Will Villanova advance to the national title game on Monday? Here is the case for—and the case against—the 'Cats.
As part of its preview of the Final Four, SI.com is taking a look at each remaining team. Adjusted offense and defense statistics—which measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions—are from kenpom.com and the rankings are relative to the other Final Four teams. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through April 1.
Record: 33–5 (16–2 Big East)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 120.5 (2nd)/92.6 (1st)
Path to the Sweet 16: Beat No. 15 UNC Asheville, 86–56; beat No. 7 Iowa, 87–68; beat No. 3 Miami, 92–69; beat No. 1 Kansas, 64–59
Player: Josh Hart, junior guard, 13.8 ppg, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 apg during the NCAA tournament
The Case For: The Wildcats are the best team remaining in the NCAA tournament. At least, they are according to kenpom.com. Villanova enters this game No. 1 in overall adjusted efficiency, No. 4 in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 7 on defense. No other team in the Final Four is more efficient on defense than the ‘Cats, and only one team—North Carolina—outpaces them offensively. On offense, Villanova has had great balance. Among their eight regular contributors, only one player has an offensive rating below 100 (which is considered average); every other one has a rating north of 107.6. On defense, the Wildcats have displayed a variety of looks, from man to zone to press, and no team in the tournament has scored 70 points on them. In their most recent outing, Villanova held Kansas, the No. 4 three-point shooting team in the country at the time, to 27.3% from outside the arc. They also held Jayhawks senior star Perry Ellis to four points on five shots, his lowest output of the year.
Although no one on this Villanova team has been to the Final Four—in fact, no player on any of these four remaining teams has been in a national semifinal game before—it does have excellent veteran leadership in senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono and senior center Daniel Ochefu. And if you’re still looking for one more reason to like the Wildcats, kenpom.com gives them a 62% chance of advancing.
The Case Against: Buddy Hield. The Oklahoma senior star is fresh off earning the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year trophy from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and he is by far the best remaining player in this NCAA tournament. Although the Wildcats were able to employ a variety of different looks and defensive switches to slow excellent guards from Kansas and Miami during this tournament, they haven’t faced anyone like Hield. And that’s because there is no one like Hield. It’s possible that the NRG effect—teams have tended to shoot poorly in the cavernous dome—will slow Hield. If it doesn’t, the Wildcats will have to do that work themselves.
As SI’s Seth Davis pointed out this week, the Wildcats’ three-point defense is one of their biggest indicators of success this season. In wins, Villanova holds opponents to 32.2% from behind the arc; in their losses, the Wildcats’ foes shot 44.3%. The last time the Sooners and Wildcats played, on Dec. 7 in Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma shot 14 of 26 from three. A repeat of that performance would likely end the Wildcats season.
SI Prediction: Beat Oklahoma in the national semifinal; lose to North Carolina in the national championship game.