Villanova had a tough road getting to the Final Four, and the Wildcats have an even tougher road if they want to cut down the nets in Houston. But if you’re a guard-heavy team, as Nova is, you’re in luck: recent history is on your side.
“If we go back the last five years, guards have won four (of the last five) national championships,” legendary Notre Dame basketball coach and long-time college basketball analyst Digger Phelps said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Go back to Kemba Walker and Connecticut. They got to win every game in the Big East (Tournament) to get a big and then they win every game in the NCAA Tournament to get it done. Then there was Anthony Davis and Kentucky, the big man. But then you go back, here we go. You look at Peyton Siva, Rick Pitino, Louisville. Then you go back, Shabazz Napier and UConn. And last year it was Tyus Jones and Duke.”
“I’ll never forget this.” Phelps continued. “We’re on the air on Sunday night before they’re going to play Wisconsin. I said, ‘Forget the three freshmen that start. Grayson Allen will be the X-Factor for Duke tomorrow night against Wisconsin.’ People on the side are looking at me (like), ‘What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘That’s the guy.’ So what happens? The next night, second half, Grayson Allen scores eight straight points to give Duke the lead, he ends up with 16, Tyus Jones ends up with 23 and they win the national title.
“So now I’m looking at what (Ryan Arcidiacono) does (against Oklahoma). He’s the leader of that team.”
Arcidiacono helped Villanova limit Perry Ellis to four points, five rebounds and four turnovers in Nova’s 64-59 Elite Eight win on Saturday. Ellis, who Phelps called “the Joakim Noah of Kansas,” scored 27 points in the Sweet 16 against Maryland.
But Arcidiacono and Maryland shut him down in the Elite Eight.
“The turning point of the game was this,” Phelps said. “Kansas is up 50-45, and Nova goes on a 10-0 run. Why? Archie hits a three and then (Josh) Hart hits a three. They go back up 51-50, they never look back and they get the job done. That’s what’s amazing. This team has a lot of confidence in how they can come after you and make things happen.”
If Phelps were coaching Villanova, he would have Arcidiacono face-guard Buddy Hield all night on Saturday.
“Don’t let him get the ball if we’re playing man, don’t let him get the ball if we’re playing zone, and let’s see if we can take him out of the game and make the other guys beat us,” Phelps said. “That would be my defensive game-plan if I was going against Oklahoma in a payback game, so to speak.”