April 23, 2018

Jayhawks hope Graham can lead them past Final Four

30 March 2018, 08:02 | Kristopher Drake

Kansas Basketball: As game nears, few experts are picking Jayhawks

Villanova faces toughest test yet in Final Four

Azubuike averages 13.1 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks, who will play the Villanova Wildcats in the first round of the Final Four on Saturday, March 31.

It's the sixth Final Four appearance for the Wildcats and the second in the last three years.

Buffalo had done outstandingly to reach the Sweet 16 after knocking off Florida State in the second round, but facing the defending national champions in SC was always going to be another step up in class, and it proved as much in a 79-63 defeat. However, the future remains bright for Stanford with the unearthing of point guard Kiana Williams and Smith still with one season left to lead from the front. Their school hadn't even made the tournament since Patrick Ewing's Hoyas knocked them out in the 1985 Sweet 16.

If you're Michigan, Kansas and Villanova, the other Final Four teams this year, you're not only used to what surrounds the Final Four, you expect to experience it.

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The Final Four games will be played in San Antonio, Texas at the Alamodome. The Wildcats' third conference title in four years affirmed their resiliency, showcased Jalen Brunson's Player of the Year credentials and secured a No. 1 NCAA tournament regional seed. "We're proud every step of the way", Wright said.

The Jayhawks have just gotten better across the board and picked a flawless time to play one of their most complete games in an 85-81 thriller over Duke in the Elite Eight. I hope Sister Jean sees them become national champions. They've beaten two ACC teams in Clemson and Duke, and now they'll face the toughest challenge to date in Villanova. In fact, when Villanova won the title in 2016, they had to beat the Jayhawks in the Elite Eight to advance. I said, no you won't, not in Kansas, you'll be remembered forever if you win it. You can make that normal. "We've got to keep doing it because this team's better than those two, so we've got to be a little bit better". "We are very talented offensively and have a lot of guys who can really score the ball and make plays for others, but when we're playing defense together that's what makes us really special". "Of course not", Kansas coach Bill Self said.

The Villanova Wildcats are 9-0 straight up and 7-2 against the spread over their last nine games including a 4-0 SU and ATS run through the NCAA tournament so far. That included a career-high 28 points in a loss to Washington, 25 more in a loss to Arizona State and 21 to open Big 12 play against Texas, leaving Vick - not Associated Press first-team All-American Devonte' Graham - as Kansas' top scorer as the calendar turned to 2018. Louisville also made the Final Four in 2009 and 2013. "We decided Loyola's got a slight edge in this one. I think we did that". "I think for the short term there's no question about it being life-changing; but long term, I think you've got to cut down the (national championship) nets".

KU-Villanova is regarded as a real title game of sorts before the victor plays Loyola or MI on Monday in San Antonio. The previous three - LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011) have all lost in the national semifinal.

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