No. 1 Kansas gets big test against No. 17 Villanova
Kansas started the season No. 1, dropped to No. 2 despite not losing and moved back to the top spot after playing its worst game of the season.
Now, the Jayhawks get a massive test.
On Saturday, newly-No. 1 Kansas hosts No. 17 Villanova at Allen Fieldhouse in a rematch of the 2018 national semifinals.
The Wildcats stomped Kansas on the way to the national title, and the Jayhawks are coming off a shaky performance against New Mexico State.
“We’ve played a really hard schedule. It’s just going to get harder with Villanova coming in on Saturday,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “They’ve given us fits and cleaned our clock last year. It should be a great game for our fans and motivational game for our guys.”
Villanova turned a Final Four match-up of blue blood programs into a laugher last April in San Antonio, rolling over Kansas 95-79 before issuing a similar takedown of Michigan in the title game.
Kansas was the preseason No. 1 this year, but dropped a spot in the first regular-season poll after Duke decimated then-No. 2 Kentucky to open the season. The Jayhawks held that spot until this week, bumping to No. 1 after former top-ranked Gonzaga lost to No. 3 Tennessee over the weekend.
The Jayhawks are 8-0, but had a hard time putting New Mexico State away on Saturday with center Udoka Azubuike out with a sprained ankle.
Azubuike is likely out until the beginning of next year, so Kansas will certainly have to play better on Saturday without him.
“I don’t think we’ve played well yet. I don’t think we’re any good yet,” Self said. “I think we can do some really good things and have played exceptionally well in stretches. I don’t think we’ve played 40 minutes. We’ve not been awful, just been painful to watch at times.”
Villanova opened the season No. 9 in the preseason poll and rose to No. 8. The Wildcats then lost to Michigan in a rematch of the 2018 title game and had an unexpected overtime loss to Furman, a setback that sent the Wildcats out of the AP Top 25.
Villanova (8-3) appeared to get back on track after that. The Wildcats won three games in Orlando to take the AdvoCare Invitational title and followed that with three straight wins.
Then Villanova lost 78-75 to Penn, ending its 25-game Big 5 winning streak.
The Wildcats will certainly get another test on Saturday.
ZAGS AND HEELS
Gonzaga passed every early test without forward Killian Tillie the first month of the season, including an impressive victory over then-top-ranked Duke in the Maui Invitational title game.
The Zags couldn’t overcome not having one of their best players on Sunday, losing to No. 3 Tennessee in Phoenix. The loss dropped Gonzaga out of the No. 1 spot to No. 4 in this week’s poll.
The Bulldogs gets five days to prepare for another yardstick game: Saturday at No. 12 North Carolina in the first match-up between top-tier programs since the 2017 national title game.
The Tar Heels won their first five games this season, but have lost two of the past four against quality opponents: to Texas in Las Vegas and to No. 5 Michigan.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams questioned his team’s effort in the loss to the Wolverines , but the Tar Heels bounced back with lopsided win over UNC Wilmington.
A must-see game between powers from opposite coasts.
HOOSIER STATE BATTLE
Indiana moved into the poll for the first time since 2016-17 this week, tying Syracuse and Kansas State at No. 25.
The Hoosiers (8-2) have an interesting game on Saturday, facing Butler in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Indiana has losses to Arkansas and No. 2 Duke, but has won its past three, including a one-point victory over Louisville on Saturday.
Butler lost to Dayton and Saint Louis, but has wins over Mississippi and Florida on its resume.
Purdue faces Notre Dame in the first game of the doubleheader.