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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Duke vs. Villanova: Four Factor Preview

Posted by on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 7:48 AM

click to enlarge Kyle Singler, seen earlier this year against Duquesne (photo by Jeremy M. Lange)
  • Kyle Singler, seen earlier this year against Duquesne (photo by Jeremy M. Lange)

To say that Duke and Villanova are similar is something of an understatement. It has been noted several places on the internet this week that the two teams have several things in common. For starters they're both guard-oriented teams with NBA-caliber backcourts.

Alongside strong guard play they each have a 6-foot-8 swing man (Kyle Singler/Dante Cumingham) masquerading as a post presence, both who ironically have practically identical rebounding rates.

Beneath the basic skin-deep similarities lie the four factors.

The four factors often tell a deeper story about a team's strengths and weaknesses. However, Duke and Villanova are similar in this respect as well. Both teams are evenly balanced across both offense and defense in each of the four factors, save one exception per team.

Villanova tends to foul too much, allowing their opponents more trips to the line per field goal attempt than the national average. Duke's four factor weakness is defensive rebounding. The Devils do a below average job keeping their opponents to one shot per offensive possession.

Both weaknesses seem to exist because of the guard-oriented nature of each team. The Devils can't offensively rebound against bigger teams, while the Wildcat front line often needs to foul when faced with larger teams. Since both Duke and Villanova are smaller and guard-oriented, neither is too well-equipped to take advantage of these specific weaknesses.

The Duke-Villanova game should be a close contest, with excellent guard play from both sides. Duke hasn't played a team all year with the depth and talent at the guard position Villanova has. The Blue Devils used 50 percent shooting from behind the arc to defeat Texas last weekend. They can't afford to lose that shooting touch against the Wildcats. Villanova has proven they can defeat quality opponents (UCLA, Syracuse twice, Pittsburgh) and are playing their best basketball of the season. It will similarly take Duke's best basketball of the season to ensure that they advance to their first Elite Eight since 2004.

Prediction: Duke 78, Villanova 74

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