What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Chris from VU Hoops, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Villanova.
1) Iowa and Villanova played a memorable game against one another in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament championship game three years ago. What has changed most about the Villanova team since that game? What (or who) might Iowa fans remember from that game?
CHRIS: It's funny, because when I think of that tournament I think of Ryan Arcidiacono's game-winner versus Kansas in the game before Iowa. IIRC he wasn't a huge factor against the Hawkeyes, though I expect him to be a much bigger factor on Sunday. He's the senior leader of the team and is really trying to get the monkey off of his back with regards to early exits in the NCAA Tournament.
Two guys that actually were big factors in 2013 are even bigger factors now - Josh Hart & Kris Jenkins. Hart is one of the best players in the country and can do it all on offense and defense. I'd expect him and Peter Jok to spend a lot of time with each other. Jenkins has really transformed himself in to a complete player.
2) What are some key match-ups in this game that favor Villanova?
CHRIS: Without being too familiar with the Hawkeyes, I imagine Jenkins is going to be a problem for them. He's not that tall at 6'6", but he's big and can post up players that aren't as strong as him. And then there's his shooting ability. He can hit from anywhere and when defenders overextend he will pump-fake and drive by them. He's been on fire in March and has the ability to carry the team offensively.
If Daniel Ochefu is up for the game, I'd imagine he'll have a big advantage over Adam Woodbury as well. The problem is he doesn't realize how strong he is sometimes, and can take a more passive approach.
3) What are some key match-ups in this game that concern you?
CHRIS: I think Hart and Jok are going to mostly cancel each other out - but if one of them gets a leg up that's a huge advantage for their team. How Villanova defends Jarrod Uthoff is the big concern for me. Mikal Bridges will come off the bench and has the length to handle him but this is a big spot for him and he's just a redshirt freshman. He's been up to the task when called upon before, though. If Uthoff gets going and Bridges can't handle him, it could be a long afternoon for Wildcats fans.
Other than that, I think Iowa's size advantage may be disconcerting to some, but it would appear the 'Cats have an advantage in the backcourt, so it may become about who can impose their style on the other.
4) What will Villanova do defensively to slow down Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok?
CHRIS: Since Uthoff gets most of the plaudits I think Jok has taken advantage of being the 'next' guy often this season. I fully expect Josh Hart to get the nod on Jok. He's the best on-ball defender on the team and will gladly take the challenge. With Uthoff, I just don't know. Mikal Bridges will see plenty of time on him but he only plays 20-25 minute a game. Kris Jenkins doesn't have the length to stop his shooting. Darryl Reynolds is an option but he's much more comfortable closer to the hoop.
Villanova switches a ton on defense and has confident in everyone to guard anyone. We'll find out soon if that's a good or a bad idea against a smart and talented player.
5) Who could come off the Villanova bench to make life miserable for Iowa fans?
CHRIS: Good question, I'm wondering that too! Darryl Reynolds has had a breakout year but this doesn't feel like a game where he's going to impose his will against such a big frontcourt. If you're cursing him at the end though it means Villanova is probably doing really well. Phil Booth is still in somewhat of a sophomore slump after an incredible freshman season. He has so much ability but has struggled for confidence this year. If he gets going though, he's a guy that can be the X-Factor for Villanova.
My pick is still Mikal Bridges though. He's been so good defensively and has taken on the role of defensive stopper well. He's an emerging offensive player too - he's great at moving off the ball to the hoop for easy buckets and he's got a decent shot as well. But his biggest impact will be making life tough for Uthoff.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
CHRIS: A day out, I'm sitting here relatively confident. Villanova looked great against an inferior opponent which is much better than what Michigan State did. But whoa baby are there demons to deal with. Villanova has struggled with very athletic guards this year and I just don't see that being a huge problem with Iowa. The Uthoff/Jok combination is intriguing though and it presents an entirely different challenge.
I'm going to roll with Villanova in a close game - 72-67.
Thanks for being a good sport, Chris, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow. You can check out the VUH crew at VU Hoops. You can also follow VU Hoops on Twitter at @VUHoops. The Iowa-Villanova game is in Brooklyn, NY, on Sunday, March 2, and is scheduled to start at approximately 11:00 am CT, with TV coverage from CBS.