Duke and Villanova meet Thursday night in the most evenly matched Sweet 16 contest in the field. Both teams are undersized, but both manage to win the rebounding battle more often than not. Both teams finished near the top of the two best conferences.
NCAA Tournament Path:
Duke: d #15 Binghamton 86-62, d #7 Texas 74-69
Villanova: d #14 American 80-68, d #6 UCLA 89-69
Keys to the Game:
1. Dribble Penetration Defense
We saw Duke really struggle with Texas’ athleticism on the perimeter, allowing the Longhorns to drive and dish to open shooters. Villanova has a similar style of offense, with guards Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding leading the attack.
Duke has to do a better job of man on ball defense than they did last week.
2. Three Point Defense
Duke’s bread and butter is the three-point shot. Villanova is giving up 33 percent from beyond the arc on the season. In their last loss in the Big East Tournament to Louisville, the Cardinals hit 13 of 28 from long range. Duke is hitting 36 percent on the season, and Villanova opponents shoot 23 per game.
Duke turns the ball over less on offense and forced more turnovers from it's defense, to the tune of about one per game more than Villanova. The Blue Devils force 15.5 per game from opponents on average. In their last three losses, Villanova has turned the ball over at least 16 times.
This game could go either way. The Blue Devils are playing their best basketball of the year, and will not be overpowered inside by a team of similar size. Villanova is very good at dribble penetration, which Duke has struggled with as of late. If Duke is hitting their threes, they are very tough to beat.
However, I think Villanova’s style of play is a bad matchup for Duke’s defense; And matchups, not necessarily the best team, is what the NCAA Tournament is about.
Villanova Wins By 1-6 Points
Season: 43-29 SU through 3/25