Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Monday, February 27, 2006

Two for the Money

Connecticut won its rematch with Villanova on Sunday, 89-75, avenging its loss to the Wildcats 13 days earlier. The top two teams in the Big East each won their matchup at home, and they have the look of teams that could meet again in the Big East Tournament and then perhaps again with much more at stake in early April.

The Huskies and Wildcats play their games differently, but their contrasting styles are reminiscent of another pair of conference rivals -- North Carolina and Duke -- last year. UConn, like UNC last year, has magnificent athleticism, size and depth. As star players with size have opted in recent years to jump to the pros quickly, it's rare that a team can have a front line as athletic as the Huskies' Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone and Rudy Gay. Charlie Villanueva, a first-round NBA pick having a strong rookie year, would have to fight for minutes with this bunch.

Villanova, like Duke last year (and this year), isn't as deep or as tall, but they shoot the ball well from the outside and they use their lack of size as an advantage to play pressure defense on the ball. It's virtually unthinkable to try to win with a four-guard offense, but Villanova has four as good as Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry, and they've pulled it off beautifully. Ask the Tar Heels, which escaped the Wildcats in the Sweet 16 last year only with the help of a shaky traveling call on Ray in the final seconds. There's no shame in losing to West Virginia and on the road at Texas and UConn, 'Nova's only three losses this year.

Where does the smart money lie? Well, remember that UNC won the NCAA Championship last year, while Duke lost to a more physical and deeper Michigan State team in the Sweet 16. It's possible to see the same thing happen again in a tournament that is more about matchups than pure talent. UConn is the safer bet in your brackets, but don't count out Villanova, whose guts and willingness to sell out on defense are reminiscent of the Wildcats' 1985 national championship team. That team, if you might remember, cut its teeth in the wars of the Big East -- the nation's best conference then and once again.



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