As we approach Final Four weekend, I was able to talk to CBS analyst Clark Kellogg about the Villanova Wildcats and their upcoming matchup with Oklahoma Sooners. Clark also shared details about the Capital One Cup, a competition to which he is an ambassador.
The Capital One Cup is a contest among Division 1 schools that awards points based on top 10 finishes, championships and results in the AP and Coaches Polls. Villanova is currently not in the top 10 in the Men's Standings however an NCAA Tournament Championship would award `Nova with a whopping 60 points, putting them well in the conversation for 1st in the Cup Standings.
"It's the ultimate bragging rights" the Cup ambassador said. "It measures strength across men's and women's programs across multiple sports." Kellogg takes pride in it because it "recognizes excellence on the field, and empowers students through scholarships."
Why does Villanova have a legitimate shot at capturing that championship? The analyst says it's their offensive balance. "In the past they were too reliant on the three ball. But now they have Daniel Ochefu and Darryl Reynolds giving a presence inside, and their smaller perimeter guys are being conscious of attacking off the dribble."
Kellogg summed up all the improvements in one statement: "They can win even if they don't make threes; in the past they needed the three point factor to win."
While the strategy (and options) on offense have certainly changed, this year's team has set itself apart in other ways. Kellogg stated that the `Cats have had so much success this postseason because of their ability to win 50/50 balls, and their excellent free throw shooting.
It's cliché to say, but it's the little things that have counted.
Flipping the perspective to Oklahoma, Kellogg believes they will have to be cautious of the Wildcat pressure in the backcourt and on the press. He compared Villanova to "a pebble in your shoe or a piece of lettuce in your teeth" in relation to their peskiness/annoyance near the midcourt line. The `Cats have gotten a lot of momentum with points in transition, and that'll be key in their meeting with the Sooners Sunday evening.
For Villanova to have the best chance of winning, Kellogg believes they'll have to do their best in containing a certain player on the court. No, it's not their super adorable mascot Boomer or Sooner (yes I just learned they have two identically looking mascots).
It's future lottery pick Buddy Hield. Kellogg, simply put, has Villanova's game plan as "not giving him easy shots, making him work for everything, and keeping him off the line." While their last meeting was a few months back, `Nova limited Hield to 18 points on 6-17 shooting. Currently he's averaging just under 30 PPG, so holding Buddy to that same point total as their last meeting would be a major defensive success, and Kellogg agrees the Wildcats have the versatility to do it.
The player that truly needs to step up for the `Cats to advance to Monday night is Ryan Arcidiacono. While having high praise for Daniel Ochefu and Josh Hart too, Clark points out that "everything [Ryan] does is really the beginning of what Villanova is and what they can do." In this he means his shot making and selection, his toughness, and most importantly his leadership.
While unsure of the outcome of Oklahoma-Villanova, Kellogg felt confident picking North Carolina as his team to beat.
FYI, Kansas was a consensus team to beat, too.