PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Throw out the previous game between Oklahoma and Villanova, won by the Sooners, 78-55, on Dec. 7, 2015. It seems like a lifetime ago and it should, considering the way both of these teams have played to reach Saturday’s Final Four at NRG Stadium, in Houston, Texas.
The Wildcats are nowhere the team they were then, and Oklahoma may be a little than it was then, too. Villanova also knows the task at hand in stopping the Sooners’ offensively explosive 6-foot-4 senior guard Buddy Hield, who is averaging 25.4 points a game.
“We know Oklahoma is a really good team and they got us good in December, and we’ll have to respond to that,” Villanova senior guard and team captain Ryan Arcidiacono said. “They shot the ball really well (in Dec.). We were pretty young then, not as experienced as we are now. We had a couple of guys who were freshmen on the floor, Mikal (Bridges) and Jalen (Brunson) and they didn’t know then to full attention to detail defensively and offensively.
“We’ve been connected with the scouting reports, and knowing guy’s tendencies and where they like the ball on the floor and attacking that, and not letting them see space and defend and meet them as one. We’ve been doing that pretty much the whole year, especially in the tournament. We know how good Buddy is, everyone knows how good he is. We’re not going to stop him. We just have to contain him. We’ll try to limit his touches as much as we can in the half court, but in transition, if we take threes and he’s out in transition, that’s where he’ll be tough to stop. I think if we can get them in a half-court set, in a half-court game, I think we can be successful.”
A real key could be 6-7 red-shirt freshman guard Mikal Bridges. He’s athletic and long, and can cover a lot of ground. His job will be to muck it up and place Hield in uncomfortable spots.
Here’s the deal with Hield. College scouts says he “floats” on defense, in other words he loses his primary guard assignment because he gets caught looking where the ball is. He can be victimized on defense, but Sooners’ coach Lon Kruger endures it because he knows Hield’s guy may score 12 or 15, and the Sooners will get 23 to 26 out of Hield.
Offensively, Arcidiacono, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, and Josh Hart can all shoot the three. Daniel Ochefu, the Wildcats’ 6-11 senior center, is a valuable part of the offense. His passing ability and court vision exceeds most big men. Also, Villanova has assisted on 68 of 118 shots made during the tournament. Oklahoma is susceptible to dribble penetration.
What makes the Wildcats so dangerous are four players that penetrate and a team that’s unselfish, making it tough for opposing teams to concentrate on just one player to shut down.
It all adds up to far different game than what took place between these two teams four months ago.