No. 3 Miami to play No. 2 Villanova in Sweet 16 matchup

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After beating the Wichita State Shockers in the Round of 32, the No. 3 seed Hurricanes will play No. 2 seed Villanova in a Sweet 16 matchup Thursday night in Louisville, Kentucky. Here’s a look at how Miami stacks up against Villanova.

Across the board the Canes match up well with Nova, especially in the paint. The Wildcats only have one true big man in center Daniel Ochefu. He is an efficient post presence, averaging 10 points on 62 percent shooting to go with eight rebounds per game. Listed at 6-foot-11 and 245 pounds, Ochefu moves surprisingly well for a man his size, which allows him to put opposing defenders into foul trouble.

The Canes will look to counter Ochefu’s presence with senior center Tonye Jekiri. Jekiri, the anchor of the Canes’ defense and runner-up for ACC defensive player of the year, is bigger and stronger than Ochefu, but Jekiri will need to stay out of foul trouble to stay on the floor. Foul trouble was rarely a major issue for him in the regular season, but in the Canes’ last go-around, Jekiri had some issues fouling while defending the Wichita State bigs.

If the Canes are looking to come out of Thursday night with a win and thrust themselves into the program’s first-ever Elite Eight, they will need to slow down Josh Hart, the Wildcats’ leading scorer. Hart is difficult to guard as he can slash his way to the basket, while he is also able to hit deep shots from behind the three-point line.

The Canes (25-7) will lean on their guard play to neutralize Hart. Redshirt senior guards Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan have led the team’s offense all season long, but they are both underrated defenders. Rodriguez is a pit bull on defense who hounds opposing ball handlers. He already has seven steals in his two tournament games this season. McClellan is an athletic wing defender who uses his lateral quickness to put the brakes on driving guards.

Even if the Canes’ guards can limit Hart, the whole team will need to focus on defense, as Nova (29-5) is a balanced team offensively. The Wildcats boast five scorers who average in double figures. The Canes will rely on Jekiri’s ability to anchor the defense from the paint.

On offense, the Canes should be able to take advantage of the Wildcats’ less-athletic wing defenders. McClellan and junior guard Davon Reed should be able to thrive from the perimeter.

The Canes need to limit their giveaways. In the games they have lost badly this season, such as the blowout to North Carolina and the regular season finale to Virginia Tech, the Canes struggled to maintain possession. Nova is a solid defensive team, forcing more than 13 turnovers per game.

Tip-off is set for 7:10 p.m. Thursday night on CBS.

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