Sweet 16 Tale: #3 Miami Vs. #2 Villanova

The Miami Hurricanes. (credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Kris Jenkins #2 and Darryl Reynolds #45 of the Villanova Wildcats. (credit: Elsa/Getty Images)
  • Coaching
    Jim Larranaga is in his fifth season as the head coach at Miami, after turning mid-major George Mason into a contender and coaching them to the Final Four in 2006. In his 29th season as a head college coach, Larranaga has been to March Madness seven times, and this is his second appearance in five seasons in Miami. He led them to the Sweet 16 in 2013 and looks to take another step forward this season.
    Jay Wright is in his 15th season as the head coach at Villanova and has turned them into one of the regulars in March Madness. However, while the Wildcats have been in the NCAA Tournament in 11 of the past 12 seasons, they have only made it past the Round of 32 four times, and the last came in 2009. This is their first Sweet 16 appearance since their Final Four in that season, but Wright always has them playing hard and knows how to win.
  • Offense
    In the Miami win over Buffalo, the Hurricanes had two players break the 20-point mark in Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, and three others score double-digits, They also had two players hit double-doubles in Kamari Murphy and Davon Reed. McClellan averaged 16 ppg over the season and 19 ppg in March Madness. Rodriguez has been the breakout star of the tournament, with 24 points against Buffalo and 28 against Wichita State. They are not as fast as Villanova, but they are a stronger offensive team.
    The Wildcats are a fast-paced team and they can score a lot of points when allowed to run wild. They scored 86 and 87 points in the first two games of March Madness. There are four guys who can score on this offense in Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Jalen Brunson. In March Madness, other names have stepped up, such as Daniel Ochefu, who led the way against UNC-Asheville with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Mikal Bridges, who scored 12 from the bench. This is a very good offensive team who shot 58 percent from the field in the first two games.
  • Defense
    Against Buffalo, both Murphy (13) and Reed (12) had double-digit rebounding games, as well as double-digit scoring games. Murphy also added an impressive four blocks. Wichita State was a tougher game, but the two finished with a combined 11 rebounds while center Tonye Jekiri added seven more. This is a big, strong defense, and they have the ability to slow down games, and if they slow down Villanova, they will win this game.
    While Villanova scores fast, that means they have to hustle more to stop other teams from responding. Against Iowa, they allowed the Hawkeyes to hit 45 percent of their shots and only out-rebounded Iowa, 32-29 in the game. Ochefu is the big man here, with 21 rebounds in the first two games. In the Big East Finals, Seton Hall not only beat Villanova, but they limited the Wildcats to 67 points and their leading scorer was Isaiah Whitehead, who put up 26 points, including the game winning shot. The Wildcats have the weapons on offense, but they struggle against teams who slow down the game, like Miami does.
  • Bench Depth
    Because Buffalo took it down to the wire, only four bench players got into the game, and only one played double-digit minutes. That was Newton, who played for 26 minutes and scored 10 points. Against Wichita State, they went with four as well, but only picked up two points and two rebounds from the bench in that win. Newton is the go-to man on the bench, and scored a team-high 19 points in the ACC tournament loss to Virginia.
    In both of the tournament games, Villanova used six players off the bench to keep the starters energized. The team is deep, and they even played their best defensive player, Ochefu, from the bench in their Big East title loss to Seton Hall. Bridges, who scored 12 points against UNC-Asheville, played from the bench and recorded 26 minutes. Against Iowa, it was Phil Booth who went for over 20 minutes, with eight points, three assists, and two rebounds.
This is going to be an interesting game. Villanova will want to come out and run the ball up and down the court to get out to a lead. Miami is going to want to slow the game down and get things going at their pace, which is very bad for a Wildcats team that will find themselves pushed around if that happens. Miami has all the defensive tools to slow this one down and should win a close game.