March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (2) Villanova vs. (15) Milwaukee

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Villanova Wildcats 

Back in the tournament for a second consecutive season after not making the field in 2012, the Wildcats look poised to make the most noise they have since their 2009 run to the Final Four. As we’ve come to expect from Villanova under Jay Wright, they’re very perimeter and up tempo oriented. They average 79 points a contest, led by James Bell’s 14.9, Darrun Hilliard II’s 14.4 and JayVaughn Pinkston’s 14.3. That potent trio makes the Wildcats difficult to game plan for defensively because you basically have to pick your poison, you’re not going to slow down all three of them. Just containing two is a serious challenge. As vital as great guard play, which the Wildcats certainly have, is in the tournament, their potential is limited if they don’t get serviceable play in the interior. A lot of the onus there falls on Daniel Ochefu, who is tied for the team lead in rebounds with six and also blocks 1.5 shots a game. The Wildcats went 16-3 against the RPI top 50, but their three losses (to Syracuse and Creighton twice) came by an average of 21 points. They struggle to defend the three, which Creighton and Syracuse both exposed, but they’re usually able to negate that with their own three-point shooting. They make nine on average at a 36 percent clip.

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Milwaukee Panthers 21-13, 7-9

It’s not very often that we see a mid-major team that had a sub .500 record during regular season play in their conference advance to the NCAA Tournament, but that’s the beauty of March Madness. It’s all about getting hot at the right time and after losing four in a row in February the Panthers went on to win five straight to secure their fourth tournament appearance in school history. The Panthers’ turnaround can largely be contributed to the return of Jordan Aaron, who was suspended for a violation of team rules during that down stretch last month. He came back with a vengeance, averaging 20.5 points upon his return on March 4. Collectively, the Panthers averaged 71 points a game this season while allowing 70. They were outrebounded by their opponents on the year and in their lone contest against an RPI top 50 team, they were blown out by 26 at Wisconsin. The Panthers have a history of wrecking brackets as they’re 3-3 in the tournament all-time, but it’s hard to imagine that trend continuing even if the put their best effort forward.