WHEN: Saturday April 2nd, 6:09 p.m. E.T.
MAJOR STORYLINES: Both Lon Kruger and Jay Wright are two of the most underrated coaches in all of college basketball. Both are on track for what may potentially be a Hall of Fame career, but that’s not the only thing that they have in common: This is the furthest that either of them has ever advanced in the NCAA tournament, and both of them have only been to a single Final Four before this season. In other words, their Final Four résumé kind of hinges on how they end up performing in this weekend. Only one of them will be able to leave town while being able to say that they have played for a national title.
The storyline that is going to matter during the game itself will be the ability of these two teams to hit threes. We’ve been over this time and again — Oklahoma and Villanova both shoot more than 40 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the three-point line — and NRG Stadium is notorious for being a building where three-point shooting goes to die. Villanova has proven that they can win games when they aren’t shooting the ball well. Can Oklahoma?
KEY MATCHUP: Who is guarding Buddy Hield. Do I really need to explain this one? I don’t think I do, mostly because I already spent 1,500 words breaking down how Hield gets guarded.
X-FACTOR: The play of Kris Jenkins, Villanova’s stretch four. Jenkins is one of the most unique players in the country. He’s undersized and less athletic than just about anyone he will square off with at the power forward spot, but he’s been arguably Villanova’s best offensive weapon over the course of the last six weeks. He’s very difficult for opposing fours to cover. Can Ryan Spangler stay with him?
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POINT SPREAD: Villanova -2
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- When does Buddy Hield go crazy? Because it’s going to happen at some point. As Ryan Spangler told me, “Every game I know something crazy’s coming. I just wait for it.” When does it happen and how long does it last?
- Villanova’s real advantage is going to be at the forward spots. Oklahoma doesn’t really have anyone that is a good matchup for either Kris Jenkins or Josh Hart. If it is Hield who is matched up with Hart, the dirty little secret in Norman is that Buddy doesn’t love playing defense, and Hart is a guy who will take advantage of that. One other note on this: Oklahoma loves to play a switching man-to-man defense, so worrying about matchups may end up being a moot point.
- How well will Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins play? Because those are the two dudes that can actually make Villanova play for selling out defensively on Hield. Both are good enough that, when they’re playing and shooting well, they can win a game by themselves.
CBT PREDICTION: Villanova gets the job done, but it will be close. I smell a final possession game.