Final Four By the Numbers
At long last, the Final Four has arrived. All week we have digested the endless angles of a delicious Duke-UNC matchup, appreciated Kansas’s lights-out performance that has the Jayhawks as the last No. 1 seed standing, and played with Villanova’s lineup to see how the Wildcats can fill the void of Justin Moore’s absence.
But before the weekend gets underway in New Orleans, we offer one last dose of preview notes by looking at one key statistic for each team ahead of the Final Four.
Duke: Just 6.3% of the Blue Devils’ giveaways this season have been non-steal turnovers (per KenPom), which limits dangerous mistakes and opportunities for opponents to run. In Duke’s last two wins, Texas Tech mustered 10 fast break points and Arkansas just three. The Blue Devils have matured into a team that can better dictate tempo at the right time, and will have to slow a UNC team that hung 94 points on them last month.
North Carolina: Sharpshooting grad senior Brady Manek has made 16 threes in four tournament games, providing a reliable source of offense and opening up the court for teammates. In UNC’s two previous meetings with Duke, Manek lit it up for 11 treys combined. On a team full of streaky scorers, his shooting is the most crucial component, and has been the toughest to stop.
Kansas: Say what you want about Remy Martin’s shot selection, but to his credit, he’s committed just five turnovers in four NCAA tournament games. Kansas doesn’t have anyone else who can consistently create their own shot, so when he’s making jumpers — and lately, he has been — Martin gives the Jayhawks a critical spark. He’s matured as a player this month, and whether or not he can sustain those habits may be the difference.
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Villanova: The Wildcats were dealt a major blow when Moore tore his Achilles in the Elite Eight, forcing them to contend without a player who saw the floor in 83.8% of their minutes. Sixth man Caleb Daniels will presumably be called into action, but no other bench player logged more than five minutes in Villanova’s last three games. The two replacement options: oft-injured guard Bryan Antoine (a former five-star recruit) and Chris Arcidiacono (whose brother, Ryan, was a March hero in 2016).
• Every part of the game runs through Aliyah Boston, and that was apparent as ever in South Carolina’s Final Four win over Louisville, writes Emma Baccellieri.
• Jay Wright and Villanova continuously produce “carbon copy” guards. Greg Bishop explores how a culture program is passed on through generations at the position.
Duke and UNC have never met in the NCAA tournament, but it almost happened in 1991. Pat Forde on the night a Roy Williams – coached Kansas team beat a Hubert Davis – led Tar Heels team in the Final Four.
From the Vault
On this day in 1995, UConn won its first title and completed the first undefeated season in women’s hoops in nearly a decade. And who was at the helm of it all? Geno Auriemma, of course. “There was a charming, unrehearsed flavor to UConn’s championship celebration,” SI’s Austin Murphy wrote at the time. “Uncertain of the etiquette of cutting down the nets, the Huskies milled around the ladder. One asked [Chris] Dailey, the assistant coach, ‘What do we do?’ ”Well, 11 national championships later, Auriemma has seemingly perfected the art of cutting down nets. He will look to collect a 12th title Sunday when his UConn team takes on Dawn Staley and South Carolina.