Steve Lappas, having coached at Villanova for a decade, from 1992 to 2001, is quite familiar with the program. He is the bridge between Rollie Massimino, who led the Wildcats to the NCAA Championship in 1985, and Jay Wright, who is trying to do the same in 2016.
Lappas believes Nova can do it.
“Well, this team, first of all, has tremendous chemistry, they play really hard and they play great defense,” the CBS Sports college basketball analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I know people focus in on the three-point shooting, which, they’ve been on fire in the NCAA Tournament prior to the Kansas game, but what’s gotten this team where it is is the way they play defense every day. When they shoot threes the way they shot it in the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament, they’re beating people by 20, 25. When they don’t shoot threes, they’re beating a team like Kansas by four of five points. That may have been the best team in the tournament. So this is a Villanova team that plays great defense. If they make threes, they are an elite, elite team. That’s why they have a chance to win a championship. They will guard. The question is, are you going to be able to shoot enough to win the title? They definitely are capable.”
Villanova averaged 88.3 points in its first three wins of the NCAA Tournament, shooting 33-of-62 (53.2 percent) from three-point range. Against Kansas in the regional final, the Wildcats shot just 4-of-18 from distance (22.2 percent) and scored just 64 points – and still won.
That doesn’t happen without great defense.
“People talk about chemistry on offense, but you have to have chemistry on defense too,” Lappas said. “If a kid on Villanova gets beat, there’s somebody there waiting to help that guy, and then there’s somebody to help that guy. The key to being a great defense is the ability to help the helper, and Villanova is really good at helping the helper. That’s when you know a defense is really solid. Everybody knows about helping out a guy when he gets beat, but who’s helping out on the guy who’s helping on somebody who gets beat? That’s the key – and Villanova does that very well.”
Switching genders, the UConn’s women’s team is back in the Final Four for the ninth straight season and the 14th time since 2000. The Huskies have also won five of the last seven national titles, including three straight, and are overwhelming favorites to do it again this season.
Many people feel that Connecticut, which has lost just one game over the last three seasons (by two points in overtime at Stanford in November 2014), is bad for the women’s game. Maybe the Huskies are and maybe they aren’t, but one thing is certain:
“It’s not Geno Auriemma’s fault,” Lappas said. “It’s not good for the women’s game that they’re that good, but it’s nobody’s fault. He’s supposed to have as good a team as he can possibly have and that’s what he’s doing. He’s a coach. So I don’t blame him for doing what he’s doing. But is it good for the women’s game that you’re playing a Sweet 16 game and you’re winning by 50? No, it doesn’t help the game, but Geno Auriemma’s got one job. That’s to win games and have as good a team as he can – and that’s what he should be doing. So there’s no fault with Geno Auriemma. There’s a fault, really, in the women’s game that you can have a team that’s that much better than anybody else. No, it’s not good, but it’s not Geno’s fault.”