March Madness Pick
Can Villanova finally get the monkey off its back? The Wildcats are a top seed once again, but despite that marking the last couple years, they haven’t made it to the second weekend. This looks to be their best chance with a round of 32 Game against Iowa being played in nearby Brooklyn where they’ll have the majority of fans.
Another bonus for ‘Nova is that Iowa had to play an extra five minutes on Friday to take down Temple in overtime. The Hawkeyes seemingly had the Game locked up in regulation, but faltered in the late seconds due to missed free throws and poor defense. After shooting 34.8% from the field and 7-of-28 from distance, Iowa will undoubtedly need a better performance to take down Villanova.
The Wildcats are everyone’s favorite team to pick to lose in the Tournament early. That’s been the case the last couple years, but they put a foot down in their opening Game with a big 30-point win over UNC Asheville. They dominated both ends of the floor and were 13-of-28 from 3.
Villanova still hasn’t really had a great win outside of the Big East this year so that’ll be the reason for Iowa backers. In Games against Oklahoma and Virginia early in the season, ‘Nova fell by double digits in each. Iowa was a different story throughout the year, looking dominant at times in the Big Ten, sweeping Michigan State and Purdue. However, the Hawkeyes struggled mightily down the stretch losing five of their final six Games including the Big Ten Tournament opener against Illinois.
Now with a win under its belt, does Iowa have its form back? All signs point to this matchup being a close Game. The immediate edge goes to Villanova for obvious reasons other than being the 2-seed. The Wildcats have the backcOurt advantage with Ryan Arcidiacono leading the way along with Josh Hart. Arcidiacono has been a model of consistency throughout his career at ‘Nova and that’ll come into play in this Game against an Iowa team lacking great play at the guard spot.
That first issue for the Hawkeyes is Mike Gesell. While he’s a solid point guard, his offensive Game lacks at times and that was seen when he went 0-for-8 from the field in the win over Temple. He needs to keep up with Arcidiacono on the other end for Iowa to win. Iowa may end up putting Anthony Clemmons on Arcidiacono, who’s Iowa’s best defensive guard.
Daniel Ochefu is another important player for the Wildcats down low after racking up a double-double in the first Game, but he’ll have a much harder matchup against Adam Woodbury in this Game. Ochefu’s athleticism may be the determining factor between those two.
Where Iowa needs to excel, which isn’t anything new, is with Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok. Those two dropped 39 combined points in the first Game and have been the only consistent players for the Hawkeyes in the past month. Due to their size, they should find plenty more favorable matchups.
There isn’t a major bench edge for either team, but Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth can both have bigger impacts than what Iowa’s bench has done lately. Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer have had good Games, but are hard to trust.
In the end, the Wildcats best advantage may be the fans in Brooklyn. They’ll have the majority of the place cheering for them, which could ultimately decide what should be a tight Game.
Our Pick – Villanova -6.5