The Villanova Wildcats will face the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday from San Antonio, Texas in the Final Four. If they’re going to advance, point guard Jalen Brunson is going to have to win the individual battle vs. the Jayhawks’ Devonte’ Graham.
Whomever emerges from the clash of No. 1 seeds will play the winner of Michigan-Loyola-Chicago on Monday night in the national championship game.
Villanova (34-4) knocked off Texas Tech 71-59 in the East region of the Elite Eight. Meanwhile, Kansas (31-7) outlasted Duke 85-81 (OT) in the Midwest.
This is the sixth overall Final Four trip[ for the Wildcats and the second in the last three seasons. Villanova won the 2016 national title for the program’s second championship. If Villanova wins, it would tie the 35 wins set by the 2016 squad.
This is the third time the two teams have met in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova beat Kansas in the 2016 South Regional Final in Louisville. Kansas took the 2007 matchup in the NCAA regional semifinal in Detroit.
Here are five things to know about Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson:
1. Jalen Brunson was Most Outstanding Player at the East Regional
The junior Brunson is a major reason why the Wildcats are two wins away from a second national title in three years.
Brunson tallied tallied 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in Boston to be named the Most Outstanding Player at the East Regional as Villanova.
Brunson scored 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting in Villanova’s 90-78 Sweet 16 victory vs. West Virginia.
Brunson only shot 4-of-14 in the 71-59 Elite Eight victory against Texas Tech, but he made up for it with six rebounds and two steals.
2. Jalen Brunson is the only remaining starter from Villanova’s 2016 national championship team
As a freshman, Brunson was the starting point guard alongside Kris Jenkins, Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu on the Villanova squad that stunned North Carolina in 2016.
Having conquered the big stage two years ago, Brunson now has the savvy and experience to serve as a steadying influence for the rest of his teammates who are in unchartered territory.
Brunson is battle-tested and that will serve him well in his individual matchup against Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham.
3. Jalen Brunson is the last person Kansas will foul in crunch time
The last time these two teams met in the 2016 Elite Eight, Brunson calmly sank a pair of free throws to give Villanova a two-possession advantage with 3.5 seconds remaining.
In this season’s NCAA Tournament, Brunson is 18-of-20 (3-of-3 vs. Alabama, 8-of-9 vs. West Virginia, 7-of-8 vs. Texas Tech).
Brunson is shooting 81 percent on the season from the free throw line, so Kansas definitely will have to be wary of his accuracy if the game is close.
4. Jalen Brunson is a FIBA gold medalist
Brunson tallied the USA Basketball single-game assist record in the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championships.
Brunson captured MVP of the 2015 FIBA Under-19 World Championship, as he won a gold medal for Team USA.
Brunson led the squad with 5.6 assists and 2.1 steals in the tournament and earned USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year.
5. Jalen Brunson comes from an athletic family
Brunson is the son of Rick and Sandra Brunson.
Brunson’s parents met at Temple University where Rick played for the basketball team and Sandra was on the volleyball team.
Rick Brunson spent nine seasons in the NBA, including stints with the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle SuperSonics, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls.