#11 Villanova Wildcats (3-0) vs. Akron Zips (3-0)
When: Sunday, November 22, 2015, at 4:30 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Akron’s Previous Season Record: 21-14
Key Players for Akron: #55 Antonio Jackson (5-11, 160) So., G; #21 F Reggie McAdams (6-7, 208) Sr., G/F; #23 Isaiah Johnson (6-10, 290) Jr., C
Scouting Report: Coming off a power conference win against Arkansas, the Akron Zips very well could be the toughest test to date for the Wildcats. Unlike Villanova’s previous opponents, the Zips have a stable rotation with experienced players who have been in the system for multiple years. Additionally, Sunday will mark the first time this season that the Wildcats will face an opponent that is substantially bigger than them. Akron also shoots a blistering 41.3% from beyond the arc.
Akron features four players taller than 6-7 in their starting lineup. Additionally, the Zips rank 25th in the country in rebounding at 47.7 per contest. Akron starts a pair of 6-foot-7 senior, sharpshooting wings in Reggie McAdams and Jake Kretzer. The combo are on fire from 3-point range, combining for 17 for 31 from deep. The two also make their presence felt on the glass, for a combined total of 8.4 rebounds per game. Junior forward Kwan Cheatham Jr. is coming off a strong sophomore season with a repeat performance this year. Cheatham Jr. made 100 threes last year, and is a legitimate floor space at 6-foot-9. He could provide matchup problems for the Wildcats.
The Zips are also huge in the middle. Centers Pat Forsythe and Isaiah Johnson split time and provide an anchor for Akron’s four around one offense. Forsythe, a 6-foot-11 senior, is a terrific low block player. He has an array of spins, fakes, and hooks that allow him to score in a multitude of ways. He also is great on cutting and running the pick and roll, and always seems to be in the right spot. At 290 pounds, Johnson is a load in the paint. He is a beast on the offensive glass, pacing Akron with nine rebounds per game. He has surprising athleticism for a man of his size can finish with ferocious slam dunks. He does have some trouble with fouls and shoots a relatively low percentage for a big man,
One glaring weakness of this Akron team is ball control. Akron averages 16 assists per game with 14 turnovers. This measly 1.14 assist-to-turnover ratio is mainly due to the fact that the Zips only have one primary ball handler. Sophomore Antonio Jackson is the only true point guard in the rotation. Jackson has made huge strides this year, upping his scoring average to 13.7 and his assists per game to 5.7, but he still struggles to not turn the ball over averaging three turnovers per contest. Finally, Akron has a tight rotation, calling on just eight players in close contests.
Outlook: The keys for Villanova in this one should be rebounding and defense. They need to defend Akron well and the arc so they are not allowed wide open looks. The ‘Cats also have to put an emphasis on boxing out, if Akron is able to beat Villanova on the offensive glass, it could be a long night for the Wildcats.
It will be interesting to see if Daniel Ochefu can keep his double-double streak alive. The Chef is averaging 15 and 12 through three tilts, with all three performances being double-doubles. From a size stand point, Akron will provide Ochefu with his first real test of the season.
The guards will also be key for Villanova. As mentioned earlier, the Zips struggle with turnovers. On the other hand, Villanova boasts an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.82. Ryan Arcidiacono is averaging a career high 4.7 dimes per game and has just one turnover so far this season. Freshman phenom Jalen Brunson is averaging a team high five assists per game and is off to a nice start to his collegiate career. If Arcidiacono and Brunson play well, Villanova should cruise.
Finally, Villanova will call on the defense of Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges to guard some of Akrons length. Hart is averaging 13 points per game and has been extremely valuable on the defense end.
Overall, I think Villanova could run into some issues early on in this game, but ultimately will find a way to pull it out. The ‘Cats should win by a decent margin and will roll into Brooklyn 4-0.