For the first time since 2009, Villanova (33-5 straight up, 19-17 against the spread) advanced past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament two weeks ago. With that monkey off its back, Jay Wright’s squad proceeded to beat Miami and Kansas to land in Houston for the 2016 Final Four.
Oklahoma, another No. 2 seed like ‘Nova, came out of the West Region by beating top-seeded Oregon this past Saturday at Honda Center in Anaheim. In doing so, Lon Kruger is back in the national semifinals for the first time since taking Florida to the 1994 Final Four in Charlotte.
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened Villanova as a two-point favorite with a total of 149 points. By Sunday afternoon, the tally had been adjusted all the way down to 146.5. The number for the side hasn’t budged whatsoever, but the ‘under’ was down to 145 by Wednesday.
Villanova is -135 on the money line, leaving the Sooners as +115 underdogs. For first-half wagers, the Wildcats were one-point ‘chalk’ as of Thursday afternoon.
Wright’s team has won four in a row both SU and ATS, including a 64-59 win over Kansas as a two-point underdog in last Saturday’s Elite Eight showdown. The 123 combined points provided an easy winner for ‘under’ supporters as it never threatened the 145-point number.
Ryan Arcidiacono, Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart scored 13 points apiece for the winners, while Daniel Ochefu produced 10 points, eight rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot and two assists without a turnover.
Villanova was nearly perfect at the free-throw line, making 18-of-19 attempts (94.7%). Jenkins converted all six of his shots from the stripe, while Arcidiacono made 6-of-7 at the line.
Villanova forced KU into 16 turnovers to overcome a poor shooting day when it made only 21-of-52 (40.4%) from the field. Mikal Bridges, a freshman forward, came up with five steals and also had six points and three boards.
In the South Region semifinals at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Villanova destroyed Miami by a 92-69 count as a four-point favorite. The 161 combined points sailed ‘over’ the 140-point tally.
Jenkins and Arcidiacono were sensational against the Hurricanes with 21 points apiece. Jenkins made 8-of-10 shots from the field, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range, and finished with nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot.
Arcidiacono, the senior point guard, drained 4-of-7 from downtown and handed out four assists compared to one turnover. In fact, Arcidiacono has committed only two turnovers in his last 97 minutes of playing time.
Ochefu and Hart added 17 and 14 points, respectively, against UM. The Wildcats finished the night shooting 62.7 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from behind the 3-point line (10-of-15) and 94.7 percent from the free-throw line (18-of-19). They also beat the ‘Canes on the boards by a 26-16 margin.
Villanova owns a 7-6 spread record in 13 games as a single-digit favorite.
Oklahoma (29-7 SU, 14-20 ATS) advanced to its fifth Final Four in program history and its first since 2002 by downing Oregon 80-68 as a one-point underdog. The 148 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 153-point total.
Buddy Hield erupted for 37 points on 8-of-13 shooting from behind the arc. Jordan Woodard added 13 points, while Isaiah Cousins produced 11 points, seven assists, five rebounds and one steal.
OU did an outstanding job of defending the 3-point line, forcing the Ducks to make only 4-of-21 launches form downtown. The Sooners won the rebounding battle by a 33-29 margin.
Oklahoma had failed to cover the spread in seven straight games until facing Texas A&M in the West Region semifinals. After the Aggies raced out to an early six-point lead, Kruger’s bunch responded with a 34-9 run to take a 19-point lead into halftime.
OU would finish the job in the second half, capturing a 77-63 victory as a 2.5-point ‘chalk.’ Woodard buried 5-of-6 treys in a game-high 22-point effort. He also dished out five assists, grabbed three rebounds and had two steals.
Hield produced 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, while Ryan Spangler had 10 points and eight boards.
Hield, the two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, is averaging 25.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. The Bahamian product is shooting at career-high clips from the field (50.4%), 3-point land (46.5%) and the free-throw line (88.0%).
When these schools met in Honolulu on Dec. 7, Oklahoma coasted to a 78-55 win as a five-point underdog. Cousins was the catalyst for the Sooners, producing 19 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and one steal while committing just a pair of turnovers. Hield hit 4-of-9 from 3-point range in an 18-point effort.
Villanova couldn’t buy a bucket from downtown against the Sooners, shooting an abysmal 4-of-32 (12.5%) from long distance. Arcidiacono, Hart and Phil Booth scored 10 points apiece in the losing effort.
There will plenty of talk about depth perception at this event that’ll be played in the Texans’ football stadium. At this same venue for three games of the South Region semifinals and finals last year, the four teams combined to make only 26.7 percent of 3-point attempts
This could prove problematic for the Sooners, who rank second in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (42.8%).
Unlike Oklahoma, Villanova doesn’t lean too much on 3-point shooting, ranking No. 139 in the country with a 35.4 percentage. The Wildcats have been great at the line throughout the Tournament as noted above. They rank second in the nation in FT percentage (78.4%). Also, ‘Nova ranks 15th in the country in scoring defense, limiting foes to a 63.6 PPG average.
OU has been an underdog seven times this year, posting a 5-2 spread record with four outright wins.
The ‘over’ has hit at a 10-3 clip for the Wildcats in their last 13 games to improve to 19-17-1 overall.
The ‘under’ is on a lucrative 12-2 roll in OU’s last 14 games. The Sooners have seen the ‘under’ go 19-15 overall.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Eastern on TBS.