Is a Final Four rematch without the best 7 or so players from the game really a rematch? Is it the programs we cheer for or the players? That and more on “Existential Crisis Basketball Hour.”
As for the game at hand, Villanova comes into Allen Fieldhouse off a loss at Penn, but after an understandable loss to Michigan and inexplicable loss to Furman, they have righted the ship for the most part. Offensively, they’ve taken the philosophy that “threes open things up for twos” to the extreme, taking 52 percent of their shots from deep. 52 percent! It’s like my dream for both the 2017 and 2018 Jayhawks has come to life.
Interestingly, Nova isn’t shooting it very well from deep, making just a third of their attempts. Still, Kansas needs to attack the 3-point line, lest they run into a barrage like last April. Villanova has attempted more than 20 threes in every game but two this season, and the safe bet is they get to 40+ tomorrow. When not shooting threes, they aren’t much to write home about offensively (their 2-point shooting is very good, but most of it comes off the lanes created by their 3-point shooting), but the ever-present threat of them going 20-40 from three will certainly keep Bill Self awake tonight.
Defensively, Villanova has gotten worse since last year, largely thanks to the departure of Mikal Bridges. Their defense was just outside the top 10 last year in most advanced rankings, and they could depend on Bridges to more or less shut his man down. This year, however, they’ve dropped to 61st in KenPom and 83rd in Torvik.
In their four games against top 100 opponents, Villanova is allowing teams to shoot 53.3 percent from two and they aren’t forcing a ton of turnovers. I haven’t watched them play much this season, but against Penn one thing that stood out to me is they don’t seem to have anyone who has much of a chance against Dedric Lawson, so Kansas should go to him early and often.
Players to Watch
Collin Gillespie, 6-2 sophomore guard
Gillespie wasn’t expected to be a major part of the rotation this year (I don’t think anyway) but he’s responded well to being thrust into that role. He’s shooting 43 percent from three, and while he’s not a great passer he does a good job of keeping Villanova’s offense moving.
Saddiq Bey, 6-8 freshman forward
Bey stood out to me immediately when I watched Villanova’s loss to Penn. He’s an imposing figure on both ends, scores inside with ease, and while he’s shooting just 34 percent from three, his shot looks good and I think it will really improve over the course of the next couple of seasons. He had a little bit of an issue with turnovers early in the season, but has only turned it over twice in the last six games.
If Kansas were playing a little better, I would think this is the type of team they could beat fairly handily. Missed threes lead to a lot of transition baskets, and this team is normally effective in transition. I also think Kansas should be able to score inside somewhat at will. However, Villanova taking so many threes worries me, as does the fact that Kansas hasn’t looked great this year, save for the 2nd half against Wofford. I think Kansas will win, but just barely. Give me 82-78 Jayhawks.