By Julie Glass
For 20 minutes Thursday night, Villanova was in a struggle.
Looking like fellow No. 1 seed Gonzaga from earlier in the day, the Cats were life and death with a first round opponent. The second half was a different story, though, as the Wildcats ripped a 21-6 run to pull away and coast to victory.
As expected in the 8/9 game, Wisconsin took everything it could handle from Virginia Tech before finally inching away over the game’s final 90 seconds. Now the veteran Badgers will look to derail Villanova’s repeat bid.
Date: Today, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS3
Venue: KeyBank Center, Buffalo
Villanova Wins If …
If Kris Jenkins plays like he’s capable of playing. Mired in a slump, Jenkins was unable to shake free, turning out a 2-for-13 (0-for-6 on 3-pointers), seven-point game in which he missed his first 10 shots. While Villanova is, next to Kansas, the most balanced team in the NCAA Tournament, Jenkins is the straw that stirs the drink. If the senior leader is on, he can carry the Wildcats, at least, back to a title game.
The fouls need to be contained, as well. Josh Hart missed a significant amount of time during Villanova’s sluggish first half, due to being in foul trouble. This is a team that led the NCAA in fouls per game with an average of 14.2, yet amassed 17 in what should have been a relatively easy game against a No. 16 seed.
Wisconsin Wins If …
It controls the boards. Villanova dominated the glass against Mount St. Mary’s, and that’s one of the reasons it was able to pull away. The Badgers need to put the kibosh on that. With as much as Wisconsin fired from behind the arc against Virginia Tech (31 three-point attempts), it could be a difficult task. Guards must be prepared for long offensive rebounds, and the Badgers must look to extend possessions by controlling the offensive glass.
Nigel Hayes also needs to be more consistent. On paper, a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) looks nice, but 4-of-10 from the field isn’t going to cut it against the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. He was bailed out by going to the free throw line but is now going up against a Villanova team that normally doesn’t find itself fouling too much (Thursday’s game against Mount St. Mary’s aside).
This will be one of today’s better games, as both teams are extremely experienced. For all the talk of how talent flight has harmed college basketball, this one will serve as a nostalgic throwback to the days of teams flush with upperclassmen.
Villanova showed against Mount St. Mary’s why it’s so difficult to contain the Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. This is a team that can catch fire and go on a tear in a hurry. They shot 62% in the second half, and that’s with Kris Jenkins packing away the bricks.
Wisconsin will look to fire away, and may even land a few body blows early. The Wildcats are too balanced, however, and withstand another tough battle to make the Sweet 16. The bid to repeat rolls on.