How Kansas and North Carolina advanced to the title game

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NEW ORLEANS — Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke Blue Devils . were not satisfied with the storybook ending. Hubert Davis and the North Carolina Tar Heels . continue to live in the dream. North Carolina took down Duke 81-77 on Saturday night in what was the first meeting in NCAA tournament history between the hated rivals, and UNC’s second win over Duke in less than a month. This was Krzyzewski’s final game in his Hall of Fame career. He was denied a chance at a sixth national championship.

Davis is now able to bring the Tar Heels their seventh national championship. He was an 8-seed in his inaugural season as a head coach. He joins Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, and Roy Williams as the fourth coach to achieve this feat. Standing in the way of history will be a top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks team that has some championship pedigree of its own, with three titles in school history including a 2008 crown under head coach Bill Self. Kansas took down the Villanova Wildcats 81-65 in the first semifinal on Saturday night. ESPN’s team of Myron, Jeff Borzello and Joe Lunardi reviewed Saturday’s contests and discussed the upcoming matchup between North Carolina and Kansas at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

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North Carolina opens up the second half of their game with Duke on a 13-0 run.

How North Carolina beat Duke

What was the key to North Carolina’s win over Duke?

Duke led 71-70 with just 2: 02 to play after Trevor Keels hit a 3-pointer. North Carolina took the lead on a Brady Manek 3 in the next possession. But the following shot, a 3 from Wendell Moore Jr. off a rebound that gave Duke a 74-73 lead, summed up the key to this game: second-chance opportunities. At that point, both teams had collected 37% of their missed shots. To understand the significance of that stat: TCU led the nation this season with an offensive rebounding rate of 38%.

Throughout the game, the Blue Devils couldn’t make a 3 and the Tar Heels could do little to stop them from attacking the rim.

By securing those second chances and putting the ball in the hands of so many talented scorers, North Carolina battled Duke for 40 minutes and set up its shooters (38% clip from 3) to help the Tar Heels achieve their second win over Duke this season.

Those opportunities helped Carolina stay close to a Duke team that had outscored it 48-26 in the paint.

But it was Caleb Love‘s clutch 3 and late free throws that preserved North Carolina’s edge in a classic rivalry game that lived up to the hype. — Medcalf

What was most surprising about the Tar Heels’ performance?

I was surprised that Armando Bacot was able to continue his reign of regal rebounding so successfully and dominantly when it mattered most. Before he fouled out in the final minute, Bacot picked up 21 rebounds, eight of them offensive. These second chances were crucial in a night where North Carolina was cold from outside and occasionally turning the ball over in the second half. In his past two games, Bacot has hauled in 43 rebounds. He is dominating the boards, and I can’t wait to see the collision that takes place Monday night when he faces David McCormack. — Gasaway

How memorable will this edition of Tar Heels vs. Blue Devils be in the all-time annals of the rivalry?

We know two things for sure about the rivalry: One, it had never occurred in the NCAA tournament, much less the Final Four. This game was also witnessed by three times more people than any other meeting. It was a thrilling contest with many subplots and momentum swings that only added to its legend.

I would argue that, in the annals of ACC basketball, only the 1974 conference tournament title game had greater significance. NC State’s 103-100 overtime victory over Maryland led directly to the addition of at-large teams to the NCAA field and created the modern tournament. Without that game, neither Duke or Carolina would have been able to make it to New Orleans.

Thankfully, the powers that be gave us an expanded field and the greatest drama in sports. Two incredible teams teamed up to create the most memorable and important encounter in their history. For Duke, an extraordinary era has ended, one that is undoubtedly the best in college basketball. For North Carolina, its next era is 40 minutes away from a championship. — Lunardi

How does North Carolina match up with Kansas?

Both Hubert Davis and Bill Self have a similar philosophy in their approach to offensive scheme. Self likes to play a big, athletic man who can get a lot done in the paint. He surrounds himself with a group of big, versatile forwards and guards who can make an impact around the perimeter. This is the same strategy Davis used to lead his team into the national championship game.

Based on their personnel, North Carolina is able to compete with Kansas at any spot. Bacot will be key against McCormack, assuming that he is healthy after he injured his ankle in Saturday’s game. And I think Kansas will have as much trouble chasing Manek (40% 3-point shooter), Love and R.J. Davis as they hunt for open shots as North Carolina will have with Kansas running Ochai Agbaji (41%) and Christian Braun (39%) off screens. Both teams can be difficult to stop in transition, and over the past month, both have been top-50 in defensive efficiency inside the arc, per Barttorvik.com. — Medcalf

What’s next for Duke? Who will be back with the Blue Devils?

The biggest Duke storyline entering 2022-23 won’t be about the players, of course; it will be the Blue Devils’ first season under Jon Scheyer and their first season starting without Coach K since 1980. The transition of the program to the Scheyer era is one of the most fascinating stories in college basketball. The personnel will be excellent too. Five of Duke’s top six players — Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, Keels and Moore Jr. — are projected to be selected within the first 35 picks of June’s NBA draft, so we’ll assume for now they’re all gone. Same with super senior Theo John. Scheyer was the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, bringing in three top-five prospects and two more ESPN 100 recruits. Dereck Lively, Dariq Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell are all capable of starting from day one, and Jeremy Roach will also be back. I expect the Blue Devils will also hit the portal for one or two players. — Borzello

What will college basketball look like without Mike Krzyzewski? How will college basketball be different without Mike Krzyzewski?

Mike Krzyzewski is the John Wooden of modern NCAA basketball. His success and influence are unmatched on and off the court. He is undoubtedly the most successful coach in the history and history of the sport, with multiple Olympic gold medals. But just as the game has survived the loss of Adolph Rupp and Wooden and Bob Knight and Dean Smith, it will survive and thrive without Coach K. What we’ll never see again is a 42-year reign to make Duke the bluest of blue bloods. — Lunardi

How Kansas beat Villanova

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Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji knocks down six 3-pointers to help fuel the Jayhawks to the national title game.

Kansas got the 2022 Final Four off to a smoking start on Saturday night at the Caesars Superdome, running out to a 10-0 lead and keeping Villanova at arm’s length the rest of the way for the 81-65 victory. Its performance puts KU in Monday night’s title game for the first time since 2012, with a chance to hoist the NCAA trophy for the first time since defeating Memphis for the 2008 championship.

What was the key to Kansas’ win over Villanova?

Agbaji and McCormack: the Jayhawks’ star, and their season-long (career-long?) X factor.

Agbaji regained his momentum after a brief slump during the second half of the Elite Eight victory over Miami. After hitting two 3s in three minutes, Agbaji was on fire. He also went 4-for-4 from deep within the first eight minutes. Collin Gillespie switching onto him slowed Agbaji down some toward the end of the first half, but two more backbreaking 3s to keep Villanova at an arm’s length in the second half were huge.

McCormack was always going to be the key against Villanova. The Wildcats didn’t have enough size to handle him so it was down to his ability to stay in foul trouble, stay on top of the game, and be effective. It didn’t take Kansas long to make its intentions clear. The Jayhawks were forcing McCormack to the basket early and often. He scored two baskets in the first two minutes and was receiving touches on almost every possession. He had 13 points in the first 11-plus minutes. McCormack was attacked by Villanova with smaller players and caused some problems for Kansas defensively. McCormack responded by moving to the other end. Agbaji and McCormack finished with a combined 46 points. — Borzello

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Kansas’ David McCormack rises up to throw down a massive dunk over Villanova’s Jermaine Samuels.

What surprised you most about the Jayhawks’ performance?

If you could tell KU fans in November that the hero of their national semifinal would be McCormack, they would be more than surprised. Perhaps the better word is stunned. All season, there have been long discussions about whether the Jayhawks should be smaller. McCormack was a big fan of Villanova for at least one night. It started immediately, which was the surprise within the surprise. The Wildcats were overwhelmed by the amount of Agbaji 3s and McCormack’s post feeds. The poster dunk, putting up 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting — it all summed up to a magnificent performance. — Gasaway

How does Kansas match up with North Carolina?

In terms of personnel, the Jayhawks have experienced big men down low in McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot to throw at North Carolina’s Bacot. They have Jalen Wilson, who is big enough and versatile enough to deal with Manek on the pick-and-pops North Carolina likes to run. I do think the Tar Heels’ aggressiveness defensively on the wings with Love and Leaky Black could cause issues for Agbaji and Braun, though. It’s a tough matchup against North Carolina. — Borzello

What will be the legacy of this Villanova team?

The Wildcats continue to demonstrate the rarity of basketball excellence without big-time football. Only Gonzaga and Villanova are truly elite programs in this category.

The legacy of Jay Wright, the Wildcats, is secure regardless of the Final Four results. Wright did a masterful job in winning both the Big East tournament as well as the NCAA South Regional. This was perhaps the weakest team of his four that reached the national semifinals.

The 2021-22 Cats should and will be celebrated among the most beloved teams in program history. Gillespie will be the coach’s personal Mount Rushmore when they build a statue to Wright. — Lunardi

What would be the historical impact of a Kansas win on Monday night?

Bill Self has done everything there is to do at Kansas but knows the single national championship in 2008 isn’t commensurate with 15 Big 12 titles and a staggering nine No. The NCAA tournament featured nine No. 1 seeds. This narrative will change if New Orleans cuts down its nets.

The list of coaches who have won multiple NCAA championships is short. A fourth trophy for Kansas would put the Jayhawks in the bottom five schools on the all time list. One of them — Duke (5) or North Carolina (6) — would be their victim Monday. It is clear that the Jayhawks deserve this award. They were the best team in the country two years ago when COVID-19 derailed their tourney chances, and they might very well be the best team remaining in 2022. — Lunardi

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