0 out of 6
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The matchup for the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball championship game will be determined after Saturday’s Final Four action at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
Kansas led the day’s first game with an 81-65 win over Villanova. Center David McCormack (25 points, 10-of-12 shooting) had arguably his best game of the season, and All-American Ochai Agbaji (21 points, 6-of-7, 3PT) had his best game of the tournament. Villanova star Collin Gillespie finished his illustrious collegiate career with 17 points as the team’s best.
What followed was arguably the most anticipated NCAA tournament game of all time.
For the first time ever, Duke and North Carolina brought the sport’s greatest rivalry to the NCAA tournament, and the game was everything fans could have hoped for and more.
The back-and-forth contest ended in an 81-77 win for the No. 8 Tar Heels, with Caleb Love delivering the dagger when he drilled a three-pointer with 28 seconds left to improve North Carolina by four points.
Love led four Tar Heels by double digits with 28 points while Armando Bacot (11 points, 21 rebounds) had another double-double inside. In what is almost certainly the last game in a Duke uniform, future NBA lottery winner Paolo Banchero bagged 20 points for the Blue Devils.
Let’s take a quick look at the day’s biggest winners and losers, aside from what the scoreboard showed after the last buzzer.
1 out of 6
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At the start of Saturday’s game, Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji hadn’t quite looked like the player to win Big 12 Player of the Year and was a first-team All-American.
The 6’5″ senior averaged 18.9 points per game with an impressive 18-20 performance in 33 games before March Madness. However, in his first four games of this year’s NCAA tournament, he put up a lackluster performance averaging 12, 3 points and posting a season-low five points against Providence in the Sweet Sixteen.
He fired against Villanova and drilled four early three-pointers to put the Jayhawks to a 19-8 lead with 11:48 in the first half. He hit two more three-pointers before his first miss of the night to finish with 21 points in a highly efficient 6-of-8 night of shooting.
While he struggled early in the tournament, Agbaji proved again on Saturday that he’s the type of player who can lead his team to victory.
2 out of 6
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A slow pace, strong three-point shooting, and a relentless defense have been the Villanova Wildcats’ calling cards throughout their winning streak over the past decade.
They only allowed 80+ points in a game five times during the regular season, going 2-3 when their defense couldn’t control the tempo.
Do this 2-4.
The Jayhawks amassed 81 points on a blistering 53.7 percent shots from the field to seal their title game ticket, and time and again they capitalized on wide-open looks on the perimeter by connecting from beyond the arc on 13 of 24 attempts.
It was only the ninth time in 38 games that the Wildcats have yielded double-digit threes to an opponent, and the 54.2 percent the Jayhawks shot was easily the best percentage of the bunch in these high-volume perimeter shooters.
It would be easy to look at the box score and call it a hot shooting night for Kansas, but the Villanova defense couldn’t close shooters all night.
The next guy on this list deserves a lot of credit for that.
3 out of 6
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It’s no secret that the Jayhawks are a different team when David McCormack is at his best.
The Kansas roster is packed with guard talent, but McCormack is able to add a whole other dimension to his offense when he draws attention in color.
He did just that with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half, and while he spent the final minutes of the half with two fouls on the bench, it was clear before halftime that Villanova would need to find a way to slow down the big man from Kansas when he wanted to get back in the game.
Instead, it was more of the same thing in the second half.
The 6’10”, 250-pound senior finished the season with a season-high 25 points on 10 of 12 shots from the field and 5 of 6 from the free throw line, turning the script around after being limited to single-digit points in three of the team’s first four NCAA tournament games.
More of that in the title game will put the Jayhawks in a great position to fly a banner.
4 out of 6
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Caleb Love didn’t score his first points on Saturday night until 4:32 of the first half.
He went into halftime with six points on 3-of-8 shooting and 0-of-4 from the arc as he was mostly not a factor in a game that led Duke 37-34 at break.
The 6’4″ runner-up knocked down a pair of threes early in the second half and that seemed to spark his offensive play. He finished the game with 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting and he delivered one of the biggest shots from the start in North Carolina history all the way.
With the Tar Heels leading by a margin, he buried a three with 28 seconds left on the clock to make it a two-possession game. He then knocked down three of four free throws as the Blue Devils started fouling to seal the win.
His 28-point breakout was his second-highest scoring game of the season, behind only his 30-point blast against UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen.
Another strong game against Kansas on Monday could see him walk away with the NCAA Tournament Outstanding Player award.
5 out of 6
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15,100 days ago Mike Krzyzewski won his first game as head coach of the Duke Blue Devils.
His legendary career ends two days before the end of the storybook when Coach K rides into the sunset after the national title game.
The Hall of Famer coach did a masterful job navigating two quick fouls from center Mark Williams, getting some big minutes from Theo John and riding Trevor Keels hot hand off the bench for 30 minutes and 19 points .
Duke is in many ways college basketball’s New York Yankees — a team that’s easy to resist thanks to their consistent success. Still, the sport won’t be the same without one of the greatest coaches of all time roaming the sidelines at Cameron Indoor.
Congratulations on a great run, Coach K!
6 out of 6
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There was no way Duke vs. North Carolina in the Final Four would live up to the hype and expectations, was there?
The best rivalry in college basketball took center stage Saturday night, and for the first time in 258 meetings and more than a century of basketball, they went head-to-head in the bright light of March Madness.
It was everything a college basketball fan could hope for and more.
Two free throws by RJ Davis at 1:01 gave the Tar Heels a 75-74 lead, and after two missed free throws by Dukes Mark Williams, Caleb Love came down and hit a dagger three at the far end of the floor for North Carolina’s win to secure.
The game saw 18 lead changes and neither team led by more than seven points at any point in a perpetual back-and-forth.
We saw the absolute best the NCAA tournament had to offer on Saturday night and against all odds, the duel between Duke and North Carolina exceeded expectations.