Theo John replaced Williams, and John blew the whistle for his four fouls in 11 minutes.
Duke then went short and finished the half, effectively, with Banchero, playing 5. Through it all, the Blue Devils continued to do what they have done throughout the tournament. Coach K’s team put the ball in the paint and converted 14 of their 25 2-point attempts.
Neither team got a boundary from the perimeter, as Duke and UNC combined shot 5-in-25 on their 3rd. This represented a definite turnaround for Manek, who entered the competition as the most prolific 3-point shooter of the tournament.
The Blue Devils restricted Manek to just 0-2 shooting from outside the arc in the first half. Luv missed all his four attempts from outside. UNC was lucky that Davis made such a massive move.
With Williams likely to play more than five minutes into the second half, and with one or both teams hitting a few shots from outside the paint, the end of the contest could be even more enjoyable. — John Gasway
City to banchero
Banchero has 10 points in the first half, the latest coming on this sweet 3-pointer.
Mark Williams threw it down
There are more official ways to keep your team on the board in the final four games… but not many.
Possibly Coach Kay’s final game coming up against his fanatics after losing to him in his final regular season home game? It could be good.
The various shades of blue for both squads are well represented in the Big Easy.
McCormack and Ku too much for Nova
Everyone will remember the poster ditched by David McCormack, but the truth is, the Kansas senior was too much for Villanova to handle overnight in the Jayhawks’ 81-65 victory.
First, dunk. With a little more than 10 minutes left in the second half, McCormack scored two points to stop him despite Jermaine Samuels’ best and ultimately futile effort. A gleeful McCormack leapt into the air and began patting the top of his head, undoubtedly a reference to the fact that he had just dunked someone else.
McCormack had every right to celebrate. His 25 points in the evening represent his highest scoring game since December of 2019. He needed just 29 minutes and 12 shots to propel his team into Monday’s national title game.
Not that McCormack didn’t get help. Ochai Agbaji hit six 3-pointers, and Christian Braun came alive after halftime with 10 points. Kansas scored 13 3-pointers, its most productive performance outside the Ark since February.
For the record, Villanova also connected 13 times on 3s. After a slow start, Colin Gillespie rolled over and hit five 3s on the way to 17 points.
The Wildcats hung around and at one point they took a lead of six. But every run of the Wildcats was answered by either McCormack or Aghazi with another score.
If it’s any consolation for Wright’s men, their year ended as the greatest free throw shooting team in men’s Division I history. Villanova made 83% of his free throws this season, breaking the record set by Harvard in 1984.
The Wildcats were on an 8-of-10 line in their last outing, but it wasn’t enough to stand in the way of the Jayhawks playing for a title on Monday night.
Jayhawks dominate early, then Nova recovers
Kansas’ version, which beat Miami 47-15 in the second half of last weekend’s regional finals, quickly returned with a vengeance against Villanova. Agazi picked up 12 points, and the Jayhawks scored seven 3 runs on their way to a 40-29 halftime lead over the Wildcats.
For most of the first half, the team of self dominated both sides of the ball. Aghazi scored a 3 on the first possession of the night, and at the other end, Keu repeatedly tripped and frustrated the usually clumsy Gillespie.
Kansas started the game 10–0, and the Jayhawks were in control in the first 15 minutes. The Wildcats then extended their 10-0 run with three offensive rebounds on the same possession from Brandon Slater. Slater’s hard work on the glass resulted in a timeout called Gillespie 3 and a frustrated self.
The thinking going into the game was that the Jayhawks could use their size to gain an advantage. McCormack made that look wise with 13 first-half points, many of which came early on post-up deep in the paint.
However, if there was any surprise, it is that Keu has been unable to put that shape to good use on his defensive glass. Villanova pulled down nine offensive rebounds, and those second chances are about to keep the Wildcats in this game.
Villanova will have to be happy that Christian Brawn and Remy Martin have combined for just three points. Then again, Kansas doesn’t need them. Aghazi and McCormack carried the load for an offense that scored 40 points in just 30 possessions.
The game is being played at the preferred pace of the Wildcats, but Wright’s team is unable to find a stop. An adjustment that might help with the second half? Watch to see if Villanova’s defender holds onto Agazi and refuses to help dribble penetration. — John Gasway
Source: ESPN, Direct News 99