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Preview: Villanova vs. Virginia

Villanova steps out of Big East conference play tomorrow for a huge, out-of-conference match-up with Virginia. The #1 ranked Wildcats face the #12 Cavs on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center ...

#1 AP Villanova tips off against #12 Virginia on Sunday at 1:00 (TV: Fox, Radio: 610 (WTEL AM) or VUSports Live Chat).  The two teams met last year at UVA with the Cavaliers winning 86-75.  This is the biggest match-up in college basketball on Sunday as the teams are ranked 3rd (UVA) and 4th (VU) nationally by kenpom and 2nd (VU) and 13th (UVA) nationally by RPI.

Kenpom predicts a 61-58 win for Villanova with a 62% chance of the Cats grabbing a win.

The previous games between these two teams (UVA leads the series 5-2) are interesting but provide little insight into how Sunday's game will play out. The programs first met in the 1981 NCAA Tournament 2nd Round when the #1 seeded Cavs edged the #9 seeded Cats 54-50. Virginia made the Final Four that year before losing to UNC and then winning the consolation game to place 3rd. In 1987, Villanova lost at UVA, 88-59 but the following season returned the favor by beating Virginia at the Pavilion. In a Big East - ACC challenge game at the Meadowlands in 1989, UVA was the victor. Since that time, the teams split a pair of post-season NIT games played at the Pavilion (1992 and 2004) before meeting last season at John Paul Jones Arena. Jay Wright is 1-1 against UVA.

On offense, Villanova will need to be patient against the pack-line defense of the Cavaliers and not complacently hoist an obscene number of three-pointers - even though the pack-line is designed to make it harder to get clean looks close to the bucket. The pack-line defense entices you to dribble-drive and tries to get you to settle for deeper, more contested, jump shots.

The pack-line defense is essentially a sagging man-to-man defense that tries to defend the paint against dribble-drive by keeping all but the on-the-ball defender inside a "line" a couple feet inside the three-point line (about 16 feet). The goal is to stop the ball and close gaps with help defenders that are positioned closer to the bucket. Villanova's point guards will be looking to maintain their dribble to avoid the defense converting to a complete denial tactic and suffocating the passing lanes in those situations.

The pack-line defense generally looks to deny the baseline and force everything to the middle. Jalen Brunson has shown some penchant for dribbling the baseline and looking for kick-outs - this option will likely be denied. Mikal Bridges has been attacking the baseline off the bounce when teams overplay his three-point shot or when he sees a gap and Josh Hart is a player who likes to attack the baseline at times as well. Bridges and Hart will need to proceed with more caution and realize the pack-line will react to defend the baseline more so than a standard man-to-man.

Darryl Reynolds should be prepared to quickly react to double teams in the post or attempts by the Cavs to choke the post with the ball-side wing defender. If he is quick to identify and react, the Cats could get some great looks from three.  Reynolds and Paschall may struggle to keep the ball moving against Virginia's post defensive schemes. Don't be surprised to see Reynolds, Paschall and even Jenkins flash to the high post and try to pin their defender to get positioned for a lob entry pass.

The Cats pick and roll game will be severely tested as it tries to attack the pack-line. The sagging nature of the defense and the emphasis on helping puts the defense in good position to guard the pick-and-roll. UVA will generally look to fight through screens and not switch as much as other teams.

As a team, the Cats shot the three-pointer quite poorly at Marquette.  A return to form from beyond the arc would greatly improve the Cats' chances of emerging victorious. To beat the pack-line, Villanova will need to shoot the three-ball well in this game - primarily off drive and kick action. Dribble-drive and find a shooter, rinse and repeat.

Kenpom predicts a low scoring game. Both teams have been playing at tempos well below the national average. Ability to dictate tempo will not likely be a factor in a game between two teams that play at a similar pace. Neither team has been getting to the free throw line a lot. In part because both teams share the ball well on offense and tend to produce quality looks for teammates instead of relying on guys breaking down defenses one-on-one.

Taking a look at the Four Factors for each team:

VUSports (data per Kenpom.com)

a few things stand out:

Both teams shoot high effective FG percentages (Top 20 nationally)

Both teams take care of the basketball and avoid turnovers

Neither team grabs offensive rebounds at a high rate

Neither team gets to the free-throw line and a high rate

The Virginia defense is among the nation’s best

other stats of interest:

The Cavaliers shoot 40.4% from three-point range (10th nationally) but Villanova holds opponents to 30.2% from beyond the arc

On the flip side - VU shoots 37.5% from three and the Virginia defense allows 31.9% shooting from deep (54th nationally)

Virginia player thumbnails:

London Perrantes (6-2, 197, Sr., 30.6 Min, 12.3 PPG, 3.7 APG, 46.3% FG, 42.9% 3PFG, 76.2% FT, 115.2 ORtg)  Plays a lot of minutes and relishes having the ball in his hands at crucial moments in games.  Efficient shooter despite being relied on for a heavy scoring burden.  Shoots the deep ball well, efficient from mid-range, good free-throw shooter.  Perrantes is also a good facilitator.

Marial Shayok (6-5, 196, Jr., 19.9 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 46.9% FG, 34.3% 3PFG, 77.8% FT, 103.8 ORtg)  A very effective defender.  Shayok is better at scoring the ball as a slasher and driver than a deep shooter.  That said, he has improved as a three-point shooter this season in part by being more selective.  Grabs a lot of steals.

Darius Thompson (6-4, 196, Jr., 21.9 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 2.7 APG, 48.1% FG, 38.3% 3PFG, 60.9% FT, 108.8 ORtg)  Active defender.  Shares the ball well on offense.  Shooting the ball well from mid-range and deep.  Tends to take only quality looks.  Thompson has struggled a bit from the FT line so far this season.

Devon Hall (6-5, 207, Jr., 25.5 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 44.9% FG, 82.8% FT, 41.9% 3PFG, 115.7 ORtg)  Hall has a balanced, overall game.  He is a very good defensive rebounder for his height, he doesn’t turn the ball over and he strokes the three-pointer with efficiency.

Isaiah Wilkins (6-7, 225, Jr., 26.5 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 56.8% FG, 57.1% 3PFG, 73.5% FT, 121.3 ORtg)  Wilkins is a very good defensive player that plays to his strengths on the offensive end - resulting in him being a positive to the team offensively without putting up big numbers.  He gets after it on the offensive glass, shoots efficiently from two-point range, gets to the FT line, blocks shots and disrupts passing lanes.

Kyle Guy (6-3, 165, Fr., 18.3 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 47.8% FG, 46.4% 3PFG, 77.8% FT, 122.9 ORtg) Plays nothing like a Frosh.  Guy plays with a unique combination of flair and BB IQ.  He doesn’t turn the ball over much and can really stroke it from beyond the arc.

Jarred Reuter (6-7, 245, So., 13.2 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 60.3% FG, 81.3% FT, 115.2 ORtg)  An under-sized 5-man who does his work on the inside.  Shoots over 60% from the floor and knocks down his FTs.  Good rebounder.

Mamadi Diakite (6-9, 214, Fr., 12.8 MPG, 4.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 58.2% FG, 50% FT, 120.6 ORtg)  He has earned minutes as a Frosh with good defense and efficient offense.  He hasn’t been draining his FTs but has been a solid contributor across the board as a Frosh.

Ty Jerome (6-5, 192, Fr., 9.4 MPG, 2.4 PPG, 54.8% FG, 38.9% 3PFG, 57.1% FT, 102.7 ORtg) This Frosh, combo-guard hails from the same AAU program as the Cats Omari Spellman.  Jerome has good size, is a good passer and he can knock down the open jumper.  He has struggled a bit with turnovers and free-throws.

Jack Salt (6-11, 247, So., 19.6 MPG, 4.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 57.6% FG, 50% FT, 116.1 ORtg)  Not much of a FT shooter but Salt does plenty of other things well for a Soph big man.  Shoots it well, blocks shots, makes good decisions with the ball and rebounds it well.

Here are Virginia player shot charts as well as additional stats and analysis courtesy of ONIN2TO: CLICK HERE (subscription required)

Villanova will host a handful of top 2018 prospects at the game: CLICK HERE (subscription required)

Injury: Phil Booth is expected to miss the game for Villanova.


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