Villanova's Blueprint for Deep Run in 2014 NCAA Tournament
After a tremendous regular-season campaign, the Villanova Wildcats were rewarded with the No. 2 seed in the East region.
The Wildcats were handed a second-round matchup with No. 15 Milwaukee to kick off the tournament before a juicy game against either No. 7 UConn or No. 10 St. Joseph's awaits in the third round in Buffalo.
Villanova will have to be at its best to succeed during the Big Dance and reach its full potential, and here is a blueprint for a deep run by the Wildcats.
Show No Fear as Inexperienced Team
Villanova is a very young team that has not had winning experience in the NCAA tournament as a collective whole.
For that to change, the core of the Wildcats' team, including sophomores Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu as well as junior Darrun Hilliard, must mature quickly.
Those players have shown they can win the games they are supposed to win, but they have come up short in big games against Syracuse and Creighton.
Beating Milwaukee won't get them over that specific hump, but a win in the third round will provide the Wildcats with a much-needed confidence boost.
Defend Like Heck in the Backcourt
Assuming the Wildcats cruise past Milwaukee in their first game in Buffalo on Thursday, they will have to deal with a superb guard in the third round.
The worst-case scenario for Villanova is playing against Shabazz Napier of UConn, who is one of the best individual talents in the entire nation.
If St. Joseph's defeats UConn in the second round, the Wildcats will have to deal with Langston Galloway, who is the best player on the Hawks' roster.
Luckily, the Wildcats do have players like Hilliard and James Bell that can defend those guards well, but when put up against Trevor Cooney, Tyler Ennis and Doug McDermott in the regular season, they came up short.
Daniel Ochefu Must Command the Paint
All season long, Ochefu has been improving his play at the center position.
As just a sophomore, Ochefu has contributed six rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Recently, the center has hit a rough patch with more than five rebounds in just one of his last five games.
If Ochefu's sophomore slump continues into the NCAA tournament, Villanova's time in the Big Dance could be short-lived.
James Bell Needs to Show His Senior Leadership
The play of James Bell in the Villanova backcourt has been one of the biggest surprises in the nation this season, as the senior averages 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Bell is also the team's best defender, and it will be his responsibility to shut down whoever comes his way throughout the tournament.
While trying to succeed on both ends of the ball, Bell must also provide senior leadership to his young teammates, who have shown at times during the season, especially in losing situations, that they are susceptible to panicking.
Just like Ochefu, Bell needs to rebound from a rough spell of form, as he put just three points up on Seton Hall in the upset loss during the Big East tournament.
Expect that poor performance to motivate Bell to succeed more in the final games of his college career.
Use Third-Round Rivalry Game to Drive Team One Step Further
The eyes of every Villanova fan lit up on Selection Sunday when the brackets were announced because of the potential third-round matchup with either UConn or St. Joe's.
What this means is that if Villanova gets past Milwaukee, it will face either an old Big East foe or a Big Five rival.
With the extra kick of a rivalry game added to either third-round matchup, the Wildcats must use that to fuel them more on the court.
Passion is something that a Jay Wright-coached team never lacks, and expect this edition of the Wildcats to have an extra amount of that during the heated game in Buffalo.
NCAA Tournament Forecast
Prediction: Loss in Elite Eight to No. 4 Michigan State
Villanova is the most well-rounded team in its part of the bracket, which also includes No. 3 Iowa State and No. 6 North Carolina.
The Wildcats should be able to beat either team in the Sweet 16 to set up a showdown with No. 4 Michigan State, the hottest team in the East bracket.
Michigan State has to be considered the favorite to advance out of the East region due to how deep its squad is and how hot it is heading into the tournament.
A Final Four run is possible for Villanova, but it is unlikely with Michigan State is its path.