Kansas May Not Even Be Able To Stop Villanova
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Jay Wright looked down at the stat sheet after witnessing his Villanova Wildcats run roughshod over a pretty good Miami team Thursday night and all he could do was shake his head, stare down in disbelief at the numbers again, and try to convince himself it happened.
Teams don't shoot 62% and win by 23 points in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Every team you face is a quality opponent.
But there's no denying that the Wildcats are certainly passing the eye test. They are playing with a steely poise that even forced Wright to admit something after the Wildcats devoured Miami, 92-67 to reach the Elite 8 for the first time since 2009, when Villanova made it to the Final Four.
"We're playing the best basketball we've played all year," Wright said. "We've played well this year, but not this well."
Now No. 2-seeded Villanova faces what could be the end of its season when the Wildcats take on Kansas, the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall, in the South Regional Final in the Elite 8 on Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET, from the KFC Yum! Center, in Louisville, Kentucky on CBS3.
Here's the major problem Kansas faces: No team in the tournament right now is playing better than Villanova.
In Villanova's three tournament victories consider the following:
- The Wildcats have outscored their opponents by 265-193.
- They're averaging 88.3 points a game, a staggering 11.1-point jump from their regular-season average of 77.2.
- They're holding teams to an average of 64.3 points a game, the best of any team in the Sweet 16.
- They're beating their opponents by an average of 24 points a game, again tops of the remaining teams, with Kansas second, winning by an average of 18 points a game.
- Villanova is shooting 60% (97-for-162), and holding opponents to 44% (73-164). What's more is the Wildcats are shooting 53% (33-62) from three-point range, another gaping difference from the 33% they shot from beyond the arc (263-786) during the regular season.
What the Wildcats are going to have problems with against Kansas is what has always plagued them during Wright's reign and that's size.
The Jayhawks come with inside hammers 6-foot-10 Landen Lucas, 6-8 Perry Ellis, 6-9 Carlton Bragg and 6-8 Jamari Traylor. Kansas is out-rebounding its opponents by margin of 42.7 to 29.7—a difference of plus-13. Villanova has been winning the board battle (a plus-4.3: 30.3-to-26) on hustle and 6-10 Daniel Ochefu's knees and ankles holding up. Darryl Reynolds, a 6-8 junior, has offered nice support off the bench, but as was seen Thursday night, he needs to finish better around the basket.
Keeping Kansas point guard Frank Mason III bottled up will be another key.
One thing Kansas won't do is underestimate Villanova senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono. It was the 6-3 local from Neshaminy that impaled Kansas as a freshman when these teams met last with a corner jumper in the waning seconds in Villanova's 63-59 win on Nov. 29, 2013. The country is now finding out what the Philadelphia area already knows about Arcidiacono—and that's how special he is.
The four-year captain, a rarity at Villanova or for any major college program, leads the Wildcats, averaging a team-high 17 points and 4 assists a game. He's only turned the ball over three times in playing 95 minutes—another team high. He's also shooting better than he did during the regular season.
"Arch" wanted to leave a legacy at Villanova. When you shoot 17-26 (65%) from the field and 10-16 from three-point range (62%), as Arcidiacono has, up from 120-for-287 (41%) and 52-151 (34%) from three-point range in the regular season that's Harold Jensen territory.
If Villanova can get past Kansas, and the way the Wildcats are currently playing it can happen, Arcidiacono and his teammates may indeed be headed to where Jensen brought his team in 1985 and that's a national championship.
It is a question no one thought they would ponder a week ago when the tournament began: Can anyone stop Villanova?
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