By Chris Fujimoto
The #3 seed Wildcats will travel to Boston to face the #2 seed Duke Blue Devils. Villanova advanced by cruising past the UCLA Bruins, 89-69, and Duke advanced by beating the Texas Longhorns 74-69. Both of the teams match up similarly statistically with Villanova averaging 77 ppg and Duke averaging 78.1 ppg. Both teams have a 1.1/1 assist to turnover ratio. Villanova averages 46% shooting from the field, 37% from 3point line, and 75% from the line. Duke averages 45% shooting from the field, 36% from 3point line, and 73% from the line. Statistically, these teams are identical. What does jump out, however, is that Duke took nearly 100 more 3 pointers throughout the season than Villanova. Let’s see how the Wildcats match up defensively on Duke and what will be the deciding factor in a Villanova victory.
Duke runs a starting line up with Jon Scheyer running the point, Nolan Smith, and Gerald Henderson leading the backcourt. The front court includes Kyle Singler and Lance Thomas. Key contributors are Greg Paulus, Elliot Williams and Brian Zoubek. The key debate between Villanova fans is: how do we match up with Duke? More so, how can we beat such a talented team? There are three keys to beating Duke. First, teams need to have lockdown perimeter defense which is Villanova’s weak point. When Duke shoots less than 20% from 3 point, they lose. Villanova was picked apart by American’s Garrison Carr in the first round. Duke has three or four great shooters who can create their own shot and are money behind the arc. If they can be shut down from 3, a Villanova win is likely.
Secondly, shut down the role players. Henderson and Singler will get their points, Henderson scores in double figures whether Duke wins or loses and Singler is a lock for 15 points or more, every single game. If Scheyer and the other role players can be shut down, then Duke is definitely beatable.
Finally, get Henderson and Singler in foul trouble. If you can’t stop them from scoring, drive against them on the offensive end and keep Singler and Henderson on the bench. In all of Duke’s losses Singler and/or Henderson had either four or five fouls. Thus, here are the match ups defensively that will be most effective on Duke: Lance Thomas-Dante Cunningham, Kyle Singler-Shane Clark, John Scheyer-Reggie Redding, Nolan Smith-Scottie Reynolds, and Gerald Henderson-Dwayne Anderson. These players match up the best against Duke based on size and defensive capability. Villanova, of course, will run different looks on all these players but these seem like they should be the initial match ups.
Keys to Victory
Besides the keys mentioned previously, there are several things that Villanova needs to do to beat the Dukies. Dante needs to pound the ball inside. Villanova destroyed UCLA in rebounding and points in the paint. No one on Duke’s team can beat Dante Cunningham down low; he should have a big game if the guards can get him the ball. The perimeter defense is key, if Villanova can put together disciplined defense that doesn’t allow open shots, they should be fine. Overall, Villanova matches up well against Duke. Stout defense will decide this close one. Villanova 85 Duke 75