Sweet dreams are made of this

Villanova 77, Duke 54: Juliano | Jerardi | Ford | Hofmann | Raleigh News and Observer | Box score

So you probably thought coming in that Villanova had a pretty good shot to win the game, and maybe by a couple baskets instead of just one.

But by 23 points?


This was a demolition the caliber of which I can't recall seeing by any Big 5 team in March in the seven years I've lived here. Not the Wildcats of '06 and not even St. Joe's of 2004, and I'm sure I'll hear it from Hawk Hill for saying that.

You beat Duke by 23 points in an NCAA Tournament and it is a very big deal, even if these Blue Devils aren't quite up to previous years' standards.

Of course, Mike Krzyzewski's players were quite complicit in their own demise. Not all of the 44 missed field goals from 60 attempts were caused by Villanova's defense. Duke's 26.7 percent shooting night was the program's worst ever NCAA Tournament performance. But still, this was really something.

The full stats were these:

Villanova shot 27-for-64 from the field (42.2%), including 4-for-18 from three-point range (22.2%) and 23-for-46 from two-point range (50.0%), and 19-for-23 from the free throw line. Seven offensive rebounds, 25 defensive rebounds, nine assists, 12 turnovers, five steals, two blocks and 23 fouls committed.

That adds up to 77 possessions and 1.045 points per possession: 0.810 in the first half and 1.227 in the second half.

Duke shot 16-for-60 from the field (26.7%), including 5-for-27 from three-point range (18.5%) and 11-for-33 from two-point range (33.3%), and 17-for-24 from the free throw line (70.8%). Seven offensive rebounds, 25 defensive rebounds, seven assists, 11 turnovers, eight steals, two blocks and 24 fouls committed.

That adds up to 74 possessions and 0.729 points per possession: 0.673 in the first half and 0.777 in the second half.

As for individual figures: Gerald Henderson was 1-for-14 from the field, Jon Scheyer was 3-for-18 and Kyle Singler was 5-for-14. Forty-seven attempts, nine made.

It wasn't so much better across the floor, as Dante Cunningham was 5-for-13 and Shane Clark was 5-for-15. But there were little bits of economy: Reggie Redding 4-for-7, Dwayne Anderson 4-for-8, Shane Clark 3-for-5 and Antonio Pena a quite emphatic 1-for-1.

One particular sequence sticks out to me from late in the first half. As Joe Juliano wrote in the Inquirer's game recap:

On three straight possessions late in the half, they forced a 35-second violation following an air ball, got a blocked shot from Reynolds on a jumper by Scheyer, and made Scheyer throw up a rushed three-ball to beat the shot-clock buzzer.

You can make a good case that the last of those possessions was the most impressive of the bunch. Would you really expect a team coached by a guy who's applied parts of Mike D'Antoni's high-speed system in recent years to almost commit two shot clock violations in three possessions?

The lesson from this game hit me right near the end of the live blog. We've been hearing all week about how these teams are similar in a lot of ways, from the strong guard play to the lack of true post players.

So if that's the case, which set of athletes would you take head-to-head? Wouldn't it be Villanova's? If so, there's your difference. Maybe not 23 points' worth, but getting 46 rebounds to 32 certainly means something.

If that also sounds about like the difference between the ACC and the Big East, that's probably not coincidental.

This Villanova team is not spectacular. It works hard and well, yet there is no superstar no matter how hard we try to find one. But it wins.

Will it beat Pittsburgh? I still don't know, though you might want to have a pair of boxing gloves nearby when 7 p.m. rolls around on Saturday.

If the Panthers play lazy like they did tonight and the Wildcats hustle like they did tonight, it's very possible. But if 'Nova gets in foul trouble first or doesn't put the clamps down on Levance Fields, Pitt's the better team on paper and should win.

If the latter happens, I hope Wildcats fans won't be too disappointed. Yes, you will have come up one game short of the Fianl Four again, but you will always have tonight. And well you should.

Who am I to disagree?

R. Redding