Miami had to feel mocked in its last Game, closing as an underdog as a 3-seed against 11-seeded Wichita State. The Hurricanes came out with a purpose to win 65-57 and remain a team most of the country is sleeping on. Villanova fits that mold as well, mainly because the Wildcats have flamed out the last couple years as a top seed.
But now, Villanova is back in the Sweet 16 and coming off possibly one of its best performances of the season. The Wildcats absolutely throttled Iowa on Sunday, dominating every facet of the Game. Four of their starters hit double digits and they shot a ridiculous 59.3% from the floor and 10-of-19 from deep. To beat ‘Nova, you have to play better defense than Iowa displayed and that’s exactly what Miami can do.
The Hurricanes can match up with most teams in the country, no matter how their opponent wants to play, at least defensively. They have a stacked backcOurt of guards as well as a couple bigs that make getting hoops inside the paint a little difficult. Wichita State learned that quickly as they shot 33.9% from the field and 6-of-22 from long range.
This Game will undoubtedly be different than Villanova’s first two. The Wildcats are a slash-and-pass team often with Four guys on the cOurt that can shoot the three to go with big man Daniel Ochefu down low. Ochefu hasn’t had eye-popping numbers, but he’s feasted on the last two teams and has six blocks in the Tournament. Miami’s bigs of Tonye Jekiri and Kamari Murphy will be a good test on the boards for Ochefu. Murphy will have a tough matchup defensively on the smaller and athletic Kris Jenkins who knocked down three 3s last Game.
The battle will be just as good in the backcOurt with Nova’s Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson, as well as Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges off the bench. Miami can match that unit with its own in Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton. There will be fireworks.
Rodriguez made his name last Game with 28 points against the Shockers, but this may be McClellan’s time to shine. The 6-5 shooting guard will be matched up with Hart, who comes in at the same height. In addition, both players lead their respective teams in scoring. Both are solid shooters, but can also take their defender to the rack. The advantage may be with McClellan because of how many fouls he draws when he attacks. In the first two Tournaments Games, McClellan shot 21 free throws, while Hart attempted just five.
Villanova usually has the size edge at guard, but Davon Reed will present some problems at 6-6 and he may end up being guarded by Hart. If that happens, McClellan will have a smaller defender on him. But on the other end of that, Arcidiacono is going to have the advantage at point guard over the smaller Rodriguez. Arcidiacono has been a captain on Villanova since a freshman and he’s the guy that needs to have a good Game for Nova to win. With a few inches on Rodriguez, he will have plenty of opportunities to stand out in this Game.
The Wildcats haven’t had a difficult Game in the Tournament yet, while the opposite can be said for Miami who hasn’t won by more than eight points. There aren’t many advantages that stand out in this matchup, so it may come down to Jay Wright vs. Jim LArranaga. But sooner or later, Miami will need offensive production from its bigs (Murphy and Jekiri combined for 7 points vs. Wichita State). If not, they could be on their way out.
Our Pick – Miami +4.5