Despite the early season struggles the Villanova Wildcats have been working through, they’re exactly where we thought they’d be at the start of the season. After winning their first two games by an average of 23 points, Nova has advanced to the tournament championship against #14 Florida State.
The Florida State Seminoles are the de facto home team in this tournament, despite their campus being about 4 hours away. That said, it sounds like enough of the Nova Nation has made their way to Orlando to make this feel more like a neutral site, if not tip it in Nova’s favor. But regardless of who’s in the stands, it’s the players on (or off) the court that will be the much bigger keys in tomorrow’s game.
Terrance Mann is... The Man
Florida State’s leading scorer and rebounder is 6’6” “point forward” Terrance Mann. The senior leader out of the Boston area was a big part of the Seminoles’ Elite Eight run last season before falling to Michigan.
Mann is one of those guys who’s really good at a lot of things. He’s technically the team’s best shooter from beyond the arc at 66.7%, although he’s only averaging a little over one attempt per game. He’s a skilled rebounder, especially on the offensive glass. But where he truly excels is attacking the paint to create offense for himself and his teammates.
He’s going to be a handful for Villanova defenders in Sunday’s game, but he’s far from the only player the Wildcats will have to worry about.
The Rest of the Seminole Stars
Like Villanova’s 2018 Championship team, Florida State has a number of players that you have to account for. Mfiondu Kabengele is the team’s second leading scorer despite being their 6th man and averaging just 18 minutes per game. The 6’10” big man does most of his damage inside, but is more than capable of taking shots from beyond the arc. He showed that Friday night by hitting the game winning three in overtime to beat LSU.
Trent Forrest is the engine that gets this team going. The 6’4” point guard leads the team in assists and steals, and is second in... rebounds? That’s right, despite being on a team with seven guys over 6’8”, it’s the point guard that gets most of the boards. He’s also the team’s best free throw shooter, and he makes a habit of getting there often with 4 attempts per game. With clutch shooting like that, it’s easy to see why he’s the one who drove the lane and hit the shot that sent their game with LSU into overtime.
M.J. Walker was the driving force in the LSU game, putting up a team high 21 points. He’s the third leading scorer for the Seminoles on the season, and their actual best threat from deep. He’s shooting 50% from behind the arc while averaging almost 5 attempts per game. Letting him get hot form outside could cause some major issues for the Wildcats.
Consistency is the Key
While the Wildcats certainly have several hurdles to overcome this year, the biggest they face as a team is consistency. It’s not an uncommon problem for a young team that’s still figuring out things like rotation, minutes, and chemistry. But the good news is that the team does seem to be improving, slow and steady as it may be.
That consistency will be needed against the longer and more athletic Seminoles. Florida State is a Top 15 team in both the AP Poll and KenPom, and returns nearly 70% of its scoring from last season. Every major contributor on this team played together last year in the Elite 8 run and they’re poised for another great season.
It’s going to be hard for anyone to beat Villanova when they control the pace and shoot 40% from deep like they did against Oklahoma State. But if they’re going to win their 6th consecutive early season tournament, the ‘Cats are going to have to show the same type of consistency that’s led their opponent to an undefeated 5-0 start.