By Chris Fujimoto
See more photos from last night in the post below
First off, the great debate has been all but settled. On Selection Sunday the Big East, the ACC, and the Big Ten all had seven teams selected to the NCAA Tournament. After the first round, six Big East Teams remained, four Big Ten teams remained, and three ACC teams were left in the field. Now, with half of the Sweet 16 completed there are still five Big East teams left with three of them punching their tickets to the elite 8. There is only one team from the Big Ten and the ACC with Purdue and Duke getting knocked out by Big East teams last night. Now it is up to the remaining Big East teams, Louisville and Syracuse, to take care of business.
Looking back at last night’s game there were a lot of good things as well as a few things that make you cringe when watching this brilliant team take the court and battle. We’ll highlight both the good and bad in the game recap:
Villanova Uses Defensive Intensity and Balance to Rout Duke:
Villanova has re-commited itself to playing amazing defense. In long stretches throughout the season you had to wonder whether or not Villanova had lost the defensive swagger that led them to big wins early in the season. Coach Wright mentioned this in last night’s press conference: “We were good offensively a lot this year and it won us some games, even though we maybe played 20 minutes of defense. But the last two games we played 40 minutes of defense. And you’re not going to advance agains these great teams unless you do that.” You can definitely see it in the player’s eyes when they are out there on the court. Every single player out there realizes that there are two ends of the court and play amazing on ball defense.
The huge difference, again was the rebounding differential. Villanova bested Duke 49-34 on the boards and turned that in to a 44-18 advantage for points in the paint. Just like against UCLA, the Villanova players pushed their way around in the paint and gave no easy buckets or rebounds. Duke’s Lance Thomas only had great things to say about ‘Nova “This was a physical game. And their team put a very big emphasis, to make sure they had four or five guys rebounding. Once you blocked out a guy, it was a fight for the ball.” You gotta love the way these guys attack the ball, and it’ll help when they play against Dejuan Blair and the Pitt Panthers.
The one thing that stood out to me was the huge amount of fouls in this one. I’m not usually one to be critical of the refs, but in this one there was definitely some inconsistency on the courts. The fans definitely let the refs hear it during the game. While this was a physical game, as noted before, there were a lot of soft fouls being called. Both sides definitely had a reason to complain. At the beginning of the 2nd half there was a huge foul advantage in Duke’s advantage. Then, after, there were at least five or six straight fouls called on Duke on similar soft calls.
Balance again was the story in this one. Three players in double figures and seven with at least six points. It is tough to defend a team when all the players out there can score and have the confidence to score. When Duke had McClure out there, he gave them solid minutes but although he played 14 minutes he didn’t shoot the ball once. That allowed McClure’s defender to shadow him and watch the primary offensive players in Singler, Scheyer, and Henderson.
It was a little of both Duke’s defensive strength and Villanova’s struggle to put down shots that led to a 34.5% shooting in the first half. What worried me was shooting 4-18 from 3 pointers. There were some rushed shots by Reynolds and others that led to this stat and the shot selection needs to be much better in the next game.
As was already mentioned, the one that made this game a blowout was the Villanova defense. I’ll end the review with a quote by Coach K, whom I have nothing but respect for as a coach and a person. “I love Villanova’s team and what Jay has done with his team. They’ve got a chance to do something special, because they can really handle the ball and they play very good defense and they’re tough. They’re just a tough basketball team. They’re a very, very good basketball team.”
Pitt is up next…A short preview will be up tomorrow before the game. Thanks for reading.