Villanova heads to the Allen Fieldhouse Saturday for a rematch of one of last year’s Final Four matchups.
We're going to make a prediction for Saturday's game based on a handful of statistics that stand out. The last time these two teams met, the Wildcats ran away with that game, 95-79, on the way to their second championship in three years.
But this year, Kansas is the undefeated No. 1 team in the country, while No. 17 Villanova is off to its worst start since the 2012-13 season, sitting at 8-3.
You can watch the game on ESPN at 12 p.m. ET.
Here are three key points that we will use to make a prediction for this matchup:
Villanova will live and die by the 3-pointer
Villanova’s love of the 3-pointer is no secret. The Wildcats set the Division I record for made 3-pointers last season with 464 and are taking more per game this season. But their percentage from behind the arc is middling at 34.3 percent.
That performance has been a decent barometer for Villanova so far. While Villanova’s volume of 3-pointers has stayed relatively consistent at 29.5 per game, their accuracy has not. In their wins, the Wildcats connect on 36 percent of their 3-pointers, while that number falls to 29 percent in losses.
For our community! Thrilled to host our first-ever teddy bear toss this weekend at halftime of our game vs. Villanova.— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) December 13, 2018
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Kansas has seen its opponents shoot 34.1 percent from beyond the arc this season, a mark that ranks 216th in the country. The Jayhawks have allowed 9.75 made 3-pointers per game, 331st in the country, and 2.2 more than the national average. Villanova makes an average of 10.1 per game — the 25th most in Division I.
If Villanova is going to have a decent chance, they’ll need to shoot 3-pointers often and well.
Villanova should have the major advantage on the glass
Kansas center Udoka Azubuike went down with a sprained ankle against Wofford on Dec. 4, and is out for the short term. Azubuike averaged 6.1 rebounds per game — behind only Dedric Lawson’s 10.6 for the Jayhawks.
Studying for finals is a little different at KU.@Mitchlightfoot and @youngoch caught up with some students who have camped out at Allen Fieldhouse in preparation for the big game Saturday.@KU_BBallCamping #KUbball pic.twitter.com/V89FfSxtSt— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) December 12, 2018
In Kansas’ first game without Azubuike, the Jayhawks were almost upset by New Mexico State. And without him against Villanova, Kansas is going to be at a significant disadvantage on the boards.
Villanova is currently tied for 55th in the country with a rebounding percentage of 54.1. Kansas is 124th, collecting only 52.2 of available rebounds. The Wildcats’ success is usually tied to its rebounding prowess. In its wins, Villanova gets 11.4 more rebounds than its opponents, while in its three losses, they’ve averaged three fewer rebounds than their opponents. This will be a big opportunity for Villanova to even the odds.
Kansas can take control of the game at the line
In Villanova’s three losses, the Wildcats’ opponents have shot an average of 12 more free throws per game than the opponents in Villanova’s eight wins, a huge difference.
But Kansas only averages 22 free throw attempts per game — 98th in the country. They also only hit 64.2 percent of their shots from the line, the 303rd worst mark of all 353 teams.
Azubuike hasn’t helped in that department. The center is 8-for-25 so far this year — a dismal 32 percent. Lawson has been the Jayhawks most efficient player at the charity stripe, earning 56 free-throw attempts — more than double the next highest Kansas player — and converting at a rate of 76.8 percent. Getting him to the line often would be a huge boon to the Kansas offense.
Villanova vs. Kansas prediction
Even without Azubuike, Kansas is a stronger team, especially with home court advantage. Prediction: Jayhawks win, 86-75.
How we're doing with these predictions
Not too badly, so far, but we're due for a hot streak. We're 1-2 these season and ready to get back to .500 once Kansas wins. Here are our predictions so far this season:
- Our pick: Gonzaga
- Result: Loss
- Our pick: North Carolina
- Result: Loss
- Our pick: Duke
- Result: Win