Both NC State and Villanova are dangerous teams in this tournament. NC State, when at its best, can beat or at least compete with any team in the country. They defeated Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville this season to prove that. Villanova, meanwhile, is experienced, fast-paced, and smart. The Wildcats have just 2 losses on the season and are very consistent. This consistency is where State and Villanova separate, as NC State is very inconsistent. Even throughout the course of one game, NC State can go from looking just about unstoppable to looking pitiful. If the good version of NC State shows up, this game will likely be competitive and exciting. If it is the other version, however, things could get ugly for the Wolfpack.
Another big similarity between these two teams is their dependency on their backcourts. Both teams have very talented backcourts, but again, Villanova’s is more consistent than NC State’s. Darrun Hilliard III, Josh Hart, Dylan Ennis, and Ryan Arcidiacono form a talented, smart, and experienced backcourt. The Wildcats rely on these four guys, who together average 44.5 points per game and about 10 assists per game. Furthermore, they are all dangerous from the three-point line, and are a huge reason that Villanova is one of the fastest and best offenses in the nation. This deep backcourt is a huge threat for every opponent, and is the main reason for Villanova’s success. Villanova’s high-powered offense is what wins them games, and it is almost impossible to stop.
NC State, much like Villanova, has a talented backcourt. Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner, and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber lead the charge for the Wolfpack. The trio averages a combined 40.9 points and 8.2 assists per game. This backcourt is loaded with talent and potential, but can have trouble reaching that potential. When it does reach its potential, the backcourt trio is explosive. As shown in some Wolfpack wins this year, most specifically the win over Duke, these guys are capable of changing the course of any game. Against Villanova, NC State needs all three of these guys to be on. Lacey and Barber need to be scorers from outside while also driving in and scoring, and opportunities must be created to run Ralston Turner off of some screens for good looks from three.
If there is one area where NC State owns an advantage in this game, it is the frontcourt. The Wolfpack has a solid rotation of four big guys. Kyle Washington and Abdul-Malik Abu can be difference makers offensively, and can use their athleticism in a variety of ways to help their team. Both did this in the win over LSU – specifically Washington, who proved his versatility all over the court. Meanwhile, the other two forwards, Lennard Freeman and BeeJay Anya, are the big bodies inside. Freeman is the team’s leading rebounder, and Anya is one of the best shot blockers in the country. He is becoming better on the boards as well, and when he plays well, NC State tends to do a whole lot better as a whole. Villanova, on the other hand, has basically two forwards to lead the way underneath. Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston are the two frontcourt leaders for the Wildcats. They average about 16 points per game combined, and both are good in terms of rebounding. However, Villanova doesn’t have the frontcourt depth of the Wolfpack, and State may hold a slight advantage on the glass.
NC State can attack this game in two ways. First, and what probably gives them the best chance at winning, would be to control the tempo and slow the game down. This is how they beat UNC – with slow play and great defense. NC State locked down, played patiently, and made sure that the Tarheels couldn’t get going in transition. By slowing the tempo, NC State could try to throw off Villanova’s offense and keep them from getting out and running. The other option for NC State is to match Villanova’s offense. NC State is athletic enough to run with the Wildcats, and if their guards are hitting shots, then they could keep it close by playing along with the up-tempo, high scoring style of Villanova. Either way though, it will not be easy for State to contain such a good offense. Villanova will likely find a way to keep their offense going no matter what NC State tries to do.
Quite honestly, this game will go one of two ways. Villanova could dominate the Wolfpack. If NC State comes out flat, as they did against LSU on Thursday night, Villanova will not hold back. They will attack NC State and build a lead, and will likely not give that lead up. The best chance NC State could have would involve them slowing the tempo and controlling the speed of the game, as they did in the win over Carolina. State should attack inside, but also needs to be able to knock down threes to stay in the game. They need to play a truly complete game against one of the top teams in the country. However, even if they do this, Villanova’s shooting, experience, and smartness will probably be too much for NC State to overcome. While the Wolfpack have a chance if everything goes their way, they are too inconsistent to pull out a win against a team such as Villanova.
Final Score Prediction: Villanova 72, NC State 61