Predictions for the top seeded Wildcats are all over the board. Will NC State shock them in the third round? Louisville in the Sweet 16? There's no way they could get past Virginia in the Elite 8. Or could they make a run at the National Championship as the ultimate mismatch for the other Blue and White Wildcats (the ones from the Bluegrass State). Throw that all out. Before we get started, Villanova Fans, stay calm. Take it one game at a time. Breath in. Breath out. Say it with me now: A 16 Seed has never beaten a 1 Seed. A 16 Seed has never beaten a 1 Seed. Save your angst for Saturday and next week.
1. Nova has the Leadership not to be the first
These Wildcats execute. They have good, veteran leadership that will keep them focused on the task at hand. On top of that, as if they needed it, Providence's near upset in the BET Semi's should have put a good enough scare into them to remind the 'Cats that every game deserves their utmost attention. Especially when they are coached by a seasoned veteran coach and Villanova alum like Fran O'Hanlon. The former Villanova lead guard has been leading the Leopards since 1995 and this is their third NCAA Tournament appearance with the Maroon and White. Lafayette enters the Tournament at 20-12 and 9-9.
Nobody has ever lost as a #1 seed to a 16 seed. Its not going to happen on Thursday. Villanova should lean on their superior skill and athleticism, be guided by their veterans in a comfortable victory. This will also be good for Villanova as, while NCSU and LSU are battling it out in the late-night 8-9 game, they can look to go young and rest JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu for Saturday when their services will be essential.
2. Lafayette can follow the blueprint of their Patriot League brethren
Villanova swept through their nonconference schedule with a clean slate. In doing so, they beat two Patriot League foes Lehigh (Lafayette's top rival) and Bucknell. In both games, the 'Cat's struggled, but ultimately prevailed against the "lesser" opponents. Lafayette, who finished below both Lehigh and Bucknell in the regular season Patriot League standings, should pose a similar threat. That being, if the Leopards can force Villanova into some bad outside shooting (they went for 22% and 24% from deep against the Bison and Mountain Hawks respectively) they can make this game far closer than any 'Nova fan wants it to be.
Unfortunately for Lafayette, the 'Cats have been shooting the ball much better as of late. Ryan Arcidiacono has overcome his early season wrist injury and Darrun Hilliard has overcome the early season shooting woes that saw his average scoring sitting in single digits through mid-December. Since the start of Big East play though, we all know how well Hililard and Arch are shooting. If that continues, its going to be a long drive back to the Lehigh Valley for the Leopards.
3. Lafayette has some BALLERS
Nick Lindner, Lafayette's sophomore point guard from Doylestown, PA, has averaged just over 23 points and 6 assists per game over his last 5 as he guided the Leopards to the Patriot League championship. Pairing him with leading scorer and rebounder Dan Trist (17.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG) could cause some trouble for the 'Cats. Lehigh's head coach, Brett Reed, describes Trist as a "scoring presence" in the interior for Leopards. Finally, Seth Hinrichs, a 6'8 flex PF has the ability to shoot it from deep, going over 39% from 3PT for the season. JayVaughn Pinkston has taken a lot of pride in being able to defend all over the Court. That pride is going to be tested against the savvy senior PF from Layfayette.