NCAAB
March 30, 2022

2022 NCAA Final Four Preview: Predictions and Best Bets

The 2022 Final Four is set, and boy oh boy is it going to be a fun one. 

This Saturday, we will be treated to two unbelievable games as No. 2 Villanova will take on the only No. 1 seed to make it this far, the Kansas Jayhawks. On the other side, we have one of, if not the most anticipated game in the history of college basketball as No. 8 North Carolina will look to spoil Mike Krzyzewski and No. 2 Duke's season for the second time this season. 

Both games are going to be awesome, but let's be honest, every single one of us is just patiently waiting until Duke and North Carolina tip-off. One of the biggest rivalries in sports will determine who gets to go play either Kansas or Villanova in the National Championship. 

This weekend is going to be awesome. 

To help you prepare for the games this Saturday, we have created a Final Four preview that will tell you how each team got here, break down the matchups, and give you the best gambling picks for each game.

I hope everyone is just as excited about these games as I am, so let's get right into the fun stuff.

*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

No. 2 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks

How They Got Here

Villanova

When you think of the college basketball powers, historically, Villanova is not one of those teams, but they are getting damn close. They are not a one-and-done school like the other three teams in New Orleans this upcoming weekend, and Villanova does not churn out great NBA talent. However, what happens in the NBA does not matter. Villanova is the perfect college basketball program. 

The Wildcats rely on players buying into the program, rather than buying the players. Jermaine Samuels, and two-time Big East player of the year, Collin Gillespie, are playing with an extra year of eligibility due to COVID screwing everything up. Those two are surrounded by a plethora of experienced players, including upperclassmen Caleb Daniels, who averages over 10 points per game. 

Simply put, you have to be almost perfect to beat Villanova. With the amount of experience on their roster, you cannot simply just out-talent them. The Wildcats under Jay Wright have always been the best team in the country at the "little things." This season, Villanova has the best free-throw shooting team in the country, which is wildly important when playing much more talented teams. 

Kansas

Kansas almost feels like the least blue-blood of the college basketball blue-bloods. But let's not be mistaken, the Jayhawks are one of the premier college basketball programs. 

This season, the Jayhawks are led by All-American Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun in their backcourt, while David McCormack and Jalen Wilson have done a nice job anchoring the middle. However, the Jayhawks' X-factor in this game will be the player that was supposed to be their "guy" the whole season. 

After transferring over from Arizona State, Remy Martin was supposed to be the missing piece for a Kansas program that was getting kind of stale. He has been a nice piece off the bench all season for Kansas, but during the tournament, Martin has shined brighter than anyone for the Jayhawks. Martin was named the most outstanding player of the Midwest regional, as he averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game on 54% shooting from the field, and 59.4% shooting from deep. 

Game Preview

Villanova got some bad news when it was announced that Justin Moore tore his Achilles at the end of their Elite Eight victory over Houston. The Wildcats' biggest strength is their experience, and Moore has been one of their best offensive threats for three seasons now.

The good news for Villanova is that their roster is full of experienced players that you can throw out there. The bad news for Villanova is that Kansas also has a lot of bodies to throw out there, and they are much more talented.

Not only has Moore been one of the Wildcats' best offensive threats, but he also brings the juice on defense, and his presence is going to be missed, especially with the emergence of Martin for the Jayhawks. 

On the season, Kansas is ranked seventh in KenPom offensive efficiency, and 17th in defensive efficiency. Villanova is practically an identical team according to KenPom, as they are ranked ninth in offensive efficiency, and 18th in defensive efficiency. 

If Moore was playing in this game, I would take Villanova. But without him, that is a major hole in Villanova's rotation. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Kansas has the talent to take advantage of an incomplete Villanova team. However, If you are a gambler like I am, Villanova is getting way too many points in this game. 

The Cats are 20-15-2 ATS this season, and they have covered in five of their last six. While they are 0-1 ATS as at least 4.5 point underdogs, that game came against Baylor when the Wildcats were stumbling out of the gate. Since then, they have been a constantly good team to bet on, and if we can get them as at least two-possession dogs, that is absolutely worth it.

Best Bet: Villanova +4.5 (-110)

No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils

How They Got Here

North Carolina

Obviously, North Carolina is playing like one of the best teams in the country. While their defense is pretty terrible for the most part, their offense is good enough to make up for their deficiencies on the other side of the court. 

The Tar Heels are led by guard Caleb Love, but he is far from the only scoring option on the team. Armando Bacot has recorded a double-double in every tournament game so far and Brady Manek 47% from deep during North Carolina's run to the Final Four. As a whole, North Carolina's offense is ranked 19th in scoring (78.1), 24th in made field goals per game (27.7), and they have the 18th-best offensive efficiency rating according to KenPom. 

The defense is giving up 71.1 points per game, and teams are shooting a high percentage against the Heels, but during the tournament, North Carolina is holding teams to just 66 points per game, and the only reason it is that high is because of their overtime game against Baylor in the Round of 32 when they gave up 86 points.

Duke

Did anyone else know that this is Coach K's last season? You would think that they would let us know about that. 

Anyway, Duke and North Carolina are two very similar teams. Both have tremendous offenses with pretty suspect defenses. The Blue Devils are ranked sixth in scoring (80.1), eighth in effective field goal percentage, seventh in shooting efficiency, and they are the best offense in the nation according to KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency rating (121.0).

Duke is the most blue-blood of the blue-bloods in college basketball, and that is because they recruit, and sign the best players in the country every year. This season, they are led by freshman, and the potential top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Paolo Banchero. During the tournament, Banchero is putting up 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. 

Around Banchero, the Blue Devils have double-digit scorers Wendell Moore Jr., Mark Williams, Trevor Keels, and A.J. Griffin. The Blue Devils do have the tendency to let teams back into games, especially during the tournament, but at the end of the day, their entire roster is full of NBA prospects, and when it matters most, it shows. 

Game Preview

This has to be the most anticipated college basketball game since Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird in the 1979 National Championship game.

For the first time, Duke and North Carolina will meet in the tournament, and the Tar Heels have the chance to ruin Coach K's retirement tour for the second time this season while Duke can avenge their embarrassing loss in their final home game of the season to North Carolina. 

There is also the whole, you know, chance to go play for the National Championship thing, but I think the storylines of this game are way better than the actual implication of the Final Four.

As I said earlier, both teams run under the "overwhelming offense with a serviceable defense" mold. This game is going to come down to the little things, which neither team do particularly well. 

For North Carolina, they need to force turnovers, stay out of foul trouble, and eliminate the three-point line. On the other side, Duke has picked up the intensity on defense, especially against Texas Tech and Arkansas. When they did that, neither Arkansas nor Texas Tech could find a rhythm on offense, and the Blue Devils were able to dictate the pace of the game, and if that happens, there is not a team on this planet that can stop them.

At some point in this game, Duke is going to overwhelm North Carolina with their talent. They have done it in every game this March, and with how bad the Heels' defense is, there is no doubt that one stretch of this game is going to be dominated by the Blue Devils.

The good news for North Carolina is that their offense is good enough to save them from any adversity they will face in this game. From a gambling standpoint, that plays well for the over and North Carolina covering. The Heels are catching 4.5 points in this game, and I like them to keep this game within the number while pushing this game over the total. 

If you are looking for a straight-up winner, I would take the team that has the overwhelming talent advantage, and that team is Duke. 

Best Bet: Over 151 (-110) & North Carolina +4 (-110)

Photo: Getty Images