RKG’s Quick Thoughts on Elite Eight/Final Four and Championship Game Prediction
- By Michael Miller, Day 155, 2022
*UConn Huskies over Louisville Cardinal, 75-70: As predicted on the podcast, the overall depth of UConn simply overwhelmed the two-headed Barber/Hughes monster. As they have done all year, the Huskies stifled the Cardinal via their defense, as 3 players (C/PF DeShawn Hawkins, PG Shea Rammelt and SF Ellis Neely) had a sub-100 defensive efficiency rating. SG Donovan Mobley was the Huskies’ leading scorer with a strong, albeit inefficient, 19 point performance. Juwan Hughes acquitted himself well in the losing effort, with 24 points (10 of 21), 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. It was a close game throughout, as there were 7 lead changes and the game was tied 10 times. The best indicator of the margin for victory was in offensive rebounds, as UConn had 18 but Louisville had only 5. It was a disappointing end to a Cardinal team that had visions of a Championship run, but still, both Barber and Hughes can hold their head high that they led Louisville this far in the tournament. Meanwhile, Connecticut survived its toughest test thus far.
USC Trojans over Texas Longhorns, 78-61: Texas played well defensively, but it was its lack of offense that ultimately doomed them in the loss. C Quante Coleman was the only Texas player who scored in the double digits. SF Lorenzen Townes had a really rough game, with a 2.4 game score after putting up only 6 points, 5 rebounds and 3 turnovers. Meanwhile, for USC, SG Dominique Harmon overcame his early tournament jitters and put up a stellar performance, with 22 points on 9 of 16 shooting. SF Raymond Brunnings continued to show his versatility, chipping in 13 boards and 4 blocks for an eye-popping 78.7 defensive efficiency score. USC led most of the way, and were not really challenged by Texas in this game.
Duke Blue Devils over the Memphis Tigers, 74-70: Memphis’s season ended because they found a team who could successfully slow down their running tempo, as the pace was a surprisingly low 73.5 possessions. Duke controlled the tempo, beating Memphis at their own game with 18 fastbreak points to Memphis 15 fastbreak points. The normally efficient Memphis also struggled from the field, hitting only 40.8% of their shots (including a horrendous 4 of 25 from beyond the arc). Omari Kanga and Qwan Songalia played reasonably well, the former having 24 points on 11 of 17 shooting and the latter with 16 points on 7 of 14 shooting. They got nothing from their perimeter starting players, however, as they went 8 for 28 from the field. 12 turnovers also contributed to the Tigers’ demise, with Kanga causing 6 of those. Meanwhile, SG Raefael Williams II had perhaps his best two-way performance in the tournament to date, leading his team with 19 points and 86.0 defensive efficiency. SF Zayveon West chipped in 13 points and 9 rebounds.
*Villanova Wildcats over Kansas State Wildcats, 83-78: Although Kansas State was able to win the rebounding battle, Villanova won the matchup in the paint for the first time this tournament by a 36 to 24 margin. As suggested might happen on the podcast, SG Jeremiah Moorhouse took advantage of the size matchup with the K-State 6’0” SG Alassane Johnson, with Moorhouse putting up 20 points (7 of 11 shooting) and 6 assists. JJ Cooper continued his efficiency, putting up 20 points as well along with 4 rebounds and 4 blocks. It was a tight game throughout, with 9 lead changes, but Villanova appeared to pull it out late.
UConn Huskies over USC Trojans, 92-90: In perhaps the game of the tournament, lottery prospect SG Donovan Mobley hit the game winner to send UConn to the National Championship game. Mobley was electric the entire game, finishing with a 30.0 game score after putting up 28 points (12 of 18 shooting), 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. Mobley carried UConn as no other starter on the Huskies had a game score above 10.0. Again, though, UConn’s depth came through with 40 points off the bench to only 18 for USC. After a great performance in the Elite Eight, Dominique Harmon returned to earth with a 5 of 14 shooting performance (16 points) and 3 turnovers. PG Matt Mueller and PF Jackson Farrior did well to keep the Trojans in the game, combining for 41 points. It was a heartbreaking loss for USC, but even if Mueller, Farrior and Harmon depart, reinforcements may be waiting in the wings. For UConn, they continue their rampage to the National Championship game.
Duke Blue Devils over Villanova Wildcats, 72-67: Villanova’s late season magic ran out, as Duke’s defense was just too much to overcome. All 5 starters on the Blue Devils had a sub-100 defensive efficiency rating. SF Zayveon West was the key player, as he put up 21 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Although he struggled from the field (3 of 10), Raefael Williams II put up 10 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals in the win. Villanova struggled as a whole, hitting only 36.1% of their field goal attempts. JJ Cooper, typically efficient, was only 6 of 16 from the field and had 3 turnovers. Villanova overachieved this season, and has to be pleased with their overall performance. Duke was underrated for most of the year, but it is not that surprising to see them in the title game based on their overall talent.
National Champions Game: #7 Duke Blue Devils vs. #1 UConn Huskies: It promises to be a defensive slugfest, as UConn had (statistically) the best defense in the CJBL and Duke has been strangling teams on the end of the floor in this tournament. The matchup features at least 3 lottery prospects: SG/SF Donovan Mobley (UConn), SG Raefael Williams II (Duke) and SF Zayveon West (Duke). UConn, however, seems to be better at guard and at the 5 than Duke. It will be close, but the thinking is UConn will win their first CJBL Championship.
Prediction: UConn 77, Duke, 73
Tournament MVP: SG/SF Donovan Mobley