UPDATE: CBS has just revealed the game time for Thursday night and Villanova vs. Duke is scheduled for 9:57 p.m. (appoximately) as the second game in Boston. Pittsburgh plays Xavier in the first game. Announcers are Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery.
It’s starting to get a little scary. OK, more than a little bit. Villanova is a very live team.
Not many would have thought the Wildcats would be in this position when they started 2-3 in the Big East. Or maybe even when they were down 14 against American with 19 minutes to go in Thursday’s opening round. But this much is clear: When they bring their A game, they’re going to be a very difficult out. Not just for Duke, but anyone left in their path.
I’m not smart enough to know just how far this run is going to take them. A week ago, I picked Duke to get out of the East Region. No particular reason. Just because. The Blue Devils will be a slight favorite. Which means whatever you want it to.
If the Wildcats play the way they did against UCLA, they’ll probably win. But putting back-to-back games like that together at this point is almost impossible. Duke is good, not great. I think the Wildcats have to do exactly what they did against the Bruins. With one difference. They have to play physical. But they also have to be careful. Against UCLA, the officials pretty much let them play. Against Duke, who knows? Coach K has been known to get his share of calls before. Just a thought. Anyway, the Wildcats can’t afford to get in too much foul trouble. They survived Dante Cunningham being on the bench for much of the first half. In fact, they actually widened their lead. But who really needs to take that chance again?
What the Wildcats did against UCLA was attack the basket. Over and over. Not only Cunningham, but Shane Clark, Reggie Redding, Dwayne Anderson. You name it. Even the guards were getting to the lane, because UCLA refused to do anything about it. And nobody could stay in front of Corey Fisher. I think Duke will have similar problems. The Blue Devils like to protect the perimeter. That leaves openings inside. Just ask Texas, which almost knocked them out by driving to the hole or by driving and kicking. The Wildcats like to shoot threes, but they should be judicious. Cunningham should be able to have another big game down low.
On the other end, Duke will make treys. You just don’t want to let them kill you from distance. Gerald Henderson can make you look bad when he goes flying to the hoop, but other than that, the Blue Devils basically are a team of perimeter skills. And they’re obviously very good at it.
This game should be in the 80s, at least. I had Nova beating UCLA, 85-80, and Rollie Massimino came up to me before the game and said I was taking some heat on the radio because people were saying there was no way the score was going to be that high. I said that Jay surely wanted it to be that high. Then I told him they’d make free throws at the end. Turns out, the only thing I was wrong about was UCLA’s total. The Wildcats could have got 100 if they really wanted to.
This game will match two teams that want to get up and down the floor as early and often as possible. I think it has all the makings to be one of the more entertaining scrums of the tourney.
We’ll see. The winner will probably get Pitt on Saturday, but first things first. Whoever wins, it’ll be interesting to see how much they have left in the regional final, especially if they have to play the late game on Thursday and then come right back early Saturday afternoon. But hey, nobody ever said this thing was supposed to be easy.