Written by Tom McAlister – @PhillyEmpire
On Thursday night in their Sweet 16 appearance, Villanova imposed their will against Miami (FL) in a lopsided 92-69 victory. The Wildcats dominated in all phases of the game and are now one win away from a trip to the Final Four. While ‘Nova fans are elated with their team’s run, Jay Wright and his team have a tough challenge ahead.
Kansas has developed into one of the top basketball brands in America. Their history speaks for itself, as great players like Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, and Paul Pierce have made their way through the university. Kansas has also dominated their conference, by winning a Big 12 title for 12 consecutive seasons. As a result of their success, the Jayhawks are able to land the most prized recruits in the country each and every year. This team is full of these star recruits, even if they don’t play much. Last recruiting year, Bill Self managed to claim the services of McDonald’s All-American game MVP Cheick Diallo. However, Self rarely uses the high school phenom, as Diallo only averages seven minutes a game.
Kansas has had mixed reviews when it comes to their recent history in the NCAA tournament. In 2008, the Jayhawks ran up against Derrick Rose, John Calipari, and the Memphis Tigers. And with the assistance of poor Memphis free throw shooting and a Mario Chalmers 3 pointer, Kansas was able to win the national title.
Since then, Sweet 16 bids have been far from automatic for Kansas as they were eliminated in the 2nd round in 2009 and 2010 of the NCAA tournament. In the last two years, similar to Villanova, Kansas could not reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. Now just like ‘Nova, Kansas has dashed their previous futility and is one win away from staking their spot in the Final Four.
The 2016 edition of the Kansas Jayhawks are led by 6-foot-8 senior forward Perry Ellis, who averages 16.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. His shooting percentage is outstanding, as he nails 53.3 % from the field and 44.4% from 3 point land. The number two scorer for the Jayhawks is 6-foot-5 junior Wayne Selden Jr., who is averaging a 13.6 points a game.
Yet the biggest concern for Villanova will come off the Kansas bench in the form of Landen Lucas. Lucas is the leading rebounder for the Jayhawks and his offensive game is built on finishing plays around the rim, as is evident by his 61.5% field goal shooting. During their game against Miami (FL), it was clearly seen that Daniel Ochefu was limping. While the Wildcats were able to easily dispatch the Hurricanes, the Jayhawks are a totally different challenge. Kansas could exploit Ochefu if he is not completely healthy, as they are not deep in the frontcourt.
The person who needs to deliver for Villanova if they want to win will be a very familiar person in Ryan Arcidiacono. Arch is the four year senior captain and is the catalyst for the Wildcats. If the Jayhawks can contain or befuddle Arch, it will be very difficult for ‘Nova to cut down the nets and secure a trip to Houston.
So, what does Villanova need to do to defeat the number one seed Kansas? Villanova can pull off the upset if they are able to the following. To start, they will have to play to their strengths and hit at least 10 or more three pointers. They will also need to play pressure defense, which has been able to generate turnovers and has translated into easy offense. Finally, Kansas needs to keep off the glass and Villanova needs to out rebound the Jayhawks. This means big men Ochefu and Darryl Reynolds will need some help, which has to come in the form of Josh Hart and then Mikal Bridges off of the bench.
Prediction: Villanova played their best game of the season against Miami and they need to come back and play a better game in 48 hours. Kansas has too much talent and will unfortunately end Villanova’s season 73-65.
Photo: Paul J. Bereswill