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Cats vs. Blue Devils Pregame Analysis

Gerald Henderson

Gerald Henderson

According to Coach K, Villanova resembles Duke more than any other team in the ACC. "They are very similar in that they can score from all their positions," Krzyzewski said. "They like to drive. They give their players the ability to make plays."

Many experts are calling this the closest matchup in the Sweet 16 Round. The statistical similarities between the teams are amazingly close. Both are led by great coaches. Both teams are guard oriented. Neither team has a true center.

With an assist from the analysts from Bleacher Report, here’s an unbiased look at the head-to-head matchups. I will hold off my personal commentary until the end.

Point Guard: Scottie Reynolds (6’2", 195 lbs, JR) vs. Jon Scheyer (6’5", 185 lbs, JR)

Bleacher Report: Scheyer has excellent height for a point guard (6'5") … he is quick when he has to pass up a shot in favor of a drive because the defense is playing aggressively. He may be Duke's best offensive player—he can shoot from anywhere, and he takes care of the ball. (1.6 turnovers per game.) In addition, Scheyer plays with discipline, and he averages the most minutes of any Blue Devil (33).

Scottie Reynolds has average height for a point guard (6'2"), but his 195 pounds are heavier than most point guards, so he can still drive to the basket. But he can also use his additional strength to finish the play while still getting hacked. Reynolds is also a solid shooter from all over the court; his team-leading 15.5 points per game show that. In addition, he distributes the ball better than any other Wildcat. He leads Villanova with 3.6 assists per game. Lastly, Reynolds is Villanova's best on-ball perimeter defender. He averages 1.6 steals. The only downside to Reynolds is that he turns the ball over 2.7 times per game.

With a decent height advantage, Scheyer should be able to consistently get his shot off. Reynolds may have a tough time with finding his shot against a guy three inches taller but lighter—and therefore quicker. He will have to score off the dribble. Edge: Scheyer/Duke

Shooting Guard: Reggie Redding (6’5”, 205 lbs, JR) vs. Elliot Williams (6’4”, 180 lbs, FR)
Bleacher Report: Williams is mainly an athletic defensive presence who generally guards the opponent's best offensive perimeter player. He also rebounds. On the offensive end, he can slash to the basket, but he often doesn't because his decision making is developing. Other teams often back off of him and let him shoot from distance, and he falls into their trap too much. But Duke is built on defense, and Williams excels at defense. That's why he starts.

Redding is a team-first player who will sacrifice a good shot of his own for a better one by a teammate. He ranks second on Villanova in assists per game (three) and fourth in rebounds per game (4.8). He also almost never turns the ball over, averaging only 1.8 turnovers per game. Additionally, Redding is a defensive force, notching an average of 1.1 steals per game.

Williams is great at defense, but offers little on the offensive end right now. Redding is also an excellent defender, but he contributes to the Wildcats' offense. The advantage is clear. Edge: Redding/Villanova

Small Forward: Dwayne Anderson (6’6”, 215 lb, SR) vs. Gerald Henderson (6’4”, 215 lb, JR).

Bleacher Report: Henderson does it all for Duke. He averages 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He also takes care of the ball, turning it over just 2.2 times per game. Plus, he's a strong shooter from the field, three-point range, and the free-throw line. Not only that, he's also lightning quick, and he gets fans on their feet.

Dwayne Anderson does some of everything. He scores when called upon (8.2 points per game), crashes the boards (5.7 rebounds), defends (1.5 steals), and handles the ball well (1.4 turnovers per game). He also has great size for a small forward.

Henderson is an excellent, all-around player. Anderson is very good and he helps Villanova function as a team. His two-inch height advantage should be enough to get some good shots off. But Henderson is just too good overall. Edge: Henderson/Duke

Power Forward: Shane Clark (6’7”, 205 lbs, SR) vs. Kyle Singler (6’8”, 235 lbs, SO)
Bleacher Report: Singler is even more crucial to Duke's success than Henderson. He scores and rebounds more than any other Blue Devil (16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game), distributes the ball well (2.5 assists per contest), and plays excellent defense (he averages 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per game). In addition, Singler is a sound shooter, and he's smart enough to mostly avoid turnovers. Singler's only downside is that he can be inconsistent from the free-throw line.

Clark is a bit undersized for a power forward at 6'7" and 205 pounds. Presumably because he's guarded by bigger players most of the time, he hasn't scored much this year (5.4 points per), and he also doesn't rebound especially well (3.8 boards). But he can surprise you by knocking down a few three-pointers (he shoots 35.3 percent from behind the arc). Clark doesn't offer much defensively.

Singler is a tremendous all-around player. Clark is a role player. Singler should dominate Clark. Edge: Singler/Duke

Center: Dante Cunningham (6’8”, 230 lb. SR) vs. Lance Thomas (6’8”, 220 lb. JR)

Bleacher Report: Thomas is a little short to be a center, and this shows in his scoring (5.1 points per game) and rebounding (3.4 boards per). But he does take care of the ball (.8 turnovers per contest). Thomas' main contributions come on the defensive end in the form of a decently physical inside presence and an on-ball defender. Thomas averages 2.5 personal fouls, and he often forces his man to give up the ball because of his sound defensive positioning on the floor and excellent, fundamental defensive stance.
Cunningham is a dominant post player. He averages 16 points, 7.2 boards, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks. His quick hands and long arms allow him to go for steals and to rise up for blocks and easy baskets when posting up defenders low in the post.

Thomas is a good defender, but he's no match for Cunningham's skill set on both ends of the floor. Edge: Cunningham/Villanova


Bleacher Report: Duke: Greg Paulus' highly-energized attitude and desire to play rubs off on his teammates. He comes in if Duke is in need of a spark. David McClure does everything that doesn't show up on the stat sheet—boxing out, rebounding, hustling, ball handling, defending, and providing an outlet for the ball to a pressured teammate. Brian Zoubek is a general force in the post. He swats shots (0.8 block per game) and crashes the offensive boards well, creating plenty of opportunities for second-chance points. Nolan Smith provides more of a defensive tone for Duke when he gives Scheyer a brief rest. He can also shoot the rock.

Villanova Bench: Corey Fisher provides scoring (10.8 points per game) and ball distribution (2.8 assists) in addition to shooting, perimeter defense (1.3 steals), and the ability to put in a lot of quality minutes when someone needs a rest or gets into foul trouble. Corey Stokes contributes scoring (9.8 points), shooting, and rebounding (3.5 boards). Edge: Duke. They're deeper.

Ed’s Analysis: The logical conclusion from Bleacher Report’s analysis is that Duke should win in a close one. I disagree. While all the commentators are focusing on the similarities of the teams, I believe the game will be determined by their differences. Duke runs its offense through Gerald Henderson. Dwayne Anderson, who will cover Henderson, has been a rock for Villanova. No one can match his intensity. Look for him to step up big defensively tonight. Villanova gets much more of an offensive lift from its bench (aka “The Coreys”), including Big East Sixth Man of the Year Corey Fisher and three point specialist Corey Stokes. I see Fish having another huge game. The Cats are more seasoned with three seniors and two juniors in the starting rotation vs. three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman in their starting five. Nova’s starting five have more tournament experience and success. Look for the seniors to step up big. Villanova is bigger and stronger than Duke, and will play them tough. Remember the Jay Bilas comment in the UCLA game … “men against boys.” I see it close, but I see us singing V for Villanova around midnight tonight.

Ed ’77, Guest Contributor