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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | December 20, 2019

No. 1 Kansas at No. 18 Villanova: Time, TV channel, preview, prediction

Here's how the latest Power 36 compares to new AP Top 25, first NET rankings

No. 1 Kansas (9-1) will attempt to do something no team has been able to do well this season — maintain the No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll. In its first week atop the poll, the Jayhawks will travel to No. 18 Villanova (8-2) for a game at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 21 as they try to extend their winning streak to 10 games.

The game will be broadcast on FOX.

No. 1 Kansas at No. 18 Villanova: Time, TV channel, preview, prediction

Time: 12 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.
TV channel: FOX
Preview:

Michigan State and Kentucky were ranked No. 1 for one week, then Duke and Louisville each held the top spot for two consecutive weeks. If the first month and a half of the season tells us anything, it's that there's no dominant team in the sport — but there's a chance Kansas is the closest thing to that as the Jayhawks have been ranked in the top five of the AP Poll all season.

The Jayhawks are a 2-point, season-opening loss to Duke on a neutral court away from being perfect on the season.

If they're not that dominant team (but still a very good one), we'll find out quickly.

No. 18 Villanova has the No. 3 offense in the country and the Wildcats have won four in a row since a neutral-court loss to Baylor. The two schools have played in each of the last two seasons, with Villanova throttling Kansas 95-79 in the Final Four during its 2018 national championship run, then Kansas winning 74-71 inside Allen Fieldhouse last season.

Expect another close game on Saturday as kenpom.com projects Kansas to win by one point, 75-74.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: How the extended 3-point line has affected college basketball this season

The Jayhawks are as balanced as almost any team in the country with the No. 11 offense and No. 6 defense, which is nothing new for Kansas in the Bill Self era. Kansas' single-best quality is its ability to score efficiently inside the arc.

The point guard matchup between Kansas' Devon Dotson (a team-high 19.6 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.7 rpg) and Villanova's Collin Gillespie (14.4 ppg, 5.2 apg) should be excellent, but prepare for a contrast in styles in the frontcourt.

The Jayhawks' 60.3 two-point percentage ranks third nationally, thanks to their frontcourt of 7-0 center Udoka Azubuike (82.6%) and 6-10 power forward David McCormack (62.7%). Both players are bigger than any player on Villanova's roster, so while the Wildcats have the seventh-tallest average height in the country — with six players between 6-7 and 6-9 — keep an eye on the chess match that occurs between Kansas' traditional two-big lineups and Villanova's ability to stretch the floor at every position.

This year's Villanova team currently has the fourth-best 3-point percentage (38.1%) of any of Jay Wright's Wildcat teams as this season's group has adjusted well to the extended 3-point line, which has made it harder to be an average 3-point shooting team in the 2019-20 season.

After a freshman season in which he played in just 21 games and only four in conference play, Villanova's Cole Swider has blossomed as a sophomore — like clockwork, this seems to happen with at least one Villanova player every year — as he enters the weekend with the third-best offensive rating nationally (145.2) and a 47.7 3-point percentage on 44 attempts this season.

If Swider, 6-8 sophomore Saddiq Bey and 6-9 freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl can force Kansas' big men to guard the perimeter, that should create driving lanes and easier looks for a Villanova team that also excels at getting good looks inside the arc (56.2 two-point percentage).

Kansas is the higher-ranked team and advanced stats give a slight edge to the Jayhawks, but Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke and Louisville all could've said the same thing before losing as the No. 1 team this season.

With the start of Big 12 and Big East play approaching, this will a strong litmus test for conference title contenders in two of college basketball's premier conferences.

Prediction

Villanova 78, Kansas 74

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