Kelly’s, a popular Villanova hangout on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, will be rocking early Saturday when the second-seeded Wildcats face No. 1 seed Kansas in the first semifinal of the Final Four at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans (TBS, 6:09 p.m.).
The Big East Conference champion has made it this far by winning games by 20, 10, 8 and 6 points, and this undoubtedly will be its toughest test to date. The Wildcats will be without junior guard Justin Moore, the team’s second-leading scorer, due to a torn Achilles suffered late in the Wildcats’ 50-44 victory over Houston in the Elite Eight.
Sportsbooks in Pennsylvania sports betting agree the task will be a big challenge.
Villanova (30-7) is currently a 4.5-point and +165 moneyline underdog at DraftKings with an over/under total of 133 points. Kansas (32-6) is a -195 moneyline favorite, having taken 67% of bets tallied on the point spread, 66% of the point spread handle and 65% of bets on the moneyline.
For the latest updates and Pennsylvania sports betting promo codes, stay close to PennStakes.com.
Villanova coach Jay Wright is a Philadelphia icon who has led the Wildcats to their fourth overall Final Four appearance and third since 2016. Oh yeah, the last two times, a national title has come home, so Wright is looking for his third championship in the last six years. (The Wildcats also won the NCAA title in 1985 under coach Rollie Massimino.).
This season arguably has been Wright’s best coaching job ever. Saturday will be the ultimate test as he must deal with losing a starter in Moore and filling that starting position with Caleb Daniels, who normally comes off the bench. That will leave Wright even more limited with depth and options for 40 minutes.
Daniels (12 points) and Jermaine Samuels (16 points) had huge games with much-needed minutes in the win against Houston. Now they will be asked to do even more against the stellar play of All-American Ochai Agbaji, Remy Martin and the rest of the Jayhawks.
The one thing the Wildcats have in their favor is senior guard Collin Gillespie, the Big East Player of the Year.
His experience, knowledge, leadership, defensive ability and, most importantly, getting to the free throw line in key spots is crucial. When you watch Gillespie play, you are watching a player who was meant for this moment.
Previous History of Villanova-Kansas
Villanova is 5-4 all-time against Kansas, with the Wildcats winning the last meeting, 56-55, on Dec. 21, 2019, when the Jayhawks were the No. 1 team in the land.
Four of their meetings have occurred in postseason play.
In 2018, Villanova defeated Kansas, 95-79, in the NCAA national semifinals en route to a national championship. In 2016, Villanova beat Kansas, 64-59, in the NCAA regional finals, again as the Wildcats went on to win the national championship.
In 2008, Kansas beat Villanova, 72-57, in the NCAA Sweet 16. That Kansas team went on to win the national title under head coach Bill Self, who has been at the helm since 2003.
In 1968, Kansas beat Villanova, 55-48, in the NIT quarterfinals. Kansas ended up losing to Dayton in the title game, marking the only time the winner of a postseason Kansas-Villanova matchup didn’t win a title later that postseason.
ANALYSIS AND PREDICTION
The loss of Moore hurts big time for the Wildcats.
Figure on the revamped starting five (Gillespie, Samuels, Brandon Slater, Eric Dixon and Daniels) playing ironmen minutes. Even with that, Wright figures to need to get major efforts off the bench from some combination of juniors Chris Arcidiacono and Bryan Antoine and freshman Trey Patterson.
Kansas has played some of its best basketball of the season over the last four games of this tournament and has been led throughout it by super senior Martin and Ajbaji, a high-flying 6-5 guard.
Wright’s players are close, tough, know their roles, will wear you down and are as gritty as they come.
Wright is a master at figuring out something that will pave the way to a win and a shot at the title Monday night against Duke or North Carolina. For the Pennsylvania gambling enthusiasts, it will be hard to pass on the underdog Wildcats.
EmpireStakes.com prediction: Villanova 65, Kansas 61