For the second year in a row, the Iowa Hawkeyes will be playing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. And for the second year in a row, the #7 seed Hawkeyes will be playing a #2 seed in that game. Last year, Iowa played Gonzaga and... it did not go well. This year Iowa draws South Region #2 seed Villanova with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Here's the key information for that game.
WHO: #2 seed Villanova Wildcats (30-5, 16-2 Big East)
WHEN: 11 AM CT; Sunday, March 20, 2016
WHERE: Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY)
ONLINE: March Madness Live
LINE: Villanova -6
You might want to sit down, because I have some pretty stunning news for you: Villanova is a very good team. They rank 3rd in ESPN's Basketball Power Index, 4th in the KenPom rankings, and 5th in the Sagarin ratings. They're one of just three teams left in the NCAA Tournament that rank in the top ten in offensive efficiency (10th) and defensive efficiency (7th). (Virginia and Kansas are the other two teams.) All five of the Wildcats' losses this year have been against NCAA Tournament teams (Oklahoma, Virginia, Providence, Xavier, Seton Hall).
On offense, Villanova is excellent at shooting (54.7 eFG%, 19th in the country), especially from 2-point range (56.7%, 4th in the country) and at the free throw line (77.5%), although their effectiveness there is diminished by the fact that they don't get to the line all that often (they rank 250th in the nation in free throw rate). They also don't get many shots blocked (only 6.8%) and don't turn the ball over very much (16.4%, 61st in the country). What aren't they good at on offense? They don't hit the offensive glass very well (211th nationally) and they're only average at thee-pointers, converting 34.7% of those attempts.
Defensively, the Wildcats rank highly in every category of note. They're holding teams to 46.1% eFG (28th nationally), and they're almost as good defending 2-pointers as they are at making 2-pointers, holding teams to 43.8% shooting from inside the 3-point arc. They also force a lot of turnovers (20.4% of possessions, 48th nationally) and don't foul much (they rank 60th in opponent free throw rate).
So yeah: Nova is a tough, tough opponent. Iowa's going to need to play better than they did against Temple -- it's hard to envision the Hawkeyes being able to beat Villanova if they shoot 34.8% from the floor or 25% from 3-point range. Iowa's going to need more of those jump shots to fall to beat Villanova. We saw a (too-brief) glimpse of that team early in the first half on Friday; let's hope that team returns -- and sticks around a bit longer this time.
Here's the full TV schedule for Sunday's NCAA Tournament games: