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Scouting the Contenders: Villanova Wildcats

Ryan Arcidiacono
As March Madness slowly inches closer and closer, "Scouting the Contenders" takes a look at some of the nation's best teams in a chaotic race, and scouts their strengths and weaknesses and just how far they could go in the NCAA Tournament. We begin with the nation's current No. 1, the Villanova Wildcats:

Track Record: 

  • 20-3 record, 10-1 conference (1st in Big East)
  • Notable Wins: 95-64 over Xavier, 72-63 over Seton Hall, 60-55 over Butler, 72-60 over Providence
  • Notable Losses: 78-55 to Oklahoma, 86-75 to Virginia, 82-76 to Providence
  • Currently a No. 1 seed in Joe Lunardi of ESPN's Bracketology
Scouting Report: Per typical Villanova standards, the Wildcats feature one of the nation's best back-courts, headed by vets Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart. Arcidiacono is one of the land's most underrated guards; he shoots the ball with incredible efficiency and displays great poise late in games. Hart has great size, enabling him to get to the rim and finish through contact. He isn't a great defender though and can be inconsistent. True freshman Jalen Brunson is legit, the five-star recruit handles the ball really well and plays with a maturity well beyond his years. He won't drop 30 on any given night, but he'll give you solid scoring and playmaking ability. Sophomore Phil Booth isn't much of a shooter (34% from the field, 29% from three-point), but he at least adds something on the defensive side of the ball. Villanova's problems begin when examining their frontcourt. Daniel Ochefu is a solid center who can rebound and plays very hard. He averages 9.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game. But, he has never been one to really dominate and he fatigues late in games. That is worrying, considering Villanova's depth, especially in their frontcourt, is seriously lacking. Kris Jenkins is a hard-working forward with plenty of playmaking ability. The forward plays a healthy dose of minutes and can add some scoring punch but mistakes and poor shots are his kryptonite. Beyond those two, Jay Wright doesn't have a ton of options, junior Darryl Reynolds can contribute, but Villanova too often runs a small-ball attack, leaning on Hart or freshman Mikal Bridges to guard uncomfortable positions because they have the most size. That leaves them vulnerable to diverse offensive attacks, and they've struggled to defend some of the top offenses they've played this year, particularly Oklahoma and Providence. Overall, the depth on 'Nova is a really serious problem. They have a good core of about eight guys who can play big minutes, but it is a complete mystery beyond that. Late in the season, when they are tired and facing tough opponents, is having only really eight guys going to hurt them? Yes, and it is going to really hurt them. It also leaves them very vulnerable if someone gets in foul trouble, particularly Ochefu. Ochefu is a good defender but he isn't patient, and he will foul often. If that happens, it leaves Villanova extremely weakened underneath, hurting a team that doesn't have overwhelming size to begin with.  

Verdict: The Wildcats have long been a great regular season under the leadership of Jay Wright. Wright is good at developing players and holds his players accountable. But, they have too often stumbled in the NCAA Tournament, with the lone exception being their Final Four berth in 2008-2009, led by guard Scottie Reynolds. This year's team is undeniably good; they have a ton of talent and plenty of versatility in their staring lineup. Arcidiacono and Hart can legitimately lead an elite team, and Ochefu has flashes of dominance. But, their play against elite teams has been worrying; they lost by 20+ to Oklahoma and didn't look great against Virginia. This disciplined and sound team is good enough to beat up on Seton Hall and Butler and the other mediocre Big East teams. But, when they get into the Tournament, they don't have the staying power. A Sweet 16 berth is completely plausible, but anything beyond that is just way too much of a stretch at this point.

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