The No. 2-seeded Villanova Wildcats cruised to easy victories over UNC Asheville and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. On Thursday, the Wildcats will face a much tougher opponent in No. 3 Miami.
Despite being underdogs in their second round matchup against the Wichita State Shockers, the Hurricanes led by as much as 21 points before holding on for a 65-57 win. This came after Miami defeated Buffalo 79-72 in the first round.
No. 3 Miami Hurricanes (27-7) vs. No. 2 Villanova Wildcats (31-5)
When: 7:10 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Where: KFC Yum! Center (Louisville)
Line: Villanova -4
Keys for Miami
Guards Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan played a huge game against the Shockers last Saturday and they are tough to stop when they get it rolling. The duo combined for 46 points, five assists and five steals. If the Hurricanes are to advance, both Rodriguez and McClellan will likely need another massive performance against the Wildcats.
Rodriguez can score inside the paint and from long range. He will need to use his athletic ability to get Villanova defenders in foul trouble. Miami also will need to have the same pestering defense the team demonstrated against Wichita State.
Keys for Villanova
The Wildcats will need a solid outing from forward Daniel Ochefu. Villanova doesn't need Ochefu to score a lot of points, but it needs him to do the dirty work by getting rebounds and defending the paint against the Hurricanes. Guards Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono will be playing against equally athletic counterparts, so it will be important that the Wildcats slow the game down and attempt to play at their preferred tempo.
Villanova has been one of the best teams in the country all season, but this matchup against Miami puts the Wildcats at an enormous disadvantage. The Hurricanes are quick, athletic and they have length and Miami defends very well. Expect Rodriguez to keep the Hurricanes at a fast tempo and for Miami to force turnovers much like it did against Wichita State. If Miami plays its style of basketball, the Hurricanes will be moving on to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
Prediction: Miami 76, Villanova 66
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.