NEW ORLEANS, La. – Villanova went through its second day of preparations Friday as it gets set for a clash with Midwest Region champion Kansas (32-6 overall) Saturday at the Ceasar’s Superdome. Tipoff is set for 6:09 p.m. eastern in the first half of the NCAA Final Four doubleheader.
Saturday’s victor advances to meet the winner of the Duke vs. North Carolina clash in Game 2 for the NCAA national championship on Monday evening.
The game will air on TBS with Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson as the primary broadcast crew. The Villanova broadcast can be heard in the Delaware Valley on 1480 AM, 990 AM and 1490 AM with Ryan Fannon and Whitey Rigsby on the call for the Nova Nation.
The Wildcats (30-7 overall) conducted a closed practice Thursday at the Superdome and an open practice there on Friday.
“I’ve been to a number of Final Fours in New Orleans as an assistant and head coach but never as a participant,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “We’re fired up about being here.”
Six days have passed since junior guard Justin Moore suffered a tear of his achilles tendon in the final minute of a 50-44 victory over Houston in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. Moore underwent successful surgery on his leg on Monday and expects to travel here Saturday to attend this game.
“We’ve had some good practices this week,” noted Wright. “We’ve started to get comfortable without Justin. We miss Justin and look forward to having him here Saturday. We’re preparing to meet a great Kansas team that has proven itself all season. They are going to be one of the fastest and quickest teams we have played against all season. Bill Self’s teams are always intelligent offensively and defensively.”
The Wildcats will insert New Orleans native son Caleb Daniels into the starting lineup to replace Moore. Daniels earned a spot on the All-South Region team for his efforts in helping the ‘Cats advance past Michigan and Houston last weekend.
Junior guards Chris Arcidiacono and Bryan Antoine both figure to get a larger opportunity as Villanova looks to replace the 34 plus minutes per outing Moore typically logged. Freshman Trey Patterson also could be in line for an opportunity.
Wright also likes to mention that it’s not just reserves who have a chance to make a larger impact.
“We have wanted to get Eric Dixon more minutes and this is a chance for us to do that,” noted Wright of the Wildcats’ redshirt sophomore forward who averages a shade more than 26 minutes per contest.
The Wildcats and Jayhawks have some recent history. Villanova knocked off Kansas in both 2016 (Elite Eight) and 2018 (Final Four) on their way to its two most recent NCAA national championships. The two teams then split a home and home regular season series shortly thereafter. Kansas downed the Wildcats at Allen Field House in December 2018 and Nova nipped the Jayhawks 56-55 on Dec. 21, 2019 at a sold out Wells Fargo Center. Jermaine Samuels sank a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left that helped secure the win.
This is of course, a homecoming for Daniels, who was a standout at St. Augustine High School here who then played two seasons at Tulane University before transferring to Villanova in 2019.
“Watching and experiencing a kid come back home, playing the best basketball of his career, is really heartwarming for me,” said Wright Thursday. “Caleb has been through everything. He had Covid twice, had myocarditis last summer and couldn’t do anything from April until September. He couldn’t shoot free throws.
“To see him play at the level he is as he comes back home to New Orleans is awesome. What’s most impressive is his faith and mental toughness. You never saw him down or frustrated. I think it’s why he’s playing the best basketball of his career right now.”
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