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: Robert from Big East Coast Bias, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Big East.
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?
ROBERT: The trio of Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, and Kris Jenkins combined for 39 of Villanova's 88 points in that game. Hart and Jenkins were freshmen while Arcidiacono was a sophomore, so all three are still around for the Wildcats. In fact, those three were Villanova's leading scorers this year, with Hart coming in at 15.3 PPG, Jenkins coming in at 13.3, and Arcidiacono coming in at 11.9. So I guess the only thing that's really "changed" for Villanova is that those guys have improved with age.
2) What are some key match-ups in this game that favor Villanova?
ROBERT: I think the match-up that favors Villanova the most is Arcidiacono/Hart/Jalen Brunson against Iowa's guards. The strength of Iowa, as I'll note in the next question, is with their bigs. I don't think Iowa has the personnel to guard all three of those Villanova players, plus Phil Booth (more on him later).
3) What are some key match-ups in this game that concern you?
ROBERT: As mentioned above, Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff scare the daylights out of me. While I think Woodbury's kind of soft, height is height. He's 7'1". Villanova's tallest player is 6'11" Daniel Ochefu. I would have been a tad more worried about this before yesterday when Ochefu put up a double-double against UNC-Asheville, proving his ankle injury from the Big East. We saw what Woodbury is capable of if left unguarded though. He can be a difference maker around the hoop.
As for Uthoff, I'm not sure too many people realize that he's been one of the best players in the country this season. A lot of the Big Ten love has (rightfully) gone to Denzel Valentine, but I think Uthoff was right up there. Just going off of numbers, I think the closest thing Villanova saw to Uthoff this season was Marquette's Henry Ellenson, who they faced twice. In those two games, Ellenson averaged 12.5 points and seven rebounds, both below his season averages, so the Wildcats did a decent job stopping him, however, Uthoff still scares me.
4) What will Villanova do defensively to slow down Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok?
ROBERT: I think all Villanova really can do is enlist Ochefu to protect the middle, pray he doesn't get into foul trouble, and if he does, hope 6'8" Darryl Reynolds can hold down the fort until Jay Wright is comfortable putting Ochefu back in. The Big East didn't have a ton of big men this year, so this will be a big time test for Villanova.
5) Who could come off the Villanova bench to make life miserable for Iowa fans?
ROBERT: I've mentioned both of them already, but Darryl Reynolds and Phil Booth are usually the first two off the bench for the Wildcats. Reynolds started a couple games this season, and his best effort of the year came when Ochefu was out with a concussion against Providence and Reynolds had 19 points and 10 repoints. Booth, on the other hand, suffered a bit of a sophomore slump this season. However, he excels at generating contact and is a very good free throw shooter, which may make a world of difference in a potentially close game.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
ROBERT: I have Villanova in my bracket, and for the sake of my sanity I'd really like them to be able to make it to the second weekend of the tourney for once. Not to mention, Iowa was on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week, and we all know the cover jinx is a real thing. Give me Villanova in a close one.
Thanks for being a good sport, Robert, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow. You can check out the BECB crew at Big East Coast Bias. You can also follow Big East Coast Bias on Twitter at @becb_sbn. The Iowa-Viillanova 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.