By Chris Fujimoto
Whew! The trying Regular Season is finally over and we’ve finally made it to the postseason. The Villanova Room was abuzz with energy when Villanova was announced as the third-seed in the East region drawing the Eagles of American University in the first round. Although it seems like a forgone conclusion that ‘Nova will move on to the second round, this writer believes the Eagles won’t go down without a fight. Here’s my scouting report on the Eagles:
The Eagles were the Patriot League regular season and tournament titles. They come in riding a hot streak of a 13 game winning streak and 18 of their last 19 games. This, granted, was against the lowly Patriot league but these Eagles will definitely be riding momentum coming in to Thursday’s contest against ‘Nova. They did play games against Maryland, Oklahoma, and Georgetown and lost those games by an average of 23 ppg. American’s star, Garrison Carr, is an explosive scorer who can single handily carry his team to victory. In their victory in the Patriot League final Carr scored 24 and two other players scored in double figures. Other than those three players: Carr, point guard Derrick Mercer, and forward Brian Gilmore, there seems to be no point production from anyone else.
Carr, the Patriot league player of the year, is the only reliable scorer on the team. Judging from tape it appears that Carr is a shooter who loves to just chuck up 3’s all game long, judging from the eight that he threw up in the Patriot League final. He almost reminds me of the poor man’s Andy Rautins…minus the guido haircut. The best way to stop him is to put a good perimeter defender right up on him and contest every single shot he takes, and make him rush and take bad shots. Reggie Redding could definitely handle Carr. What hurts American is that they have very shallow depth, and besides their usual starter no player plays significant minutes. The lack of depth will definitely hurt them against the deep Wildcats.
The one thing the Eagles can pride themselves on is their defense. According to the NCAA website, the Eagles are the eighth best scoring defense team in the country, only giving up 58.5 points per game. This stat, however, is misleading because it appears that no team from the Patriot League is in the nation’s top 50 in scoring. The guards of American are very similar to Fisher and Reynolds in that they swarm around the ball and get a lot of steals. The Eagles forced 15 Turnovers against Holy Cross and got seven steals in the Patriot League Final. The defensive pressure won’t be as strong as Louisville’s but the ‘Cats should be fine unless they pass the ball around like they did against the Cards.
Villanova should cruise. The Eagles will keep it close early, but the Wildcats depth will prevail. The only question is: who will be the hot hand for the Wildcats in this contest? Villanova 74 American 50.
Tomorrow: Other Intriguing Matchups and My Bracket. (Hint: I have Villanova in the Final Four)