Nova takes on one of the most celebrated programs in NCAA men’s basketball history today when they face the UCLA Bruins at 1:05 PM. Villanova, the #3 seed and AP #11 ranked team, received a wakeup call from American on Thursday, and call ill-afford a similar lapse against the #6 seed Bruins, ranked #17 in the AP Poll.
While Nova is trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years, the Bruins have reached the Final Four in each of the last three years, and return several seniors from last year’s team. The Bruins lead the all-time series with Villanova 2-1, including the 1971 win in the National Championship game. Villanova won the last meeting of the teams in 2002 by one point at the Pavilion.
While Nova struggled early against American on Thursday, UCLA was outplayed by VCU in the second half before eking out a 65-64 victory. VCU missed a 17-footer at the buzzer that would have won the game. The Bruins finished second in the Pac-10 at 13-5. They led the league in field goal percentage at a torrid 51% clip and steals at 16 per game. Their major weakness is defense against the 3-point shot, which plays into Nova’s favor.
The Bruins are led by Head Coach Ben Howland, who coached for several years at Pitt and has instilled a physical, defensive-minded Big-East style of play at UCLA. The Bruins absolutely will mix it up with the Cats. Darren Collison is among the top point guards in the country, averaging 14.5 points, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals.
UCLA and Villanova played two common opponents during the season. UCLA lost at Texas by 4 points (Nova lost by 9 on a neutral court) and beat DePaul at home (Nova won by 2 at DePaul). Against Top 20 teams, UCLA was 1-3, beating #19 Washington (by 9 points), and loosing to #8 Texas (by 4 points) and twice to #18 Arizona State (by 3 points and 7 points).
- PG: Darren Collison, SR, 6’0”, 160 lbs (14.4 ppg, .51% FG%, 92% FT%)
- G: Jrue Holliday, FR, 6’3,” 180 lbs (8.6 ppg., 46% FG%)
- G/F: Josh Shipp, SR, 6’5”, 220 lbs (14.4 ppg, 50% FG%, 44% 3PT%)
- F: Nikola Dragovic, JR, 6’9”, 216 lbs (9.4 PPG, 48% FG%, 4.3 RPG)
- F/C: Alfred Aboya, SR, 6’9”, 245 lbs (9.9 ppg, 55% FG%, 6.2 RPG)
Experience: Toss-up. UCLA, starts one freshman but also three seniors and one junior who have reached the Final Four.
Size: Slight Advantage to UCLA. Aboya has a one inch / 15 pound advantage on Dante; the other matchups are close.
Depth: Villanova clear advantage is its bench strength with Corey Fisher (Big East Sixth Man Award winner), Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena all playing significant minutes. UCLA’s first man off the bench is Michael Roll, a 6’5” RSJR guard / forward who averages 6.7 PPG.
Home Court Advantage: Wachovia is Nova’s home away from home; the Cats will get a boost from a home crowd that will be both large and loud.
This is going to be a tougher match for Nova than a #3 vs. #6 might suggest. They will need to be sharp to win. Guest Contributor Ed’77