4 things Villanova needs to do to beat Kansas

Villanova is, on the whole, the best team in the Final Four. The Wildcats spent most of the season as either the best or second-best team in college basketball, depending on your view of the Virginia squad that lost to a 16th seed in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64.

The Wildcats are solid all the way around. Their engine is their offense. No team in the country is better at making shots, and they play the same fundamentally sound game they’ve long played under coach Jay Wright — low on turnovers, heavy on passing to set up open three-pointers. It will take someone’s best game of the year to beat ‘Nova.

Here’s how the ‘Cats win in San Antonio.

Brunson needs to lead the way

Jalen Brunson is the conductor of this train. The junior point guard isn’t the most athletic guy at his position, but he might be the best. He’s a knockdown shooter, an elite distributor, and a diligent caretaker of the basketball. (Brunson’s lack of turnovers sets him apart from some of the country’s other stud point guards, like Oklahoma’s Trae Young.)

Wing/forward Mikal Bridges is one of the best defenders in the sport, and he adds an element of knockdown shooting that makes him no fun to play against on either end of the court. Bridges can lock up scorers at all five positions, in transition and in the halfcourt.

What they need to do on offense

What they always do: Make shots. Villanova’s 59.3 effective field-goal percentage this year is second-best out of 351 teams, and it only fell out of the top spot because of a cold shooting game against Texas Tech in the Elite Eight. (Villanova still cruised to victory.)

Villanova’s success really isn’t much more complicated than filling the hoop, and the ‘Cats do it better than anyone. Shooting from the outside might be particularly important against Kansas, their national semifinal opponent. KU has one of the country’s top rim-protectors in 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, but the Wildcats surrender a lot of deep attempts.

What they need to do on defense

Villanova needs to find the best matchup for Bridges. While it’s not the most sensible size fit to put the 6’7 Bridges on 6’2 Kansas scoring guard Devonte’ Graham, that might be the best way to get the most out of Bridges against the Jayhawks’ best finisher.

‘Nova needs to watch the three-point line, in general. Kansas is a 40 percent shooting team from deep, just like the Wildcats are, with four particularly dangerous deep shooters: Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman, and Lagerald Vick.

How do they match up against Kansas?

Pretty well, on the whole — or about as well as anyone could match up against a team with as much talent as the Jayhawks. Villanova has a sturdy defense led by Bridges, who’s the closest thing college basketball has to a healthy Kawhi Leonard. Kansas’ defense is more good than great, and Villanova’s jump-shooting will play against any opponent.

The most obvious weak point for Villanova is that the Wildcats don’t get to the foul line much, and Kansas doesn’t foul a lot. So if they don’t shoot well, they’ll be vulnerable. But they’ll probably shoot well.

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