#2 Villanova (33-5) vs #2 Oklahoma (29-7)
When: Saturday, April 2nd 2016
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Time: 6:09 ET | TV: TBS
The Oklahoma Sooners and Villanova Wildcats meet in the National Semifinals in what is a rematch of their December 7th game in Hawaii earlier this season. The Sooners dominated that game 78-55 behind 19 points from Isaiah Cousins and are in the Final Four for the first time in 14 years. Oklahoma shot lights-out in that game from beyond the arc, hitting 14-of-26 threes. Buddy Hield, who was just beaten out by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine for the Associated Press Player of the Year, has led this Sooners team all season. The Sooners’ senior scored 37 points in the Elite Eight victory over Oregon last weekend and is averaging 29.3 on 56.7% shooting in the tournament. Guard Jordan Woodard has been the best of the supporting cast for Hield by averaging 16.8 points, while Cousins has struggled of late with a total of 13 points on 5-of-21 shooting over the last two games. Hield hit 8-of-13 three-pointers versus Oregon and has taken at least 10 triples in eight of his last 14 games. Oklahoma has gotten off to quick starts in this year’s Big Dance, outscoring their opponents by an average of 14.3 points in the first half.
Villanova is in the Final Four for the fifth time and second under head coach Jay Wright (2009). The Wildcats breezed through the first three games of this tournament and then held off #1 seed Kansas 64-59 in the Elite Eight. Villanova might not have the superstar that Oklahoma does, but they have a terrific starting five and have four players who average in double-figures. Three of them – Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins – scored 13 points apiece in the win over Kansas last Saturday. Arcidiacono (16 points per NCAA game) and center Daniel Ochefu (12.5) have shot 50% or better in all four tournament games. “When we played Oklahoma earlier this season, Jalen (Brunson) was starting for the first time, Kris and Josh were starting for the first time,” Wright told reporters earlier this week. “We were an inexperienced team and it really showed, so I think we are a much more experienced team now.” That trio combined to go 1-of-16 from 3-point range against Oklahoma, but have posted a collective 42.6% mark from beyond the arc in the tournament. Villanova also shot a season-low 31.7% in the previous matchup.
This game will be a lot closer than their meeting in December. Villanova is more experienced and has more chemistry four months later. Oklahoma may be led by a superstar, but their supporting cast is a little underrated. I think the Sooners win this and give Hield one more game.
Pick: Oklahoma +2