March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (2) Villanova vs. (7) UConn

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(2) Villanova Wildcats
The upset-minded Milwaukee Panthers were game through 20 minutes of play, but in the second half the Wildcats took it up another notch and they could keep pace as they fell 73-53. The Wildcats went on a 14-0 run through the end of the first and beginning of the second and outscored the Panthers by 16 overall in the second half. The Panthers shot under 30 percent from the field and three against the tough Wildcats’ defense. Five different Wildcats scored in double figures, with Darrun Hilliard II’s 16 and JayVaughn Pinkston’s 13 leading the way. The Wildcats couldn’t buy a three though for much of the game, shooting just 4-23 from distance. They won the battle of the boards by nine. They did give up 13 offensive rebounds, but when you force 45 misses, the opposition is going to get some second chance opportunities. While they may not play in the same conference anymore, the Wildcats are still quite familiar with the Huskies. They know that defeating them starts with slowing down their backcourt combination of Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier. In last year’s 70-61 victory against the Huskies they held Boatright and Napier to a combined 3-15 shooting from the field and just six points. A similar defensive effort will earn them a spot in the Sweet 16.

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(7) UConn Huskies
All eyes were on Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie to see how he handled his first NCAA Tournament as a head coach. His team found itself in a battle against the Atlantic-10 tournament champions in St. Joseph’s, needing overtime to clinch the 89-81 victory and avoid the upset. They were down by three with 43 seconds remaining, but freshman big man Amida Brimah came through with a three point play to tie it up. UConn got the stop on the next possession and with three seconds left Ollie drew up a masterful fullcourt play to get his best player in Shabazz Napier a quality look from three. It didn’t fall, but overtime was owned by the Huskies. They made 15/16 from the free throw line in the extra five minute session to clinch their spot in the Round of 32 and set up a match against their old Big East Rivals in the Villanova Wildcats. These two teams have had some classic battles in the past and with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line Saturday’s game should be no different. Perimeter defense will be key for the Huskies, who will also need DeAndre Daniels and Brimah to come up large again. Napier didn’t have his most efficient performance of the year, shooting just 7-22 from the field and turning it over five times. Expect him to improve on that with the competition improving and the stakes getting higher.