The first half of the Elite Eight weekend in the NCAA Tournament gives us two number one vs number two games: Oklahoma playing Oregon in Anaheim and Villanova facing off against Kansas in Louisville.
For the Sooners, it’s a first at the Elite Eight since 2009, hoping to make their first Final Four since 2002. The Ducks haven’t been to the Elite Eight since 2007 and their Final Four drought goes all the way back to 1939. Like Oklahoma, Villanova were last in the Elite Eight in 2009, which was the year they also made the Final Four. Kansas haven’t been to the Elite Eight since 2012, when they lost in the national championship game to Kentucky.
#2 Oklahoma vs #1 Oregon: One interesting thing that works for both teams is when they don’t focus on one player carrying them offensively, things work out. Buddy Hield is averaging 26.7 points per game in the tournament, but beating Texas A&M came with Jordan Woodward leading the team, not Hield. The same can be said of Oregon, who get 19.3 points per game from Dillon Brooks and he also led the team with 22 against Duke but 22 assists on 32 baskets were more meaningful. Other issues will be rebounding. Oregon aren’t a great rebounding team but love to attack the glass, while the Sooners usually don’t win rebounding battles, and yet have to keep an eye out for cancelling second chance points. Oregon need to focus on stopping the three-point shooting by the Sooners, hitting 42.6% of their long range shots on 71 attempts so far. The last time these two teams met in the NCAA Tournament came in 1939 at the very first Final Four. Oregon won the championship that year.
#2 Villanova vs #1 Kansas: Many thought Miami would pose a big problem for Villanova, but it turned out to be a blowout. Villanova have won their games by an average of 24 points, but things will be different against the Jayhawks, the number one seed for the tournament. To cancel out Kansas’ size, Villanova need to attack the rim early and often, hoping to get Perry Ellis and the group in foul trouble. Kansas have thrived (also with three double digit wins) on their defense giving them a lot of easy points through forcing turnovers. Perry Ellis is averaging 23 points per game in the tournament, shooting 70% from the field. However, no team is shooting better than Villanova so far, hitting 59.9% of their shots in the tournament. Kansas, as a counter, have won their last 17 games.