This is the Game almost everyone wanted to see in this region and that’s what we’ll get. The consistent force of the Villanova offense against the full-cOurt press of West Virginia. Unsurprisingly, the Wildcats were an early -5.5 point favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the Game in Boston.
Both teams have cruised through the early rounds with neither having a Game closer than 17 points. The Wildcats ran through Alabama in the second half over the weekend, while West Virginia was gifted with a Game against a Marshall team that couldn’t deal with the press.
And that press is almost everything that matters for the Mountaineers because it’s how they defend and in turn how they set up offense. The problem is that ‘Nova has multiple ball handlers and rarely turns it over at just 14.7 percent, one of the best rates in the country and tops in the Big East. In addition to point guard Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo both have good size and the ability to break the press and that doesn’t include future NBA pick Mikal Bridges, who does a little bit of everything.
If the press doesn’t work, West Virginia will have a problem. There’s a reason the Mountaineers have one of the worst three-point defenses in the country and it’s because once teams beat the press, they often get open looks from distance. On the offensive end, WVU will need to win on the glass as that may be its best route of attack against a smaller Villanova squad that is mediocre at rebounding.
The matchup everyone is talking about is Brunson against Jevon Carter. Brunson is one of the favorites for National Player of the Year, although there are plenty of arguments against that. Either way, Brunson is a great shooter from outside and sets up his teammates for tons of open looks. As for Carter, he’s been on a tear with 49 points, nine boards, 13 assists and 11 steals in the last two Games. In his final collegiate Games, Carter is giving it all and is the main reason to bet on WVU.
As for the rest of the teams, the Wildcats have a slew of shooters from Bridges, Booth and DiVincenzo to big man Omari Spellman or even Eric Paschall, who has the worst percentage of the bunch yet has made a three in his last six Games. Villanova doesn’t have a true post presence and that hasn’t mattered yet, but it could cost them at some point.
Spellman will get a good dosage of Sagaba Konate, who has the ability to dominate a Game down low. As one of the best shot blockers in the country, he cleans up a lot of easy looks inside the arc and that could be helpful against Villanova. The problem is that Spellman may sit at the three-point line a ton, keeping Konate out of the paint.
The problem for the Mountaineers is that they haven’t gotten consistent offensive production from anyone else other than Carter. Konate can be good on the offensive end, but isn’t a guy to rely on. The same goes for everyone else from Daxter Miles to LAmont West and Esa Ahmad. Miles may be the player they’ll need most because he’s someone that can get hot from deep as seen in the Big 12 Tournament when he averaged 22 points per Game. So far, he has 18 points total in two NCAA Tourney Games.
Villanova is the safer team to bet due to its consistency and multiple ball handlers. But that’s not to say West Virginia doesn’t have a chance. If the Mountaineers can force early turnovers and get offensive production from Miles and Konate, this will be an extremely fun Game, unlike any of these team’s previous ones.
Our Pick -West Virginia +5.5