Final Four Preview: Breaking Down The Wildcats

Thursday, March 31st 2016, 6:41 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger

Last Saturday Villanova shocked the college basketball world. Instead of falling back into the sinkable postseason trend like the Wildcats have in previous years—Villanova failed to advance past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last seven seasons—it was Jay Wright’s squad who took down the number one overall seed: the almighty Jayhawks from Kansas.

In doing so, the Wildcats are headed to the Final Four for the fifth time in the history of the program and will clash with Buddy Hield and Oklahoma at 5:09 p.m. on Saturday.

Here’s everything you need to know about Villanova heading into its Final Four showdown with the Sooners:

How’d they get here?

Fresh off a 33-5 record and a regular season Big East title by going 16-2 in conference play, the Wildcats came into the big dance on a roll despite getting edged by Seton Hall (69-66) in the Big East Championship game.

Villanova took care of business in the tourney’s early rounds with an 86-56 win over UNC Asheville and then beat down a very good Iowa team by 19 in the next round to advance to the Sweet 16. Despite all the hype surrounding Miami and Angel Rodriguez heading into the next round, the Wildcats held the Miami point guard to only 13 points and smashed the Hurricanes 92-69.

The Elite Eight brought forth a Goliath-like opponent in Kansas, but Villanova limited KU’s Perry Ellis to only four points and beat the Jayhawks by five points to advance to the Final Four.

The Wildcats got hot at the right time, and since the NCAA Tournament started, Villanova ranks No. 2 in offensive efficiency (127.0), No. 2 in field goal percentage (55%) and No. 3 in three-point field goal percentage (46%).

Breaking down the roster

Josh Hart (6-5, 205) – Hart is arguably the Wildcats best player with an average of 15.3 ppg to go with 6.7 rebounds from the guard position. The junior was named to the All-Big East First Team and will be a tough matchup for OU to defend.

Kris Jenkins (6-6,240) – Jenkins is a versatile forward and has been hot as of late from behind the arc. He can do a little bit of everything and lit the Hurricanes up for 21 points in the Sweet 16. He’s made 77 percent of the two-point field goals he’s attempted in the tourney.

Ryan Arcidiacono (6-3, 195) – The lifetime Villanova fan turned Wildcats’ guard is playing well throughout the tournament, and averaged 12.3 ppg and 4.3 apg throughout the season. Arcidiacono can stroke it from downtown and has solid court vision, and is one of the many weapons Coach Wright has at his disposal. He also takes care of the ball, with only four turnovers in the tourney.

Daniel Ochefu (6-11, 245) – Ochefu is the anchor down low for the Wildcats and averaged 10.1 ppg along with 7.6 rebounds. Ochefu is a well-rounded big who can pass and is efficient from the field while also protecting the rim and picking up steals on defense.

Jalen Brunson (6-3, 199) – This freshman guard is playing well above his age while running point for a national championship contender. Formerly a member of AAU’s Chicago Fire, Brunson averaged 9.8 ppg and 2.6 apg on the season.

Mikal Bridges (6-7, 191) – As the sixth man of the Wildcats, Bridges gets a lot of important minutes as a freshman guard and averaged 6.3 ppg and 3.3 rpg during the regular season. He’s known as the defensive stopper on the team and could see a lot of time guarding OU’s Hield. Bridges had four steals in the second half alone against KU.

Villanova shows up

While it’s obvious that Villanova’s a great team, it’s clear the Wildcats show up for every game and take care of opponents they’re supposed to beat. All five of Villanova’s losses came against very good opponents. The teams the Wildcats lost to—Oklahoma, Virginia, Providence, Xavier and Seton Hall—all made it to the NCAA tournament and have a combined 135-41 record.