Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Getting to Know the Opponent: No. 2 Villanova Wildcats

Mar 20, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Villanova Wildcats head coach Jay Wright talks with his team against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second half in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Villanova Wildcats head coach Jay Wright talks with his team against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second half in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /

At this point in the NCAA Tournament, there are no mysteries. The Cinderellas, barring one or two, have left the dance and with only 16 teams remaining, the famous saying, “the cream always rises to the top,” couldn’t be more accurate. In the bottom half of the South Region, the cream of the crop are certainly the No. 2 Villanova Wildcats and the No. 3 Miami Hurricanes.

After tremendously strong years in both the Big East and ACC respectively, two teams who might not be getting the respect they deserve in this tournament will meet up in Louisville, Ky. to fight for a spot in the Elite Eight. The Hurricanes will be coming off of two single-digit victories over No. 14 Buffalo and the underrated No. 11 Wichita State, while the Wildcats have blown out both No. 15 UNC-Asheville and No. 7 Iowa. But no matter how big the margin of victories or the opponents you have faced along the way, all that matters in the NCAA Tournament is surviving. Both Miami and Villanova have done what they have needed to do to stay alive so far, but they will be entering a heavyweight fight on Thursday night.

Before this monumental clash in the city known for its bourbon, bats and fried chicken, here is an in-depth look at Miami’s heavyweight opponent, the Villanova Wildcats.

Head Coach: Jay Wright (15th Year)

For a coach that has made 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in his 15-year tenure at a school, it seems like Jay Wright does not get too much respect. Since moving to Villanova from Hofstra back in 2001, there hasn’t been too many coaches that have had more success than the 54-year-old.

Wright’s resume includes a .689 winning percentage with the Wildcats, six seasons with 25+ wins, including three 30+ win seasons and a Naismith Coach of the Year award, but there is just something missing, tournament success. Wright has made two Elite Eights and one Final Four in his career which is certainly impressive, but for how high Villanova has been seeded, some might say he should have done more. With a group full of battle-tested seniors, will this be the year Wright finally shakes that monkey off his back or will the Hurricanes send the highly-seeded Wildcats home earlier than their fans expected once again?

Projected Starting Five

6’2” Guard Jalen Brunson (10.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.7 APG)

  • Floor general, has tremendous vision, takes good shots

6’3” Guard Ryan Arcidiacono (12.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 4.4 APG)

  • Quick off the dribble, uses the pick-and-roll well

6’5” Guard Josh Hart (15.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.9 APG)

  • Can score with back to the basket, hard to stop in transition

6’6” Forward Kris Jenkins (13.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 APG)

  • Plays almost like a guard, can lead the break, tremendous shooter

6’11” Center Daniel Ochefu (9.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.7 APG)

  • Real physical player, doesn’t play in the paint much on offense, mostly setting screens

Off the Bench

6’3” Guard Phil Booth (6.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.3 APG)

6’7” Forward Mikal Bridges (6.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.9 APG)

6’8” Forward Darryl Reynolds (3.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.4 APG)

How they got to the Big Dance

  • 29-5 (16-2 Big East)
  • 25 of their 29 regular season and conference tournament wins came by double-digits
  • All five losses came against teams in the KenPom Top 50, Only KenPom Top 20 win (15-Xavier)
  • Two losses to the KenPom Top 10 (OU by 23 (neutral), UVA by 11 (away))
  • Won 20 of their last 23 heading into the NCAA Tournament

Their path to the Sweet 16

First Round- 86-56 win vs. No. 15 UNC-Asheville

  • Wildcats shot 33-of-57 (57.9%) from the floor, including 13-of-28 (46.4%) from three-point range
  • Six players had at least nine points
  • Daniel Ochefu finished with 17 points and ten rebounds (zero offensive)
  • 21 team assists

Second Round- 87-68 win vs. No. 7 Iowa

  • Villanova shot 32-of-54 from the field (59.3%), including 10-of-19 (52.6%) from beyond the arc
  • Seven players with at least six points
  • Josh Hart finished with 19 points, four rebounds  and two assists
  • 23 team assists

Scouting Notes

  • Miami will face another team that absolutely LOVES the three-point ball
    • 894 3-pt attempts this season, shoot at a 35.1% clip
  • Like Wichita State, Villanova can play multiple defenses well
    • Will use 1-2-2 press, can go to zone or man depending on matchup/game flow
  • The Wildcats spread the floor well and will take advantage without a shot-blocker in the paint
    • Ochefu rarely plays in the paint and often all four other players line up around the arc
    • Will be important for Jekiri to stay out of foul trouble so he can affect shots at the rim

It has been seven years.

For all their wins and titles in the Big East over these past few years, Villanova has not come close to translating their regular season success into NCAA Tournament success. As we talked about earlier, for all their high seeds, including a one seed last year and a two seed two years ago, the Wildcats have been labeled as disappointments when it comes to tournament time. They hadn’t gotten to the Sweet 16 since 2009, but in that year they got all the way to the Final Four. With the pressure off their backs of finally reaching the second weekend, it will be interesting to see how Villanova responds.

Game Info

March 24 – No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 3 Miami (7:10 PM ET) on CBS