Elite 8 Day 1

NCAA Basketball by Phil Roeder, on Flickr

Kansas taking on Villanova seems like a three launching extravaganza.  The Jayhawks have been in the top 5 in 3pt percentage all season and Nova is shooting at a nut-trageous clip.  Each team has one true big man who can patrol the lane and neither of them runs the offense through him.  Bill Self has enjoyed a loaded team that can simply get behind whichever star is hot in a given game.  Some days it was Wayne Selden others it was Perry Ellis or Devonte Graham.  All four losses came against teams with balanced squads who were able to play solid team defense.  When KU faces Nova they’ll be facing a team that plays solid, not exceptional defense, but can score in bunches and push the tempo.  The Jayhawks need more than one of their stars to have a good game and a big time defensive effort on the perimeter to neutralize the Wildcat shooters.
While Kansas is doing all of that, Villanova will be working to establish some interior defense and hoping their fiery shooting continues.  While Jay Wright’s team shot the ball well in the regular season, even he didn’t see this kind of offensive explosion coming.  The most important key for Nova to win will be keeping Ochefu in the game.  He is the only post player and the only rim defender on the squad.  If he finds himself in foul trouble, Kansas will pound the ball inside to Perry Ellis or even Landen Lucas where the Wildcats will be left with 6-7 wing men to defend the post.

Bottom Line:  Kansas will have too much firepower for the Big East champs.  Even the Kansas guards are built for physical play.  They’ll attack the basket, create contact and force the Wildcats to pack into a zone to protect the middle.  A solid shooting night from Selden and aggressive defense from Frank Mason will be too much for a Villanova team whose shooting streak will hit it’s end on Saturday.


Oklahoma has become the fan favorite this season.  From Buddy Hield’s cranked up style to the last second heroics of the whole team, it’s tough not to be a fan when watching the Sooners.
Meanwhile, Oregon has quietly (to most of the country) won the Pac-12 title and secured themselves a number one seed.  Their length and athleticism has made them a matchup nightmare and an unexpected night of 3 point efficiency propelled them past Duke with ease.

This is going to be a sprint for the first half, at least.  Both of these teams love to get out and move in the open floor.  Oklahoma is phenomenal at finding open shooters on fast break kick-outs.  Their guards (and even forwards) are good-to-great shooters and equally solid ball handlers.  There are few teams who can draw you out with their shooting and blow by you to take advantage of defensive creases.  The key for the Sooners will be dealing with the long arms and leaping ability of the interior Ducks.  Bell and Boucher will try to force Oklahoma to make an extra pass to avoid their shots getting blocked.  Oklahoma will continue to do what they’ve done all season on offense by moving the ball and getting their scorers in position on the perimeter.  Defensively, Lon Kruger will force Oregon to keep shooting as well as they did against Duke.  On the season, the Ducks were only a 34% three point shooting team and it’s a safe bet they will come back to earth sooner rather than later.
Oregon will try to attack Oklahoma and force their offensive stars to guard and commit fouls.  As deep as the Sooners are, foul trouble is the one thing that will trip them up.  Oregon will try to take charges on the perimeter and defend the rim inside with shot blockers.  If Brooks heats up, Oklahoma will have to dedicate a defender which might take him out of the offensive game plan.

Bottom Line:  Oklahoma will have too many weapons for a Ducks team who has played above their talent level the whole tournament.  Brooks may shoot well, but they’ll be too busy chasing down Sooner scorers to get into their offense.  Oregon will grind hard to score inside, but their lack of depth and perimeter defense will catch up to them in a shootout.