UConn (27-8) vs. Villanova (29-4)When: 9:40 p.m. EST
Where: First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
What You Should KnowVillanova was one of the top 10 teams in the nation virtually the entire season, and it's a team UConn is going to be very familiar with. The Wildcats are the same guard oriented, hard on-ball defense, and three-point happy club that the Huskies battled in the Big East the last decade plus with Jay Wright at the helm. Villanova has taken an astounding 824 3-pointers, and made 35 percent of them. The key to the Wildcats is the three-guard attack led by point guard Ryan Arcdiacono, James Bell and Darrun Hilliard. Bell and Hilliard each avg. a shade over 14 a game the big concern in inside, where Jayvaughn Pinkston, at 260-pounds, is that burly inside player who also scores at 14 a clip and rebounds at 6.2 per game. Villanova has some size with 6-11 Daniel Ochefu and are a difficult matchup for the Huskies. The key is the 3-pointer. Villanova is sixth in the nation in attempts and eighth in made 3-pointers.
"(Villanova) They're a great, amazing three‑point shooting team. I think they've taken probably, I think, top ten in three‑point attempts. I think they're in the top five of made three‑point field goal shooting teams.
So we're going to have our work cut out for us. We've got to run them off the three‑point line. We've got to play Pinkston down low. He's a great player also. That's what gives them their balance, and that's what makes them tough to guard.
Jay does a wonderful job exploiting matchups. So we're going to have to be able to be matched up and play our type of basketball and just play with energy and passion. Hopefully, we can come out with the win tomorrow night."
Defending the 3James Bell has shot 219 3s in 33 games. Ryan Arcidiacono has 164 and Darrun Hillard has shot 163 3s. That puts perimeter defense as the key to the game. The Huskies have to get a big defensive effort from Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier and can't help much off dribble penetration, lest shooter get open. The Huskies also have Lasan Kromah and Niels Giffey available, which will help. Giffey, at 6-foot-7, is a versatile defender who can guard multiple positions if the Huskies want to switch on pick-and-rolls. Kromah's defense is top-shelf, and he was outstanding in the second half and overtime against St. Joseph's Langston Galloway.
Can Huskies handle the beef?UConn has some length and athleticism, but they are deficient in strength and heft. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Pinkston has given UConn problems in the past, and is the kind of player that UConn has struggled with this year. Amida Brimah had nine points and six rebounds off the bench against St. Joseph's, including that sweeping hook and foul to tie the game. Phil Nolan added seven points in a solid performance last time out. The struggle is DeAndre Daniels playing a guy such as Pinkston. Daniels will give up 40 pounds plus if he guards Pinkston, and the Huskies have to find a way to exploit their quickness advantage at the position.
As hard as it is to believe, Napier has only scored 10 total points in his career against Villanova. In three games against the Wildcats, Napier is averaging 3.3333 ppg. If he equals that tonight, the Huskies are toast. Napier is coming off a 24-point effort where he scored 19 in the second half and overtime. Napier has to score and get to the basket. He was effective getting fouled, or creating open shots for others off the dribble.