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The Big Preview: Villanova

The Hoos return from their break to face one of the top teams in the country. The Wildcats are ranked #12th in the polls, but they are #4 on KenPom. The Hoos, of course, are #1 on KenPom. How does the matchup look?

Anthony Gill and the rest of the Wahoo big men will need to have a big game in this one.
Anthony Gill and the rest of the Wahoo big men will need to have a big game in this one.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoos return to action tomorrow against perhaps the best team they will face all year. Yes, even with Duke, North Carolina and Louisville on the schedule, Villanova is perhaps their toughest matchup.

Maybe Duke or UNC are more talented, but the way Villanova plays is a very difficult matchup for the Hoos. Over the past few years, very few teams have attempted more 3 pointers than Villanova. This isn't a team that is looking to score inside, although Daniel Ochefu is a pretty good interior scorer.

No, this is a team that wants to beat you from the outside. Which is what the Pack-Line defense attempts to force teams to do. Six players on Villanova have already attempted more than 30 treys on the season. (The Hoos have just 1, Malcolm Brogdon.) Villanova's problem this year is that they are not shooting the ball very well.

Senior PG Ryan Arcidiacono is the only player shooting the ball consistently well. He's one of the top shooters in the nation, and is also very good PG. Junior guard Kris Jenkins leads the team with 63 attempted treys, but he's shooting just 28%. He made over 37% of his 3s last year.

Villanova's leading scorer is junior Josh Hart, also one of the top shooters in the nation. Last year, Hart made over 46% of his 3s, but this year he's made only 34%. Still, he's leading the team with 15 points per game. He's also the team's 2nd leading rebounder with over 7 boards per game (Ochefu leads with over 8 per game). Expect to see Malcolm Brogdon matched up with Hart for much of the game. Brogdron's size will hopefully help shut down Hart.

In Villanova's lone loss this year, to Oklahoma, Hart shot just 2-9 from the field and 1-6 from downtown. As a team, the Wildcats shot just 4-32 from behind the arc. The Sooners have bigger guards and used their size to help shut down Villanova's perimeter offense. That will be the game plan for the Hoos as well. With only one true interior player, the Hoos can focus of keeping Villanova's shooters covered. Ochefu had 8 points and 10 rebounds against the Sooners, but just 1 offensive board and attempted just 8 shots (making 4).

Of course, it helped that Oklahoma made over 50% of their 3s in that contest (14/26). You aren't going to lose many games shooting the ball that well. Villanova is a good defensive team. They play tight aggressive defensive, they force turnovers and they do not foul much. But they are not a big team. Only Ochefu is a big man, although Jenkins is 6'6" 240 so he can bang a little bit as well. The Hoos may have a size advantage at every position, which could lead to an interior dominance that helps take Villanova out of their game.

Oklahoma won because they shot the ball very well and Villanova didn't. That would be a nice outcome for the Hoos as well. But against the Wilcats, the Hoos can't count on that. But the Hoos should be able to count on controlling the glass, limiting Villanova to one shot per possession, and creating extra possessions on their end with offensive boards. With Mike Tobey, Anthony Gill and company controlling the inside, the Hoos won't need to shoot lights out from behind the arc. They'll want to score in the post, at the FT line and on second chance points.

This will be a good game. Both teams play slow, but they get their points in a very different manner. Villanova is a perimeter team, while the Hoos are more of an interior team. The Wildcats shoot over 50% of their shots from behind the arc. The Hoos are at just 27%.

The Hoos are deeper, with a number of bigger wings that they can throw at Villanova's shooters. And other than outside shooting, the Wildcats don't really do the things that usually hurt the Hoos. They don't get to the line very much (as is the norm for jump shooting teams). They don't turn it over, which is something the Hoos don't particularly care about. And though Villanova forces a lot of turnovers, the Hoos have proven that they can beat teams that play pressure defense.

As is often the case with 2 very good teams, it will come down to execution. With 2 very distinct styles of play, whichever team is better able to play their game will come out on top. For Villanova, that is outside shooting and forcing turnovers. For the Hoos, that is getting the ball inside and making the opposing offense work for every shot.