The Houston-Villanova game went about as we thought it would with ‘Nova winning a tight game, 50-44.
Realistically, Houston has had a brilliant season but they still have had to play most of the season without two starters and at some point, that just catches up. Houston’s defense nearly let them pull this game off but the offense was billy goat baaaaaaad: Houston missed 40 of 57 shots and hit just 1-20 on threes.
Villanova wasn’t all that much better at 15-52 but hit 5-21 on threes and hit all 15 free throw attempts.
And let’s face it, Jay Wright knows the ropes and his point guard Collin Gillespie, is one of the great winners in college basketball. He has a great feel for the game and is very hard to control or degrade his performance.
So with Duke and Villanova moving on, we turn to Sunday’s games which will see Miami facing Kansas and UNC taking on Saint Peter’s.
We’ll stick with Miami.
For some reason, no one has really mentioned that Charlie Moore spent two year in Lawrence. We have no idea how he feels about Bill Self’s program but at a minimum he knows the sets. He’s a valuable asset to Miami’s scouting and preparation. He’s also likely to play out of his mind and Miami is playing brilliant basketball overall.
And UNC-Saint Peter’s?
That’s a tough one. Armando Bacot and Brady Manek have proved really tough to defend and RJ Davis and Caleb Love are surging. Leaky Black can take out whoever he is defending.
On the other hand, as we’ve seen, Shaheen Holloway is a heck of a coach and he may have the best guards in the tournament.
We saw this article today about Covid and the Peacocks and as it turned out, it became an asset for them. It also revealed Holloway’s keen basketball mind. He had to adapt his approach after Covid hit and when the adaptations worked, he kept them and added more.
It won’t surprise us if he pulls out something new for the Tar Heels. At this point it won’t surprise us if he runs Texas Tech’s No Middle defense because the guy is clearly brilliant.
And while UNC has most conventional advantages - bigger conference, far more resources, a bigger media footprint - Saint Peter’s has a few things going for it too.
First of all, of course, Holloway.
Secondly, Saint Peter’s has depth and UNC doesn’t. Against Purdue, nine guys got double-digit minutes and one guy got eight. At times Holloway has subbed five at a time, something that UNC fans may remember wistfully from the Dean Smith years, aka the Blue Team, but which the Heels haven’t been able to do for a while and certainly can’t now.
Third, they’ve shown they can be a great defensive team. Look at what they did to Purdue: 7-4 Zach Edey was essentially useless. Jayden Ivey was held to 4-12 and just nine points. And Purdue shot just 5-21 on threes.
By the way, Kentucky hit 4-15 on threes while Murray State managed 8-24. Total it up and so far, opponents are 13-60.
And fourth, pressure. We’d have to say that arrow points more to UNC and if you remember, when Baylor turned it up, the Tar Heels didn’t like that one bit. And with such a tight rotation, they also can’t afford foul trouble.
This game is in Philly of course and the crowd is likely to be overwhelmingly behind Saint Peter’s. Everyone not pulling for UNC will be 100 percent behind Holloway’s engaging team.
The Peacocks managed to put the pressure squarely on Kentucky, then on Murray State and most recently on Purdue.
We can’t see a reason why they can’t do it to UNC as well.
Incidentally, so far UNC three point shooting has gone thusly: 13-35 against Marquette, 11-25 against Baylor and 10-31 against UCLA.
The Marquette win was a blowout but UNC beat both Baylor and UCLA by seven. Manek, Love and Davis are taking the majority of the threes. You don’t necessarily have to stop them all. If you can slow that down and maybe take Manek out of the equation...well, look at it this way: if Baylor hadn’t fouled Davis on a three point attempt, the score might have been 73-70 after Dale Bonner hit a three with 2:29 left in regulation.
From there, Baylor scored 10 points and UNC four to wrap up regulation play.
Saint Peter’s doesn’t have to eliminate UNC’s three point shooting. They just have to cut it back a bit.
That said, we have no idea what to expect in this one.