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Kansas defeated Villanova on Saturday night 81-65 to get to the NCAA men’s basketball national championship.
It’s the first national title game the Jayhawks are set to appear in since 2012. Kansas has not won a national title since 2008. The team awaits the winner of the Duke and North Carolina game in the other Final Four matchup, who were set to play next at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
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Kansas went wire-to-wire for the win. The Jayhawks took an 11-point lead into the half and never looked back. The Jayhawks built up a 19-point lead at one point and were able to hold off a late run from the Wildcats.
The Jayhawks shot 53% from the floor and 54% from beyond the arc. The team out-rounded Villanova 35-28. Both statistical categories proved to be among the big difference-makers in the game.
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David McCormack, who had a big second-half dunk over Villanova defenders, led the way for the Jayhawks with 25 points and nine rebounds. He was 10-of-12 from the field.
McCormack talked about what sparked his performance and whether a conversation with coach Bill Self helped.
“Just talking with coach, he wanted us to have an inside presence, and usually if you can play inside/out it opens up more shots, more driving lanes, a lot of cuts,” McCormack said. “And I think starting off early on it opened the rest of the floor off and we played off of that and made it easy.”
Kansas’ offense was buoyed by Ochai Agbaji ‘s 21 points and Jalen Wilson’s 11 points. Christian Brown added 10 points as well. Wilson finished with 12 rebounds and five assists in his stat line. Remy Martin, who had been a sparkplug off the bench, was held to only three points.
Charles Barkley, who has been a broadcaster during then national championship, was impressed by what he saw from Kansas. He said despite an average showing from some guys he believed Kansas was going to “win a national championship.”
Obviously, that remains to be seen.
Collin Gillespie led the way for Villanova with 17 points. Brandon Slater had 16 and Caleb Daniels, who got hot in the second half, had 13 points and five rebounds. Villanova will be denied another national championship appearance.
Kansas, which is the last No. 1 seed remaining in the tournament, lost in 2012 to Kentucky. The team beat Memphis in overtime in 2008 to capture their third national title.
The 2020 team never got a shot at a title run because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it does have added value to me and the players because there’s no guarantees in this tournament. A lot of times the favorites don’t win, obviously. But in ’20 we had a team that was equipped to make a run. We were so good defensively,” Self said. “And we had enough scoring. I thought that was probably as prepared a team to do well in the tournament as any we’ve had.
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And I think that even though we haven’t really talked about it like this, but these guys really haven’t tasted what the NCAA Tournament is all about, even though we had a great team in ’20. So I think there’s been added value put on this one because of what we missed out on in ’20.”