DEFENSE IS THE KEY TO VILLANOVA’S NATIONAL TITLE HOPES

By Lewis Gould

For Villanova, the road to hoisting the national championship trophy next Monday night in Houston begins with defense.

The Wildcats knocked out top overall seed Kansas in the South final by playing with a ferociousness that destabilized the Jayhawks’ normally sound offense, forcing them into 16 turnovers — including key ones in down the stretch — and limiting them to a season-low 59 points.

“We wanted to make it a street fight, make it an ugly game,” point guard Ryan Arcidiacono said. Villanova will need a similar plan of attack defensively to disrupt the potent offense of Oklahoma.

Stopping Buddy Hield isn’t really possible, but making him uncomfortable and limiting his transition buckets will obviously be crucial in advancing to the title game.

There’s no star on this team, but the Wildcats beat teams with a balanced offense that’s been bolstered by the heightened play of Arcidiacono and stretch 4-man Kris Jenkins.

If the game is close, Villanova shoots close to 80% from the free-throw line, making 18 of 19 against Kansas.

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