Steve Lappas: Villanova No. 1 on merit

NOVA11
Phil Booth, left, and Mikal Bridges of Villanova at the end of their victory over Xavier at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan 10, 2018.

As a former collegiate head coach, including nine seasons at Villanova, Steve Lappas knows the value of “on paper” matchups: not much.

Once a game starts, there is no telling what factors might come into play that will determine a final outcome. That’s why there are upsets.

That being said, Lappas said he has a good idea what to expect when he serves as color analyst for CBS’  broadcast of No. 1 Villanova’s game at Connecticut on Saturday.

“It doesn’t look good,” Lappas said of the Huskies’ chance of pulling an upset at XL Center in Hartford. “I’ve seen Connecticut a couple of times live already.

“UConn struggles to score and, let’s face it, if you can’t get to 70 points for sure, you’ve got no chance. I just don’t see them getting 70 against Villanova.”

The problem for the Huskies is that 70 is the low bar just to have a chance.

Big East standings | Villanova stats | Connecticut stats

Lappas, who was 174-110 on the Main Line from 1992-2001, said the offensive potential of Villanova (17-1) makes it hard to see a path to an upset for Connecticut).

“When you look at UConn, they have two guys that are capable of getting 20 points,” Lappas said. “Villanova has six, so there’s your problem right there. They are really hard to defend.

“If I had to guard you in a 5-foot area, it’s a lot easier for me to guard than in a 45-foot area. Half the court is 47-by-50, and against Villanova, you have to guard 47-by-50. You have five guys who can all dribble, all pass and all shoot, including the big guys. Having decent spacing to be able to help on defense is impossible.”

Considering Lappas, like Villanova coach Jay Wright, was an assistant under legendary Wildcats coach Rollie Massimino, he’s a stickler for defense and, like Wright, believes the Cats have room for improvement.

Can they win the title again?

Looking down a path toward a national championship, Lappas said the Wildcats are the most consistent team in the country and would have to be overcome by more talent.

“Duke, I think, is clearly capable,” he said. “Michigan State might be.

“A team like Duke is capable of getting 80 on Villanova, but [the Wildcats] are capable of getting 85 on Duke. It’s not like they couldn’t beat Duke in that kind of game.”

The Wildcats have scored 75 or more in 16 of their 18 games and put up 93 in their lone loss.

“Look what Butler had to score [101]  to beat them,” Lappas said. “There just aren’t that many teams that could go blow-for-blow with Villanova. Butler had to make like 100 threes to beat them at home [15-for-22, actually].

“That’s how you know [Villanova] is really good. You have to score a lot to beat them,” Lappas continued. “From Day 1 of the season up until now, they have been the most consistent team in the country in terms of what you are going to get each game. They are clearly the No. 1 team in the country, I think.”

AP POLL

Records through Thursday, Jan. 18

Team W-L Next
1. Villanova 17-1 Sat. at UConn, 12
2. Virginia 17-1 Sun.,at Wake Forest, 6
3. Purdue 18-2 Sat. at Iowa, 12
4. Oklahoma 14-3 Sat. at Okla. St., 2
5. Duke 16-2 Sat. vs. Pittsburgh, 4
Also
9. Michigan St. 16-3 Fri. vs. Indiana, 7