(2) Villanova Wildcats (-2, 145.5 o/u) vs (2) Oklahoma Sooners
The Villanova Wildcats (33-5, 20-17 ATS) took down the top team in the nation in the Elite Eight, edging Kansas, 64-59. Now they look to take down the nation’s top player, Buddy Hield, and his Oklahoma Sooners (29-7, 14-20 ATS) in the Final Four. This Saturday (6:09 PM Eastern), Nova and Oklahoma will clash at NRG Stadium in Houston with a spot in the title game on the line.
Villanova is the most balanced team left in the tournament. They’ve won with offense (92-69 over Miami); they’ve won with defense (64-59 over Kansas); and they’ve looked like a cohesive unit each time they’ve taken the floor.
Jay Wright was hoping for big things from his team, which was ranked no. 1 in the polls at times this year. But Nova’s play has likely exceeded even the coach’s expectations. It’s certainly exceeded Vegas’ forecast: the Wildcats have covered all four games handily, including as two-point dogs to the Jayhawks.
Whether they should be favored over the Sooners is debatable. Not only does Oklahoma boast the best player in the country (Hield, who’s coming off a 37-point performance against Oregon), but the Sooners also trounced Villanova (78-55) on a neutral court earlier this year.
“We weren’t out there taking charges, diving on the floor for loose balls, taking every possession as focused as we should have been. That whole game was play after play after play of teachable moments,” said Wright about the rout.
Villanova was a horrendous 4 of 32 from beyond the arc in that one, but more concerningly, they had no answer to the Sooner offense on a night when Hield wasn’t particularly good. (He finished with 18 points but was just 6 of 17 from the floor.)
His backcourt mate Isaiah Cousins was more effective with 19 points on 50-percent shooting (including 4 of 4 from three-point land).
Hield has looked unstoppable in the tournament, averaging 29.2 points and shooting 56.7-percent even though defenses are keying on him.
That said, Wright will have a full week to prepare a plan to slow the dynamic scorer. Given the way the Villanova defense has been playing during the tournament, I think they’ll be able to execute it. And since I don’t see the Sooner supporting cast putting in the same performance it did the first time around, the balanced Wildcats are the play.
Pick: Nova (-2).
(Photo Credit: CrewU (Vimeo).)
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