The calendar has turned to April, but the final night of March Madness is fast approaching. Saturday's 2022 Final Four action in New Orleans featured the bluest of blue-blood matchups and ticket prices to match.
The No. 2 seed Wildcats faced the No. 1 seed Jayhawks to start the night. It was the fourth time Kansas coach Bill Self and Villanova's Jay Wright have faced off with these schools in the Sweet 16 or beyond. Each time, the winner has gone on to win the title -- which is a positive precedent for Self's squad, who came out on top 81-65.
In the late game, the final Tobacco Road rivalry matchup between UNC and Duke in the Mike Krzyzewski era has come to an end. After an incredible game full of lead changes and clutch shots, Hubert Davis' Tar Heels squad pulled out a 81-77 win. Caleb Love led all scorers with 28 points, while Armando Bacot dropped 11 while pulling down 21 rebounds.
We have analysis and best moments from each game.
Love's 3 makes the difference for UNC
Duke and North Carolina played a game worthy of their rivalry on the sport's biggest stage. The national semifinal was everything it was promised to be. In the end Love scored three of his 28 points on a clutch shot in the 40th minute to allow the Tar Heels to secure an 81-77 victory.
For Krzyzewski, the loss marks the end of an incomparable career. It's fitting that his last team went further than many expected. Coach K did the same thing in his entire career at Duke.
The last game in one coach's storied career also represented an outstanding effort by first-year coach Davis and his team. North Carolina dropped a 13-0 run on the Blue Devils early in the second half to take a six-point lead. Duke then answered with a 10-2 streak of its own, and the game was on.
After a cold-shooting first half, the 3s started to fall for Love and Brady Manek. At the other end of the floor, the Blue Devils were happy to drive the ball on Manek. Often the player doing so was Paolo Banchero.
Both teams feasted on offensive boards and scored their fair share of second-chance points. Armando Bacot once again put up glittering numbers in that area, pulling down 21 rebounds, eight of them on offense.
Love in particular was outstanding for UNC, while Trevor Keels came off the bench and scored 19 for Duke. With under two minutes to play, the teams traded both 3s and the lead on three consecutive possessions, as Keels, Manek and Wendell Moore Jr. all hit shots from beyond the arc.
In the end, it came down to free throws on one end and a clutch shot on the other. Mark Williams missed two free throws in the final minute, and on the ensuing possession, Love put the Heels up by four with a 3 that will go down in North Carolina history.
The Tar Heels ended Coach K's career, and now they'll play Kansas for the national title. -- John Gasaway
UNC survives and advances!
In one of the most exciting games of the NCAA tournament, the Tar Heels knocked off the Blue Devils to make it to the NCAA tournament final, sending off the legendary Krzyzewski with a loss in his final March Madness just a few weeks after beating Duke in Coach K's final regular season home game.
You know how sometimes big-time matchups don't live up to the hype? This is not one of those times.
Huge putback from Mark Williams
Things are neck and neck in UNC-Duke, and Williams is out there cleaning up misses in style.
Don't look now ...
... but UNC is on fire. Duke scored the first couple of baskets out of the break, but a 13-0 run has the Tar Heels in the lead.
Fouls mounting but Duke holds a slim lead
Despite the phrase "foul trouble" being bandied about early and often, North Carolina and Duke played an entertaining half that ended with the Blue Devils up 37-34. Much of the excitement came from Banchero and RJ Davis, who set the pace for their teams with 10 and 14 points, respectively.
There's also the fact that, oh by the way, this is Duke and North Carolina in a national semifinal at the Superdome. These teams know each other inside and out, and they're leaving everything on the court.
As for the foul trouble, that came up right away. Krzyzewski sat Williams just five minutes into the contest when the sophomore was hit with his second foul. Theo John replaced Williams, and John proceeded to be whistled for four fouls of his own in 11 minutes.
Duke then finished the half by going small, with Banchero, in effect, playing the 5. Through it all, the Blue Devils continued to do what they've done throughout the tournament. Coach K's team drove the ball into the paint and converted 14 of their 25 2-point tries.
Neither team found the range from the perimeter, as Duke and UNC combined to shoot just 5-of-25 on their 3s. That represents a decided shift for Manek, who entered the contest as the tournament's most prolific 3-point shooter.
The Blue Devils limited Manek to just 0-of-2 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half. Love also missed all four of his attempts from outside. UNC was fortunate that Davis stepped up in such a big way.
With Williams likely playing more than five minutes in the second half, and with one or both teams at last hitting some shots from outside the paint, the end of this contest could be even more entertaining. -- John Gasaway
Banchero from downtown
Banchero has 10 points in the first half, the latest coming on this sweet 3-pointer.
Mark Williams throws it down
There are more authoritative ways to put your team on the board in a Final Four game ... but not many.
Potentially Coach K's final game coming against his archrivals after losing to them in his final regular season home game? This one could be good.
I'm locked in. Could be one of the best college basketball games of all time #MFinalFour— Caitlin Clark (@CaitlinClark22) April 3, 2022
Various shades of blue are well-represented for both squads in the Big Easy.
McCormack and KU just too much for Nova
Everyone will remember the poster dunk by David McCormack, but the truth is the Kansas senior was too much for Villanova to handle all night long in the Jayhawks' 81-65 victory.
That's somebody's grandbaby, David McCormack!— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) April 2, 2022
First, the dunk. With a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, McCormack slammed home two points despite the best and ultimately futile efforts of Jermaine Samuels to stop him. A euphoric McCormack leapt into the air and began patting the top of his own head, undoubtedly a reference to the fact that he had just dunked on someone else's.
McCormack had every right to celebrate. His 25 points on the evening represented his highest scoring game since December of 2019. He required just 29 minutes and 12 shots to advance his team to Monday's national title game.
Not that McCormack didn't have help. Ochai Agbaji hit six 3-pointers, and Christian Braun came alive with 10 points after halftime. Kansas made 13 3-pointers, its most productive showing outside the arc since February.
For the record, Villanova also connected 13 times on 3s. After a slow start, Collin Gillespie got rolling and hit five 3s on his way to 17 points.
That's somebody's grandbaby, David McCormack!— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) April 2, 2022
The Wildcats hung around and at one point cut the lead to six. But every run by the Wildcats was answered by another score by McCormack or Agbaji.
If it's any consolation to Wright's men, their year ended as the greatest free throw shooting team in men's Division I history. Villanova made 83% of its free throws this season, breaking a record set by Harvard in 1984.
The Wildcats were 8-of-10 at the line in their final outing, but that wasn't nearly enough to stand in the way of the Jayhawks playing for a title on Monday night.
vibes are immaculate pic.twitter.com/a9peRNDyVj— Kansas Men's Basketball (@KUHoops) April 3, 2022
whispers softly...roooooockkk chaaaaalk...jaaaaayhawwwk...kuuuuu— Kansas Men's Basketball (@KUHoops) April 3, 2022
Enjoying this back home 👏 pic.twitter.com/hw7tEk6uEe— Kansas Jayhawks (@KUAthletics) April 2, 2022
Jayhawks dominate early, then Nova recovers
The version of Kansas that outscored Miami 47-15 in the second half of last weekend's regional final returned with a vengeance early against Villanova. Agbaji rang up 12 points, and the Jayhawks drained seven 3s on their way to a 40-29 halftime lead over the Wildcats.
Self's team was dominant on both sides of the ball for much of the first half. Agbaji made a 3 on the first possession of the night, and at the other end, KU repeatedly trapped and frustrated the usually unflappable Gillespie.
Kansas started the game with a 10-0 run, and the Jayhawks were in control throughout the first 15 minutes. Then the Wildcats capped their own 10-0 run with three offensive rebounds on a single possession by Brandon Slater. The hard work on the glass by Slater resulted in a Gillespie 3, and a frustrated Self called timeout.
The thinking going into the game was that the Jayhawks could use their size to gain an advantage. McCormack made that look wise with 13 first-half points, many of which came early on post-ups deep in the paint.
If there was one surprise, however, it's that KU has been unable to put that size to good use on its defensive glass. Villanova pulled down nine offensive rebounds, and those second chances are about the only thing keeping the Wildcats in this game.
Villanova has to be happy that Christian Braun and Remy Martin have combined for just three points. Then again, Kansas hasn't needed them. Agbaji and McCormack have carried the load for an offense that scored 40 points in just 30 possessions.
The game is being played at the Wildcats' preferred pace, but Wright's team hasn't been able to get stops. One adjustment that could help in the second half? Watch to see if Villanova's defenders stay on Agbaji and refuse to help on dribble penetration. -- John Gasaway
Dickie V's picks
It has been tough making the call on @DukeMBB vs @UNC_Basketball due to trying to assess value to the EMOTION involved but finally my VBDI says DUKE 83- UNC 77! The GOAT gets another game to coach ! @ESPNPR pic.twitter.com/QZs4eLyuZd— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) April 2, 2022
We feel good today 😁 Half court shot, Final Four edition! pic.twitter.com/IWwZDMkH5Q— Kansas Men's Basketball (@KUHoops) April 2, 2022