The 2022 Final Four will feature three legendary “blue blood” programs in UNC, Duke and Kansas, and a “new blood” in Villanova.
There will be a plethora of talent on the floor for all four squads. The Duke Blue Devils have possible future No.1 pick Paolo Banchero, and three other highly-touted players in forward AJ Griffin, center Mark Williams and swingman Wendell Moore Jr.
The UNC Tar Heels will counter with center Armando Bacot and guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis.
The Kansas Jayhawks will bring Wooden Award finalist Ochai Agbaji, center David McCormack and instant offense off the bench in former Pac-12 player of the year Remy Martin.
Jay Wright’s, Villanova Wildcats have the cerebral floor leader Collin Gillespie and Swiss army-knife player Jermaine Samuels. They’ll need to overcome the loss of guard Justin Moore, the team’s second-leading scorer and best perimeter defender.
But even with all that talent on the Superdome floor in New Orleans, these unsung heroes could make the difference for their programs when it comes to hanging a Final Four banner or national championship banner in their home arena.
Kansas — Jalen Wilson (Forward)
The unsung hero of the Jayhawks season. Wilson overcame some off-the-court legal matters to give KU that versatile forward capable of leading the team in rebounding one night and assists the next. Also a good scorer who’s got three-level scoring pop, when he plays well Bill Self’s team rarely loses.
In February, Self had this to say about Wilson.
“The guy that has probably been the most improved in this one year has been Jalen. I do think having the league in his mind was like a second season. His season was starting … his stats in league play have been pretty impressive.”
Wilson allows Self to play small or big with his ability to guard post players and guards.
Villanova — Brandon Slater (G/F)
Jay Wright will have to find a way to replace 15 points, five rebounds and three assists with the injury to star guard and second leading scorer Justin Moore. If there’s anyone on the Nova bench capable of doing it, Slater, the senior from Fairfax, Virginia, has the athleticism and streaky shot-making to break out of a recent slump.
Leaky Black — UNC Tar Heels (Forward)
Black is a 6-foot-defensive stopper, who usually takes the top assignment for the opposing team. It’s not known if coach Hubert Davis is willing to put Black on Duke star Paolo Banchero, who goes 6 feet 10 and 250 pounds. He can be bruiser but is also very nimble. Black could make it difficult for him on the perimeter and be a pest by either fronting or playing behind him in the post.
UNC will need to decide how often they want him on Banchero, with Manek being an option as well. The key to beating Duke is making PB play in a crowd and trying to speed him up. He’s very calculated and methodical in his approach and if he gets a rhythm it could be a long night trying to contain him.
Wendell Moore Jr — Duke (Forward)
If matchups stay true to form in the Duke/UNC game, Moore and the aforementioned Black are very similar. Both are stalwarts defensively, capable of having big scoring nights. Whoever plays the best of the two will go a long way in their team moving on to Monday night.
Moore is a tad bit more versatile as an offensive weapon and he tends to get more looks than Black. Without Moore the Blue Devils would never have reached the Final Four, because he does all the dirty work for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad.
“He’s been our stud,” Coach K said of the impactful forward. “He’s doing that on offense and he’s also doing it on defense.”