Today marks the final regular season game of the 2011-12 year. As it stands right now the Bearcats are probably in the 2012 NCAA tournament. It might not be a comfortable position. But the sheer amount of quality wins in Big East play should be enough. Remember UC has 4 RPI top 25 wins and 6 RPI top 50 wins. This is a weak year on the bubble and no one can come close to matching those numbers among teams vying for selection. That doesn't mean that the Bearcats can blow off Villanova. A loss to the Wildcats coupled with a truncated run in the Big East tournament would probably but the Bearcats back on the bubble, potentially bound for the First Four. That is obviously not a desirable proposition for anyone.
It is obviously the goal of the team to avoid that horror show of a scenario. Doing that means beating Villanova in Philadelphia, something UC has never done since joining the Big East. So where to begin with making that happen? As ever I have some ideas after the jump.
Control Malik Wayns Impact
The statistical likelihood of Wayns erupting for 39-13-6 like he did in the first match up is low. For several reasons starting with the fact that game started off Wayns best run of play in the season and ending with Wayns being two games fresh off injury. He played well against Rutgers with 18-2-8 with four turnovers. But he isn't fully in the groove.
Wayns is capable of burning a team to the ground all by himself, but Villanova is better when he gets everyone involved. This is a young inexperienced team. There is an abundance of talent among the young guys. But at this stage in their careers they need help to get quality offense. The approach against Wayns should be the same as it was against Peyton Siva and Louisville. Siva eviscerated Cash on the dribble all night long. But Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick locked down Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric. The end result was Siva taking on a superhuman workload on offense. Its something he can do, and did, but Louisville doesn't work well when it is all on him.
Same deal with Wayns. This is the basic approach that UC took last time out against Villanova. Wayns came damn close to making it a losing approach. But it took a massive outlier of a performance from Wayns to make it even come close to working. Since that came Wayns hasn't come close to that kind of performance the rest of the year, and I wouldn't bet on him matching it today either.
A Big Day On The Glass
One of the biggest factors that kept Nova in the game the last time out was rebounding. The Wildcats were +15 on the glass and though rebounding margin is overblown as a predictive metric, it never helps to be blown out so decisively on the glass.
A lot has changed since then for UC. Mainly that the efforts of JaQuon Parker, Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon on the glass have allowed the Bearcats to hold their own on the glass, essentially breaking even most nights. That in turns allows Cronin to go with four guards for longer stretches. The problem with the four guards isn't so much defensive. With the athletes UC has playing four guards increases the speed and the ability of everyone to cover ground. That can make for a lot of difficult possessions for offenses. Where the issue lies is in finishing possessions, ie rebounding. That was never clearer than in the second half of the Nova game when the Wildcats grabbed 48 per cent of their misses. It goes without saying that grabbing barely half of opposition misses is a bad thing. A repeat performance would be most unwise.
A Return of The Old Kila
One thing that has gotten somewhat overlooked is that Sean Kilpatrick is slightly off form of late. His shooting has taken a bit of a dip late in the season. Over the last 6 games he is shooting just 37 per cent from the field and 26.6 from three. Now it should be said that Sean has found other ways to contribute on the glass and as a play maker. But his struggles of late have contributed to the somewhat punchless offense.
Villanova doesn't really have anyone who can guard Kilpatrick. In the last game James Bell got the assignment for the WIldcats. He might very well again, but Bell is coming off an injury and might not be up to the task. Otherwise the only people that Nova can throw at Kila are either too big to handle him off the dribble, or freshmen. JayVaughn Pinkston is too big and a freshman, but is shockingly athletic, and could contend with Kila. But he will have to be on JaQuon Parker, who is the other Bearcat that Nova has no one to guard. I feel that this team is the best matchup for Sean to get back on the right track before the Big East tournament.