After a hard-fought win over Mississippi State Friday, Villanova has officially advanced to the finals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational, and will face #24 Baylor on Sunday at 5:00 PM in an attempt to win their seventh straight midseason tournament. Here’s what you need to know before tip-off against the Bears:
Baylor makes its mark on the defensive end, with none of their opponents scoring more than 67 points so far in this young season to go along with their top 15 AdjD rank in KenPom. Baylor’s trademark is being able to run both zone and man depending on the matchups, but given Villanova’s propensity for shooting the three ball I’d imagine the Bears will run a pretty traditional man defensive set when Villanova’s starters are on the floor. Baylor is also a quite experienced team as well, with every rotational player having at least one year in Scott Drew’s system under their belt. As a result, Baylor is quite unlikely to make careless mistakes with the ball, but is able to take advantage of the carelessness of others. Only 18.5% of offensive possessions end in turnovers, but the Bears have forced turnovers on 26.3% of their opponent’s possessions, a clip good for 17th in D1.
The key for Villanova’s offense will be limiting mistakes from freshman Justin Moore, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Bryan Antoine in front of a potentially unfriendly crowd. Villanova seemed to shrink from the limelight against Ohio State, but if the Wildcats step up to the challenge they give themselves a good chance to win the game.
The person Villanova will likely be focusing on most defensively is sophomore guard Jared Butler. The Louisiana native has been on fire from deep, making 53% of his over six attempts per game. Butler is a crafty finisher and distributor as well, and has given nearly every team Baylor has played fits trying to stop him. Rounding out the starting backcourt is UNC-Asheville transfer MaCio Teague. Teague scorched the Big South in his two years with the Bulldogs, and has kept up his pace in his new home, scoring 15.2 points per game while shooting 40% from three. Villanova will need Moore and Brandon Slater to rise to the task in one of their first true defensive tests in their young careers in order to stifle this talented backcourt.
One area where the Wildcats may have an advantage is height and physicality. Villanova is the 6th tallest team in the nation according to Kenpom, and Baylor’s only loss so far this season was a 67-64 defeat at the hands of Washington, the 11th tallest team in the country. In that game, Baylor shot a measly 34% inside the arc, as their forwards combined for 7-39 from two (18%). In their three games since, Baylor has shot about 45% from 2 each time and won all three games easily. For Villanova to effectively defend against Baylor, they will have to force them off the perimeter and into the paint, where their forwards will hopefully be unable to get clean looks with the likes of Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree roaming the paint. Look in particular for Cosby-Roundtree to bounce back perform well against Baylor, as his play-style will likely match Villanova’s gameplan more than it has in the season so far.
Tip off for the game is at 5:00 PM at the HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2