Banged-up Villanova well aware Winthrop is deep, dangerous foe

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The NCAA Tournament is familiar territory for Villanova, one of the perennial powers in college basketball.

Limping into the NCAA Tournament, however, is unfamiliar territory for the Wildcats, who after winning the Big East Tournament three consecutive years, were bounced in the first round this month.

Based largely on pedigree, 16-6 Villanova drew the No. 5 seed in the South Region, and at 9:57 p.m. Friday plays No. 12 seeded Winthrop, a dangerous opponent with a 23-1 record.

On paper, Winthrop is a bad matchup for Villanova, which is short-handed in its backcourt with point guard Collin Gillespie out for the season with a torn ACL suffered March 3 and guard Justin Moore recovering from an ankle sprain, suffered three days after Gillespie was hurt.

Depth is Winthrop’s strength, as it goes 11 players deep, and so, too, is its fast pace.

“Obviously, we don’t match up well with them, but that’s part of the tournament,’’ Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Matchups are a big deal. We don’t play with as much depth or speed. They do and they’re good at it.’’

Villanova is just 3-3 in its past six games. Winthrop won its Big South Conference Tournament games by 29, 21 and 27 points and suffered its only loss on Jan. 29 to UNC-Ashville by two points.

“I know our guys are hungry and humbled by our last couple games,’’ Wright said. “I hope that will be an advantage for us.’’

After Gillespie went down against Creighton, Moore took over at point guard. When Moore went out, it forced Wright to rely on Bryan Antoine and Brandon Slater with Chris Arcidiancono, the younger brother of former Villanova star Ryan, also contributing.

Villanova desperately needs Moore, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who averages 12.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists, to return to form. This will be particularly paramount considering Winthrop’s depth.

“A lot of teams play seven, eight or nine guys, but [Winthrop] plays everybody, so it’s going to be really important to pay attention to the scouting report and know everybody’s tendencies,’’ said Villanova forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who averages 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. “They’re always going to have fresh guys in the game.’’

Winthrop has only three players who average more than 20 minutes per game with 6-7 redshirt senior point guard Chandler Vaudrin leading the way with 31.5 minutes per game. He leads the team in scoring, rebounds and assists.

Villanova needs to find itself offensively, having lost its last three games away from home, shooting 37.8 percent from the field and 20 percent (15 of 75) from 3-point distance.

“We lost our leading scorer and our most dynamic player, the guy that creates shots for everybody else, so we’ve been adjusting offensively to try to find other ways to create high-percentage shots,” Wright said. “That’s the area we’ve been working on and where we’ve got to improve going into this Winthrop game.”

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