KANSAS vs. Villanova (8:30 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Network)
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KUAD Pregame Notes
Keys to the Game
1. Make jump shots. With the physical Black and long Embiid clogging the lane, Villanova will need to make its jump shots if it has any chance in pulling the upset. If the Wildcats can start off hot from the outside (8-for-17 from behind the arc in Thursday’s first half vs USC), it will go a long way in getting a victory.
2. Daniel Ochefu. Regardless of how well the Villanova guards are able to play, the Wildcats will need Ochefu to have his best performance of the season, on both ends of the floor. Ochefu played well in stretches in Thursday’s win, finishing with six points and eight rebounds. Without much size on the team, the 6-foot-11 Ochefu will need to be mostly effective on the defensive end.
3. Guard play. Villanova may arguably have the advantage at the guard position. With most of Kansas’ talent coming in its frontcourt, how effective the backcourt of the Wildcats is could potentially decide the game. With Dylan Ennis (14 points on Thursday) now in the fold for Villanova, the Wildcats have five guards capable of scoring double-digits on any given night. Friday would be a good time for them all to do so.
The Ennis Effect
Playing in his first game of the season after fracturing his right hand just four and a half weeks ago, the effect that Ennis has on Villanova’s rotation is obvious. The 6-foot-2-sophomore transfer from Rice adds to an already deep Wildcats backcourt. Entering the game less than five minutes into it, Ennis knocked down back-to-back three pointers to provide a much-needed spark early on; he finished with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting along with three assists in his debut.
Ennis is an explosive guard that scores and rebounds. He averaged 8.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in his freshman season at Rice. Ennis is also a great passer, averaging 4.1 assists per game in that freshman campaign. He’s a pesky defender as well, and will provide some great depth to Villanova allowing Jay Wright to keep his guards fresh.
“I’ll watch a lot more tape. I’ve watched some so far,” KU coach Bill Self said after his team’s 87-78 victory over Wake Forest set up an 8:30 p.m., contest with ‘Nova.
“Jay’s teams always play hard,” Self added of coach 13th-year Wildcat coach Jay Wright. “They had a play today (where) they were back-tapping the ball. A guy laid out and dove for a ball and deflected it out of bounds. They are tough kids. We’ve had good games with them in the past.”
KU is 3-1 all-time versus Villanova, 2-1 under Self.
“They are not real big, so they are interchangeable,” Self said. “They at times could play 6-6 at the 4 and 5. Our bigs will have to guard away from the basket. It’ll be a good game. Hopefully we’ll be better because of this today,” he added of an unsatisfactory effort versus 5-1 Wake. “Certainly we have a long night ahead to prepare.”
James Bell, a 6-6 senior, scored 17 points versus USC. Darrun Hilliard, a 6-6 junior, scored 16 for the Wildcats, who hit 11 of 28 threes.
“We go back and look at all of the threes we took and we’re happy with the shots we’re taking,” Wright said. “I don’t think we took any bad threes tonight, either.”
It's pretty simple. Kansas beat Duke. By double digits. They're averaging 87 points per game, scoring at least 80 in each contest. They're 8th in the nation in assists at 19.3/game, and lead the NCAA in field goal percentage shooting at a .568 clip.
But this battle is by no means David vs. Goliath. Villanova averages nearly 82 points per game, rebound better than the Jayhawks, and are top 25 in assists. Not to mention that Mouph is the only major contributor lost from a team that knocked off three top-5 squads last year. You could also frame this as a possible vengeance game; if 'Nova had beaten UNC in March Madness last year, they would have face Kansas in the second (third) round. The major difference for Kansas, of course, is Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins, a 6'8 freshman from Ontario, is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, freshman in college basketball this year. He has at least 13 points in every game, and grabs nearly seven rebounds each contest. He committed four fouls against Duke, but only has three others for the entire season.
That being said, Wiggins has been reportedly battling the flu all week and has not left the hotel other than for practices and games. So a day after playing an important role in the win against Wake Forest (in which he played well but was not dominant), he could be at less than 100% for the game tonight.
Dylan Ennis, Villanova's Ontario representative, played beyond expectations in his Wildcat debut. Ennis shot 80% from the floor in 23 minutes, including 3-4 from deep and providing three assists to just one turnover. We'll see his endurance tested in game two of the tournament as well.
Wiggins v Hart? Best freshman in the nation? I like our chances!
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