With Villanova getting ready to get down to business against Radford, you may be realizing you don’t know much about Radford. We’ve got you covered! We talked with Torrance Jones of Mid-Major Madness about what to expect from the Big South champions.
Big East Coast Bias: Radford is the second-best 16 seed per KenPom, and their defense ranks just outside the top 1/3rd of teams this season. What (or who) was the key to their defensive success this year?
Torrance Jones: There is no one player that particularly makes it happen on the defensive end. However it starts with their protection of the paint, which is shored up by Randy Phillips and Ed Polite Jr. Radford is well connected defensively. Their guards extend on the perimeter and push teams off the 3-pt line. Their shell principles are outstanding — great in their help, rotations are quick and in unison, and they truly team rebound. The most outstanding part is their grittiness. They will contest every shot, pass, and drive
BECB: Carlik Jones won Big South Freshman of the Year and Ed Polite was on the Big South First Team. What stands out the most about these two players?
TJ: Carlik Jones is an absolute gamer. The best part of his game is that he understands game situations. When he creates, he understands when it’s his time versus time to get the ball to his teammate. He almost had a triple-double against LIU-Brooklyn.
Polite is the most unselfish player on the team. At times, I’ve felt he needed to be a bit more selfish, but the more I watched him, the more I realized that he is most effective this way. He is an athletic forward that can impact the game in many phases. He’s an exceptional rebounder, can defend multiple positions, runs the floor, and can finish off the dribble. The one area he can improve in is not settling for shots.
BECB: Looking back at it, Radford played a fairly challenging nonconference slate. While they lost to all of the high-majors they faced, do you think that experience could at least help take away some of the intimidation that Villanova would normally bring a low-major squad?
TJ: I believe this team isn’t intimidated at all, and that starts with head coach Mike Jones. They have played with a chip on their shoulder all year after being picked seventh in the Big South preseason polls. With that being said, playing a tough nonconference slate absolutely helped them. I saw them early in the year at Elon — from then to now you can see the grown and toughness they developed.
BECB: Finally, who wins and why?
TJ: When it comes down to it, Villanova just has too many weapons offensively. They are the most efficient offense in the country. Jalen Brunson and the other guards play with such great pace and poise. Radford likes to get in the paint, whether off ball screens or using their post on the blocks, and I think Villanova’s size will make that difficult. I do believe that the Radford defense will put up a much harder fight than some might believe, though.