Friday , Mar , 16 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Cat Fight in the Windy City as Villanova takes on Kentucky

Chicago, IL (Sports Network) – A pair of Wildcats will battle in the first
round of the NCAA Tournament, as Villanova and Kentucky collide at the United

Villanova is not as seasoned as Kentucky in terms of the NCAA Tournament, but
the 2007 Wildcats from Philadelphia have more experience in the Big Dance then
Tubby Smith’s squad. Last year Villanova advanced all the way to the Elite
Eight before falling to eventual champ, Florida. Although the Wildcats are not
as dominating as a year ago, the team returns players from last year’s
postseason run, giving Villanova a ton of experience. Villanova closed out its
regular season with seven wins in its last nine games and entered the Big East
Conference playing its best basketball. After a first round win over DePaul,
the Cats ran out of steam, falling to eventual Big East Champion Georgetown.
Overall Villanova finished with a solid 22-10 record and earned the ninth-seed
in the West Bracket.

As for the Wildcats from Lexington, they are historically the most notable team
in the Big Dance. This is the 16th consecutive season that Kentucky was
selected for the NCAA Tourney, which is the third longest streak in the nation
behind Arizona (23) and Kansas (18). In terms of NCAA Tournament action the
Wildcats of Kentucky have more appearances (48), games (139) and wins (97)
compared to any other team in the nation. While Kentucky is rich in postseason
history, the Cats from Lexington have not reached the Final Four since winning
this event back in 1998. This year’s squad hopes to bring the prestigious
school back to the national spotlight, but that will be a tough task,
especially considering the team dropped six of its last nine games, including a
rough 84-82 overtime loss to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament. Overall
Kentucky finished with an impressive 21-11 mark, but must play better if it
wants to make a run this year.

In terms of the all-time series between the two schools, Kentucky has won five
of the six meetings, with its lone loss coming in this tournament back in 1988.

With the loss of some big time scorers from a year ago, the Wildcats knew if
they were going to return to the NCAA Tournament the team would need to improve
defensively. Villanova obviously took a defensive approach to the season, and
for the most part it worked in the team’s favor, as the squad surrendered just
64.5 ppg, while limiting teams to just 41 percent shooting from the field. The
Wildcats’ style was more of a pressure attack, as the team forced 16 turnovers
per game and recorded 262 steals. At the other end of the floor the team was
not overwhelming, but it was good enough to collect victories. Villanova heads
into the Big Dance averaging 72.9 ppg, while shooting 42.7 percent from the
field. The Cats also had success on the boards, outrebounding teams by close to
five caroms a game. From behind the arc Villanova was nothing special, netting
just 35.3 percent from long range, but from the charity stripe the team really
excelled, shooting 78.1 percent. Inside the paint was Curtis Sumpter’s
territory, as the big man led the team with 17.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg. Mike Nardi
and Scottie Reynolds give Villanova a solid one-two punch in the backcourt.
Nardi, who is hampered by a sore ankle, is netting 12 ppg for the Cats and is
shooting a solid 40.1 percent from long range. As for Reynolds, he is one of
the top freshmen in the nation, posting 14.5 ppg, while leading the team with
131 assists and 46 steals.

As for Kentucky, they also used more of a defensive approach to the season, as
the team allowed just 67.4 ppg on the year, while limiting opponents to a 40.9
percent shooting effort from the floor, and an equally low 32.8 percent clip
from behind the arc. Much like their counterpart, Kentucky was not a dominant
force offensively, but the team did what it needed to do to post wins. Kentucky
is currently averaging 73.5 ppg, while shooting a healthy 47.9 percent from the
field. The Wildcats averaged just over three rebounds per game more than their
opponent, but at the same time the team also struggled with mistakes,
committing close to 15 turnovers per game. The big man on the inside for
Kentucky, Randolph Morris, has been the most dominant player for the Cats, as
the center is scoring 15.8 ppg, while collecting 7.7 rpg. Joe Crawford and
Ramel Bradley have formed a solid duo in the backcourt, as Crawford is netting
14.2 ppg, while Bradley is contributing 13.8 ppg to go along with a team-high
117 assists.