Put Villanova on Upset Alert for 2014 NCAA Tournament
By Zack Cimini
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Last year, Florida Gulf Coast pulled off the biggest stunning second round win with their dismantling of the Georgetown Hoyas. This was a sound Hoyas team led by first round pick in Otto Porter. But like many teams Georgetown did not have many strengths to catapult them on a rough tournament day. Their defense needed to be above average for them to offset a hot shooting team or team with confidence. In another year of parity in the NCAA tournament there are several teams that could be caught on the wrong day as a high seed.
My lookout team on notice is the Villanova Wildcats. Yes, they only had four losses on the season, but similar to Syracuse they escaped several games that could have went the other way. Dating back to their tournament trip to the Bahamas, they fought back against Kansas and a 16-point deficit to Iowa for wins. In fact, that Iowa game was one of four games the Wildcats won in overtime and were unblemished on the season in overtime games. On top of those four overtime games were a handful of seesaw affairs against their conference foes and a narrow 84-80 win over 13th seeded Delaware.
The reason why Villanova almost got a No. 1 seed is the style in which they won their games. Jay Wright’s team had 18 wins by double digits – an impressive feat but one that needs to be analyzed carefully. Three of those blowout wins came against the A-10 which does not matchup well against Villanova and is overrated in my mind. The others were against conference opponents in the Big East that don’t scream fast pace or high field-goal percentage teams. We’re talking about the Georgetowns, Butlers, Xaviers, Marquettes and DePauls of the conference. The newly formed Big East is one of the few conferences where expansion isn’t high enough to face an opponent just once. So Villanova faced every team twice.
Only Xavier, Creighton, and Providence made the tournament from the conference. Both Xavier and Providence were on the bubble just a week ago. Butler, Marquette, and Georgetown all had downgraded seasons based on player graduation from the prior season.
When it came to facing a team that runs a solid offense the Wildcats were blown away twice by Creighton. Don’t get me wrong, the Wildcats are a talented team, but they have toed the line a bit too much to be considered a strong No. 2 seed. They easily could of had seven to eight losses on the season.
During the latter part of the season, the Wildcats began to show signs of offensive woes. Jay Wright being the great coach that he is was able to offset that by ramping up Villanova’s press to create turnovers and substitute his starters more frequently. Against Seton Hall, nearly all of the Villanova starters struggled. JayVaughn Pinkston shot only 3-of-10 from the free-throw line, Darrun Hillard was 5-of-13 from the field, Ryan Arcidiacono 3-of-9, and James Bell 0-for-8.
James Bell is the shooter Wildcat fans have to be worried about, as he has been in a serious funk. In the last seven Villanova games, he is 18-for-61 from the field for 29 percent. This is from a senior guard that has made more than four 3-pointers in a game nine times this season, including three in a row in a minute-and-a-half of game action against Iowa.
Bell’s funk, and the fact that Villanova relies so heavily on the 3-pointer are glaring signs for a possible upset. Against Iowa, more than half of their field-goal attempts were from the 3-point line on 38-of-63 shots. On the season, Villanova ranked 7th in the country in 3-pointers made with 289 on a whopping 801 attempts (4th in the country). Besides JayVaughn Pinkston, the Wildcats have no true interior scorer. Big man Daniel Ochefu (5.8 ppg) is more of a defensive presence that has upgraded his offensive game but is an after thought as a primary offensive option.
I don’t expect the Wildcats to get blown out of a game in the tournament as they have several seniors that our hungry for redemption from last year’s performance. But I do feel they are highly vulnerable in which teams that can defend the 3-point line and pass out of the Wildcats traps will be able to pull off a victory.
Place Villanova high on your upset alerts, as I do not expect them to make it out of the first weekend.
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