#2 Villanova vs. #3 Miami. The Wildcats of Villanova have been deeper than in recent seasons and a lot of it hasn’t been by design. Daniel Ochefu has been out a bit due to injury and in that time his team got much overall as a unit and is now thriving with him back. Guard tandem Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson are crafty scoring point guards akin to predecessors Kyle Lowry, Mike Nardi, and Scottie Reynolds. Phil Booth is that third guy that sets this team over the top while Josh Hart plays bigger than his 6’5 frame. Daniel Ochefu is the only true big for the Wildcats (6’11), but Kris Jenkins plays way bigger than his (6’6) and Daryl Reynolds has decent length and shooting range at 6’8.
When you think of Jim Larranaga’s run to the Final Four with George Mason, you think of a tough frontcourt-driven team that had some timely outside shooting and solid wing play. This team isn’t tons different, though the guard play is even better but the bigs aren’t near as good. Transfer guard Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) drive this team. They are okay defenders when motivated and effective shooters when awake. They are the constant.
The surprise will come from one of the X-factors on the Hurricanes. Davon Reed is a starter with a great pedigree and even better athleticism, he will be the first option to pick up the slack. Also, if Ja’Quan Newton is his usual spark plug self then he can be electrifying. James Palmer and Anthony Lawrence provide depth but could step out as well.
Tonye Jekiri and transfer Kamari Murphy (Oklahoma St.) may be the most important guys for Miami. At 7’0 and 6’8, they are the bigs that receive the most time and produce the most on the boards. Unfortunately, both come and go and rely on the pace of the game to speed up to really get going.
With the least star quality of any of the games, my guess is this will be the most exciting. Both teams love to scrap and are surprisingly athletic. They’re both very well coached and will play this game several different ways before all is said and done. Villanova 67, Miami 60.