The Villanova Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners face off Saturday at 6:09 p.m. to determine which squad will advance to Monday's National Championship game.
In a game that means so much, there are a lot of things for the Wildcats to worry about while preparing to compete in Houston for a second title. Unlike their pro counterparts in the NBA, the NCAA's champion is not necessarily the best team in the sport, it's the hottest team. Instead of a seven-game series, Villanova has just 40 minutes to prove they belong in the final two.
Here are the three toughest matchups the Wildcats need to prepare for prior to Saturday's tip off.
1. Stopping Buddy Hield
The Sooners' star guard Buddy Hield has been playing so well this tournament that even the 76ers, slated to (lottery permitting) have the No. 1 pick in June's NBA Draft are considering jumping off the Ben Simmons train.
He's averaged more than 29 points per game over four games and could be a thorn in Villanova's side if he is not dealt with.
Luckily for the Wildcats, they were able to hold him to 6-for-17 shooting and 19 points when they faced Oklahoma in December. A repeat performance against Hield will be one of the Cats' top goals Saturday.
2. Triple threat
The Wildcats defense will focus on Hield. Their offense will be less focused on a single player. Throughout the season and tournament Villanova has had a team-first mentality on offense. There is really no true No. 1 scoring threat and that plays into Nova's hand when they have the ball.
The trio of Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and Kris Jenkins are all potent three-point shooters but can also drive to the bucket and are adept at passing to find the open man. Villanova's offense has been on fire, boasting one of the most efficient performances in tournament history in their Sweet 16 thumping of Miami. If this offensive confidence carries over it could be lights out for Oklahoma.
3. Hallowed Houston
Teams have not fared well, historically, in the gigantic and cavernous NRG Stadium. With the court placed at the 50-yardline of the usually football-hosting venue, shooting is really tough.
Perhaps it is due to no 'shooter's eye' to help with depth perception or just the awkward placement of the court in the middle of a football field, but previous combatants there have been atrocious from the field. Duke, Utah, UCLA and Gonzaga combined to shoot 15-of-67 (22 percent) from 3-point range when the Sweet 16 was held there a few seasons ago.
Villanova shoots more than a third of its field goals from long range. They might need to focus on an inside game to be successful in Houston.