Second Semifinal 7:49 p.m., TBS: (1) Kansas vs. (1) Villanova
As arguably the best team left in this year’s Final Four, Villanova (34-4) is the favorite to win it all, but it has to advance past Saturday’s matchup against fellow No. 1 seed Kansas (31-7) in the second semifinal. The Wildcats have perhaps more offensive punch than they did with the 2016 national championship squad. They rank No. 1 nationally in offensive efficiency (127.3), which is higher than two years ago (122.8). However, ’Nova was better defensively back then (90.8 to 94.6). Kansas wasn’t expected to break UCLA’s streak for consecutive conference titles with 14 straight Big 12 crowns this year, but it managed to hold off several tough league foes. The Jayhawks are the best three-point-shooting team left in March Madness at 40.3 percent. Their four-guard lineup of Devonte’ Graham (40.3), Malik Newman (41.5), Lagerald Vick (37.8) and Svi Mykhailiuk (44.7) is deadly from long range.
Players to watch
Villanova: Jalen Brunson is the Wildcats’ best player and leading scorer (19.2 ppg) and is the Big East and national player of the year. Mikal Bridges (17.8 ppg and 43.6 three-point percentage) is the team’s best NBA prospect. But inside could be where the game is won Saturday. The Wildcats didn’t shoot well from deep (4-for-24) in the Elite Eight victory over Texas Tech. But they won the rebounding battle 51-33, including 20 offensive rebounds. Center Omari Spellman was big in the Sweet 16. But post Eric Paschall had a breakout last game with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Kansas: Newman is playing like the McDonald’s All-America he was coming out of high school. The former Mississippi State transfer is leading the remaining NCAA tournament players in scoring with 21.8 points in four games, which includes a 28-point game against Seton Hall in the second round and 32 points (13 in overtime) in the Elite Eight overtime win vs. Duke. Newman was challenged by coach Bill Self to play better than he did in the regular season (12.9 ppg), and he responded big time.
Keys to victory
Wildcats win if: They score 60 points or more Saturday. They are 12-0 this season when reaching that mark.
Jayhawks win if: They can get a big game from Big 12 Player of the Year Graham, who is shooting only 9-for-29 in his past three games.
Prediction: Villanova 76, Kansas 67