Villanova and North Carolina cruised to easy victories Saturday in perhaps the most boring set of national-semifinal games in the NCAA Tournament’s storied history. Not boring because of ‘Nova or UNC, however, just uneventful in the way they coasted to blowout wins over Oklahoma and Syracuse, respectively.
Jay Wright’s team went five years without playing beyond the first weekend of the Tournament, but it will play for the national title Monday night for the first time since Rollie Massimino’s team led by Ed Pinckney shocked Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the 1985 finals at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.
Roy Williams is seeking to join an elite group of head coaches who have three or more national titles to their credit. That group includes John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun.
This is Williams’s fifth trip to the Monday night game in his career. He took Kansas to the finals twice, losing both times to Duke (’91) and Syracuse (’03). He has gone 2-0 in the finals with UNC since leaving Lawrence for Chapel Hill.
This is UNC’s 10th trip to the finals in the program’s illustrious history. Williams has the second-best career NCAA Tournament record among active coaches, going 70-23 (75.3%). Wright is 19-12 in the Tournament (61.3%).
The Westgate SuperBook opened North Carolina (33-6 straight up, 20-18-1 against the spread) as a two-point favorite with a total of 151.5 points late last night in Las Vegas. In less than an hour, Jay Kornegay and Co. moved the Tar Heels to 2.5.
As of mid-afternoon Sunday, UNC was a 2.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 150. UNC is -150 on the money line, leaving ‘Nova at +130 to win outright (risk $100 to win $130).
Villanova (34-5 SU, 20-17-1 ATS) captured a 95-51 win over Oklahoma as a 2.5-point favorite in the biggest blowout in Final Four history. The Wildcats led by 14 at intermission and the Sooners quickly trimmed the deficit to nine on a Jordan Woodard putback of his own missed free throw.
Lon Kruger’s bunch would get no closer, though. The Wildcats stretched the lead to 21 with 11:19 remaining on a 3-pointer by Phil Booth. They led by 33 at the under-8 TV timeout and it was over.
Josh Hart had a game for the ages, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting in 30 minutes of playing time. The junior guard also had eight rebounds, two steals and four assists without a turnover. Kris Jenkins was sensational as well, producing 18 points, eight boards, two steals and one blocked shot.
Ryan Arcidiacono, the senior point guard and lifeblood of Wright’s program for the last four seasons, finished with 15 points on just six shots from the field. Arcidiacono drained 3-of-4 launches from downtown and had three rebounds and three assists.
Mikal Bridges (11), Booth (10) and Daniel Ochefu (10) were also in double figures. Ocheful had six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one rejection and didn’t commit a turnover.
How ‘on’ was Villanova? Well, it made 35-of-49 shots from the field at a torrid 71.4 percent clip. Depth perception at NRG Stadium in Houston was not an issue whatsoever. The Wildcats hit 11-of-18 shots from beyond the arc (61.1%).
On the flip side, OU made just 6-of-27 (22.2%) from 3-point land. The Sooners entered the game with the nation’s second-best three-point shooting percentage (42.1%).
Villanova’s stifling defense limited Buddy Hield, a first-team All-American, to his second-lowest scoring output of the season with only nine points.
Hield buried his first 3-point attempt, but he missed his next eight. He went 4-of-12 from the field, while Isaiah Cousins (3-of-14 FGs) and Woodard (3-of-10) were equally inept.
“Just credit them for what they were doing. Made it tough on me throwing multiple bodies at me,” Hield said at the postgame presser. Hield said the Wildcats were “one of the best teams I’ve ever played in college.”
Wright’s bunch has won four of its Tournament games by margins of 19 points or more. The Wildcats have covered the number in all five Tournament games, including their only close one in the 65-60 win over No. 1 overall seed Kansas in the Elite Eight. They have won their five games by an average margin of 23.6 points.
Meanwhile, UNC has won its five games by an average margin of 16.2 points. The Tar Heels have covered in four straight and won each game by a minimum of 14 points. The lone non-cover came in the opening round when they knocked off Fla. Gulf Coast by an 83-67 count as 22.5-point favorites.
North Carolina defeated Syracuse for a third time this year on Saturday, winning 83-66 as a 10-point favorite. The 149 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 142.5-point total.
Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson scored 16 points apiece for the winners. Johnson pulled down nine rebounds. Kennedy Meeks finished with 15 points, eight boards, two steals and two blocked shots, while Marcus Paige was also in double figures with 13 points. Joel Berry II had eight points and 10 assists compared to merely one turnover.
North Carolina has won 10 in a row while going 8-2 ATS. The Tar Heels made it to Houston by beating up on Providence (85-66), Indiana (101-86) and Notre Dame (88-74) after getting past Fla. Gulf Coast.
Johnson has been the catalyst, averaging 20.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. His overall averages for the year are 17.0 points and 10.5 RPG.
Villanova has been an underdog only twice this year, losing 86-75 at Virginia on Dec. 19 as a 5.5-point puppy. The other ‘dog spot came in the win over KU last weekend when it was catching two points from the Jayhawks.
UNC has thrived as a single-digit ‘chalk’ this season, compiling a 13-4 spread record, including eight consecutive covers in such situations.
These schools have met in the NCAA Tournament three times in the last 11 years. UNC has prevailed on each occasion. The Tar Heels won a 78-71 decision as a five-point favorite in the Round of 32 in 2013.
They collided at the Final Four in 2009 with North Carolina capturing an 83-69 triumph as a seven-point ‘chalk.’ In the 2005 Tournament, UNC advanced with a 67-66 victory, but the Wildcats easily took the money as 11-point underdogs.
The ‘over’ is 20-17-1 overall for the Wildcats after cashing at an 11-3 clip in their last 14 games.
The ‘over’ is 21-18 overall for UNC, hitting in three straight and four of its last five.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9:15 p.m. Eastern on TBS.