Pitt hasn’t played all that well in the NCAA Tournament. They have struggled against two unranked teams - Eastern Tennessee (72-62) and Oklahoma State (84-76) and were down by two points to #22 Xavier with 1:52 remaining in the game before Lavance Fields carried them to victory in the closing minute (60-55). On the other hand, Nova is playing as well as any team in the tournament and has been blowing away its opponents since the 18:58 minute mark in the second half of its first round pairing with American University. Since that time, the Cats have outscored their opponents by 70 points, including wins over #18 UCLA (89-69) and #6 Duke (77-54). There is not a team in the tournament that wants to face Nova right now, including Pitt. Nova is playing without fear, led by three seniors who have been to the Sweet 16 three of the past four years and have the most wins of any class in Villanova history. They clearly are on a mission.
Both the Cats and the Panthers have had impressive seasons. See the companion article for a statistical comparison of the two teams. http://vuhoops.com/2009/03/27/comparing-stats-with-pitt/ Pitt and Villanova faced one another once during the regular season on January 28. Nova won that one 67-57 in an emotionally-charged final basketball game at the Spectrum in Philly before a rowdy Philly crowd. DeJuan Blair played only 23 minutes because of foul trouble and scored only seven points and grabbed only eight rebounds. Sam Young shot 6 of 15 and Lavance Fields 4 of 11. The Panthers made only 10 of 17 free throws and shot 3 of 16 3-pointers.
Here are the individual match-ups:
Point Guard: Scottie Reynolds (6’2”, 195 lbs, JR) vs. Lavance Fields (5’10”, 190 lbs, SR)
Season Stats: 32 MIN; 10.7 PPG; 2.5 RPG; 7.5 APG, 40% FG; 70% FT%; 34% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 35 MIN; 11.0 PPG; 2.0 RPG; 6.7 APG
Lavance Fields is a 3rd Team Sports Illustrated All-America and 3rd Team All Big East Player. He is an undersized floor general and the undisputed team leader. Despite his small stature, he is extremely strong and uses his girth to create space for his shot. He is quick and can run the offense, handle the ball, drive, pass and score. He has an effective jumper and a knack for hitting clutch shots. His rarely turns the ball over, and owns Pitt’s all-time best career assist to turnover ratio (2.47). Defensively he struggles against bigger guards.
Season Stats: 32 MIN; 15.2 PPG; 2.9 RPG; 3.4 APG, 40% FG; 81% FT%; 36% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 33 MIN; 11.7 PPG; 2.0 RPG; 1.3 APG
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. In addition, he distributes the ball better than any other Wildcat. He leads Villanova with 3.4 assists per game. Lastly, Reynolds is Villanova’s best on-ball perimeter defender. He averages 1.6 steals. The downside to Reynolds is that he turns the ball over 2.7 times per game. Scotty has gotten better in each game in the tournament, and showed signs of returning to his all-star form with 16 points against Duke and signs of the swagger Nova fans have missed recently.
Shooting Guard: Reggie Redding (6’5”, 205 lbs, JR) vs. Jermaine Dixon (6’3”, 195 lbs, JR)
Season Stats: 25 MIN; 8.5 PPG; 2.6 RPG; 2.0 APG, 45% FG; 65% FT%; 30% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 21 MIN; 3.3 PPG; 4.0 RPG; 1.0 APG
Jermaine Dixon, brother of Detroit Piston, Juan Dixon, is a junior college transfer. Dixon is as a physical, athletic guard with good quickness. As a lefthander, he is a natural scorer who can penetrate and attack the basket. He has had a forgettable NCAA run so far averaging only 4 PPG.
Season Stats: 29 MIN; 7.0 PPG; 4.9 RPG; 3.1 APG, 44% FG; 71% FT%; 30% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 34 MIN; 9.3 PPG; 6.3 RPG; 4.3 APG
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 and fourth in rebounds per game. He also almost never turns the ball over, averaging only 1.8 turnovers per game. Additionally, Redding is an excellent defender, notching an average of 1.1 steals per game. Lately, Reggie has been making great choices with the ball and has become an important part of the Cat’s attack at both ends of the court.
Small Forward: Dwayne Anderson (6’6”, 215 lb, SR) vs. Sam Young (6’6”, 220 lb, SR).
Season Stats: 32 MIN; 18.9 PPG; 6.2 RPG; 1.1 APG, 50% FG; 73%, FT%; 30% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 39 MIN; 21.7 PPG; 8.0 RPG; 1.0 APG
Young is a 2nd Team Sports Illustrated All-America and 1st Team All Big East Player. He is mature at 24 years of age, skilled and athletic. He’s still making the transition from his natural power forward position and his perimeter skills are works in progress. He’s not a great ball handler and struggles to create his own shot and prefers mid-range jump shots.
Season Stats: 29 MIN; 8.8 PPG; 6.0 RPG; 1.5 APG, 46% FG; 82%, FT%; 33% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 30 MIN; 14.3 PPG; 8.7 RPG; 2.0 APG
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. Anderson is the heart and soul of Nova’s team, a great defender and strong scorer off the offensive glass.
Power Forward: Shane Clark (6’7”, 205 lbs, SR) vs. Tyrell Biggs (6’8”, 2505 lbs, SR)
Season Stats: 24 MIN; 6.6 PPG; 4.3 RPG; 0.7 APG, 50% FG; 63%, FT%; 40% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 16 MIN; 3.0 PPG; 2.0 RPG; 0.3 APG
Tyrell Biggs is an unselfish, hard working wide body with good overall skills. On offense, he can score down low or step out and hit mid-range jumpers and is a strong offensive rebounder. He has also developed into a 3-point threat and ability to score inside. On defense, he has proven to be a valuable post player.
Season Stats: 19 MIN; 5.4 PPG; 3.8 RPG; 1.0 APG, 48% FG; 64%, FT%; 33% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 30 MIN; 14.3 PPG; 8.7 RPG; 2.0 APG
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, 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 33 percent from behind the arc). Shane has been playing tougher defensively of late, and seeing more minutes.
Center: Dante Cunningham (6’8”, 230 lb. SR) vs. DeJuan Blair (6’7”, 265 lb. JR)
Season Stats: 27 MIN; 15.6 PPG; 12.4 RPG; 1.2 APG, 58% FG; 62%, FT%; 0% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 34 MIN; 15.7 PPG; 15.0 RPG; 1.7 APG
Blair is a 1st Team Sports Illustrated All-America and 1st Team All Big East Player. With a Charles Barkley body, Blair is an undersized center. He has a high shooting efficiency, a strong rebounder and relies on hustle. He can bang inside, crash the boards and finish plays down low. Despite the many accolades Blair has received, he does have flaws. His height is a defensive liability against taller players, although his wingspan compensates a bit. He doesn’t move very well in general. He has trouble getting up and down court and doesn’t possess much lateral quickness. He is consistently beat to spots on the floor and he ends up fouling considerably as a result. He is not a shot blocker. Offensively, he gets a majority of his points as off rebounds. He doesn’t have a lot of face-up ability. In a half-court set, he’s not an ideal low post scorer. He doesn’t have many post moves and tends to rely on bullying weaker opponents.
Season Stats: 32 MIN; 16.3 PPG; 7.4 RPG; 1.2 APG, 53% FG; 69%, FT%; 0% 3P%
09 Big Dance: 31 MIN; 19.0 PPG; 9.3 RPG; 1.3 APG
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.
Bench: Pitt has two players that should get significant time off the bench against Nova – 6’4” sophomore guard Brad Wanamaker (18.7 MIN, 5.8 PPG) and Gilbert Brown – 6’6” G/F (19.4 MIN, 5.3 PPG). For Villanova, 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). Antonio Pena could also see time defending against Blair.
Ed’s Analysis: There will be several keys to the game. First, Nova will need to keep Blair out of the low post. If Dante can hit his midrange jumper early and use his speed to drive to the basket, things will be looking up for the Cats. Reggie Redding is another key. In the first match of the teams, he scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He likely will be matched against Sam Young defensively. Another key will be Nova’s play at point. We have yet to see Reynolds and Fisher to play up to their potential in the same game. If that happens tonight, it could mean big trouble for Pitt. Finally, Villanova is peaking at exactly the right time. They have gotten better in every game of the tournament, led by outstanding defense and unselfish play. This looks like a very close game, but Nova is on a mission that will end in Detroit, not in Boston. Remember, Theresa Porter, widow of Howard Geezer Porter, has already booked her hotel for a Villanova appearance in the finals.