By Peter Gleason
If you’re looking for a match-up that may decide tonight’s Villanova-Miami Sweet 16 game in Louisville, look no further than:
The Wildcats’ Ryan Arcidiacono vs. the Hurricanes’ Angel Rodriguez.
There are two Rodriguez point guards to consider. The excellent one came forth in the Hurricanes’ first two games. He scored a total of 52 points in wins against Buffalo and Wichita State, even outshining fellow veteran point guard Fred VanVleet in the second-round affair of a relatively breezy eight-point win.
He’ll be matched up against Arcidiacono, who is by comparison a quieter player who more or less picks his spots rather than Rodriguez’s all-out determination of his team’s fortunes.
Rodriguez can score from all over the floor, and he rips out opponents’ hearts with points scored late into the shot clock. Meanwhile, Arcidiacono’s success will often be dictated by how Villanova’s big men play. If they’re thriving inside, that will leave plenty of room for him to get wide-open looks from the perimeter, where he’s at a career-best clip (37.5 percent) after knocking down six of the nine attempts he’s taken while reaching the Sweet 16.
Both are incredibly balanced players who take roughly the same number of two-point attempts as threes. They each shoot 80 percent or better from the foul line and control their own foul troubles. Rodriguez’s assist and turnover rates are both markedly higher, meaning the obvious: His impact will be easier to notice.
When Rodriguez is rolling, Villanova and every other team in the country may be at his whim.
The Miami senior threw an alley-oop pass from about 40 feet against Wichita State, right when it seemed like the Shockers were going to get control of the game. He added 10 points in the final two-and-a-half minutes, as well. That game, he totaled five assists and four steals—but also seven turnovers.
Granted, the turnover and steal numbers were abnormally high, even by Rodriguez’s Jekyll and Hyde nature.
Arcidiacono and Rodriguez both have the ball in their hands constantly as entrusted leaders of guard-heavy teams. They each can set up teammates or take over themselves. This could be a last-possession type of game, and it’ll likely come down to these two.
From last year to this year, Rodriguez has become much more reliable, as he’s posted career highs in two-point field-goal percentage and is shooting 10.4 percent better on the whole this season. Arcidiacono is reliable too, but Rodriguez’s upside is greater.
That confidence should spread to his teammates and be just enough to move the Hurricanes into their first Elite Eight in school history.