By John Fanta
BOSTON – There was plenty of familiarity for Villanova when the Wildcats sat down for film-study of Texas Tech, Sunday’s Elite Eight opposition.
Jay Wright played the video of the Red Raiders’ action against Big fellow Big 12 foe…West Virginia.
“It was more physical than our game against them (West Virginia),” said Wright, who led Villanova past the Mountaineers in the Sweet 16 on Friday night, 90-78.
While another Big 12 heavyweight is standing between the Wildcats and their chase for a second national championship in three years, there’s similarities between the Mountaineers and Red Raiders.
“The physicality West Virginia played with is the same Texas Tech is going to bring with the length they have on the defensive end,” said Phil Booth. “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country.”
Something’s gotta give on Sunday, because the Wildcats have been an offensive machine. Scoring 34 points in the final 11 minutes of Friday night’s win, Villanova wore down Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia.”
“We can’t get into a scoring match with Villanova,” said Texas Tech leading scorer Keenan Evans. “They’re such an offensively powerful team.”
The Red Raiders have been stout on the defensive end, not allowing more than 66 points in their three NCAA Tournament wins over Stephen F. Austin, Florida, and Purdue.
As for Evans, he highlights the 1-on-1 match-up to watch with Jalen Brunson. The Villanova point guard was the steady hand on Friday, as the Naismith Award finalist went off for 27 points and four assists. Evans had 16 points and four dishes in the victory over Purdue.
- Rebounding. The Red Raiders don’t have anybody who averages more than 4.9 rebounds per game, but Texas Tech knows how to beat teams on the boards by committee. Their athleticism is seen through a +4.2 rebounding margin. How Norense Odiase handles sizzling Omari Spellman is a big key in the paint.
- Depth. The Red Raiders’ Zach Smith has been a huge sixth man for Texas Tech, scoring 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field on Friday. That was part of a 33-6 bench points advance for the Red Raiders over Purdue. Villanova goes six-deep in scoring. Will we see any wear and tear from this group after going through the grind that was Friday night’s win? There’s times where this team seems beyond human, especially with the way Brunson’s playing right now.
- Three-Point Shooting. While Evans said that Texas Tech can’t match Villanova offensively, there’s still going to be periods in this game where the Red Raiders need to answer the Wildcats’ runs. Put this in perspective – Villanova has 432 three’s on the season. They are 10 away from VMI’s all-time season record of 442 in 2007. If the Wildcats break that record on Sunday, which would be an average day by their standards, I have a hard time believing they lose this game. The Red Raiders must close out, or else.
Tip-off will be at 2:20 PM ET in Boston and the game will be televised on CBS.
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