SCOUTING VILLANOVA!! WILDCATS OWN MSG!!
Andy Mac Williams,
So the Muskies would seem to be between a rock and a hard place tonight vs #1 Seed and Regular Season BIG EAST Champ Villanova in the BET Semi-finals at Madison Square Garden. KenPom picks Nova 71-65 throwing XU a bone by giving them a 31% chance of victory. A huge Wildcat-centric crowd is already making its way to Manhattan up the Jersey Turnpike from Philadelphia. Villanova thrives in the BET at MSG(7 straight wins over 3 seasons w/ Tourney Titles in 2017 and 2018 and a 12-2 record in BET since the birth of the New BIG East in 2014). Only Seton Hall has beaten them in BET at the Garden.
Nova shed March jitters w/ a solid 73-62 win over Providence yesterday afternoon. #4 Seed Xavier squeezed by red hot Creighton(5 straight wins) 63-61 by controlling tempo-guarding the three point line-cutting down on turn overs and playing inside-out.
Zach Hankins was HUGE(22 points-9 rebounds-blocked shots-mega-hustle). Naji Marshall played w/ grit despite a sore ankle. Total team commitment to defense and effort!! Anyway-XU is the underdog trying to prevent another Villanova NYC coronation.
The MM articles I wrote here on February 22 and February 25 before and after the Muskies' stirring 66-54 win over Nova at Cintas still apply. Feel free to read or re-read them.
Nova is Nova!! Not last season's NCAA Champs w/o Brunson and Bridges and DiVencenzo and Spellman. but still 23-9, 13-5 BIG EAST, #25 NET featuring the BIG THREE Booth, Paschall and Gillespie(52 combined points in win over PC), two improving BIGS Samuels(29 points vs Marquette recently) and Cosby-Roundtree, BE All Frosh teamer Saddiq Bey-now healthy 6-6 frosh Cole Swider and the talent to run Coach Jay Wright's 8 man rotation.
VU zones more and presses less, but they shoot threes relentlessly-offensive rebound like demons-cause turnovers and play for each other.
X can win this sticking to their recent template-half court-patient offense running through Tyrique(who loves to play Nova) and Zach Hankins who is starting to dominate(15PPG-8 rebounds-3 blocks over the last 3 games-21 for 30 FGs-29 minutes/game).
Stalking the 3 point line and making VU inefficient from deep(10 makes-not 15) on over 30 long shots-controlling turnovers(11 or fewer) leading to manageable VU points off the mistakes and keeping Nova off the offensive glass so they can't consistently grab their own long misses-recycle the shot clock and dart you w/ a dagger scrambling three.
Gillespie seems over his shooting slump. Samuels is playing w/ more confidence. Swider is a rotation plus now coming off a broken hand. X needs both Tyrique and Zach to play well and all the guards to take care of the basketball. Naji Marshall needs to limit either Booth or Paschall and help to make them less efficient.
X has to be the tougher more disciplined team against a program built on those traits. The VU mystique no longer toys w/ the Muskies' heads after that 66-54 XU win at Cintas.
X must get this win to stay in NCAA contention. Their NCAA NET stayed static at #70 despite the win over Creighton yesterday while Creighton rose from 54 to 52 even though they lost head to head vs Xavier?? Go Figure??
X will be getting no boost from the analytics. The Muskies probably need 2 BET wins over Villanova then either Marquette or Seton Hall to grab the BIG EAST automatic NCAA berth. At least X can determine its own fate even though the task is hard.
MUSKIES FOREVER! NET NEVER! BEAT NOVA THEM WHOMEVER!!
The computer will still probably send Xavier to Dayton for the First Four!! Any NCAA site and seed is OK by me. Winning actual games matters more than dysfunctional computer programs.