When the NCAA Tournament draw was made public, this potential game was immediately circled on even the casual fan’s calendar. The Villanova Wildcats boast a resume that not only includes last year’s National Championship, but the #1 overal seed in this year’s bracket.
The Wisconsin Badgers - while struggling at times this season - boast plenty of upperclassmen experience and a host of players that have been to multiple Final Fours.
In no way shape or form does this feel like a second round game, but here we are. Here are three things to watch for on Saturday afternoon (tip: ~2:40pm ET on CBS).
Bucky’s Big 3
The Badgers boast a trio of players that can punish you in vastly different ways, one of the reasons they are so difficult to defend. Ethan Happ is a Top-10 KenPom PoTY candidate and is a skilled low-post operator that can score in a variety of ways or dish it to the perimeter.
As Virginia Tech showed, doubling Happ is a recipe for disaster because Bronson Koenig will camp out on the perimeter and make you pay. His 8 three-pointers last night were a Wisconsin record for the NCAA Tournament. He averages over 7 threes taken per game, but can run extremely hot or cold.
Nigel Hayes rounds out the group, and now that he’s decided to not jack up jump shots he’s back to his best. He’s extremely mobile and athletic and can handle himself on the premieter, but is at his best when he’s active down low. He abused the Hokies to close out the game on Thursday.
How will Villanova opt to defend this pick-your-poison type offense?
Run? Or turn this into a rock fight?
The latter feels more likely, given Wisconsin’s solid defense and pace of play matched against Villanova’s slow pace of play. But there’s an opportunity to hurt the Badgers in transition.
For all their length and strength, they’ve struggled when matched up against high-octane offenses. Creighton and North Carolina both won by double-digits. In fact nearly all of their losses this season have come from teams that play at a Top-75 pace.
While they might not force a ton of turnovers - usually how the ‘Cats get into transition - Wright will want to encourage his players to push the pace when they can and always be in attack mode.
Don’t force it, Big Smoove
It’s no secret that Villanova needs Kris Jenkins back at his best if they’re going to reach the heights of last season. They simply need to him break his latest slump, and a big game might be just the thing he needs.
In the last three games Jenkins has seemed to force a few shots as he’s looked to create his own offense. He’s much better when he’s seizing the opportunities available to him and playing off playmakers Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart.
A back to basics approach for Kris should lead to a big coming out party in March Madness.