No. 6 seed BYU faces very similar team in No. 11 Villanova in NCAA Tournament
Wildcat forward Maddy Siegrist, the Big East Player of the Year, ranks No. 2 nationally in scoring, averaging 25.9 points per game
ANN ARBOR, Michigan — In terms of style and approach, both on offense and on defense, No. 6 seeded BYU will face a very similar team when it tips off in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars take on No. 11 seeded Villanova Saturday (11 a.m. MDT, ESPN News) at the Crisler Center.
The Wildcats (23-8) finished second to UConn in the Big East Conference.
“It’s kind of a good matchup in that way because I feel like they play a predominantly motion offense and so do we, so it’s going to be an interesting matchup to see kind of which team sticks to their game plan, which team has better principles with defensive kind of motion guarding,” said Cougar guard Tegan Graham.
“The way that we play with our offense motion and our defense, we’re very similar to each other,” said coach Jeff Judkins.
Villanova feels the same way about BYU, which ranks No. 11 nationally in scoring offense.
“When we were watching film, we definitely took time to notice the similarities,” said Wildcat forward Brianna Herlihy. “We are two teams that like to run a lot of half-court offense, so I think it’ll be interesting to see the matchup and see how we match up with them. They’re very deliberate and not incredibly quick in what they do, but we kind of try to play the same way, so I think it should be interesting to see that.”
“Both teams like to push, offensively are very disciplined, very fundamentally sound,” said Wildcat forward Maddy Siegrist, who is the Big East Player of the Year. She ranks No. 2 nationally in scoring, averaging 25.9 points per game.
Defending Siegrist will be a big challenge for BYU (26-3).
“She’s definitely one of the best players in the country. We’ll have our hands full,” coach Jeff Judkins said of Siegrist. “It won’t be one person that can just totally shut her down. It has to be a team defense that can help and try to not let her get easy baskets. But she does a great job with scoring in so many different ways. She can score from the outside and drives and post-ups and rebounds, so she’s kind of a nightmare. It’s a real hard matchup. I think we have three or four players that have had to guard somewhat players like this and they can match up and find out real quick. (Saturday) we’ll find out real fast what we can do.”
BYU guard Paisley Harding said Villanova’s style is something the Cougars are accustomed to playing against.
“They’re a really good five-out cutting offensive team. They’re really looking to get each other open in their offense, whether that’s with screens, cutting off one another,” she said. “That’s something we play against every single day playing against each other. We haven’t played against many teams like that this year, so I’m super excited to be able to play kind of like ourselves in that aspect.”
“We know that they’re a high-efficient offensive team,” Graham said. “Obviously they have the second leading scorer in the nation, so yeah, doing a lot of scout and defense to kind of break that down and stop different looks. We’ve been watching a lot of film, and our coaches have a really good game plan for us.”
Herlihy said Villanova has played against teams similar to BYU this season.
“We have seen teams who are the same in which they can score from the outside, score from the inside. I think a team that we play a lot that reminded me kind of BYU was Creighton,” she said. “So I think kind of in the same way we’re going to try to run them off the 3-point line and make sure they’re not hitting a lot of 3-point shots. And then the same thing, playing just like help the helper, crowd the paint, make sure they’re not getting easy layups, pretty much the same thing we’ve been doing all year.”
Of course, there are differences between the two programs as well.
The Cougars, who won the West Coast Conference championship outright, won their first-round NCAA Tournament game against Rutgers as a No. 11 seed.
Villanova, meanwhile, hasn’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2018. The Wildcats have only one player, Herlihy, with tournament experience.
No. 6 BYU (26-3)
vs. No. 11 Villanova (23-8)
Saturday, 11 a.m. MDT
Ann Arbor, Michigan
TV: ESPN News
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM
“They’re extremely efficient in what they do offensively. It’s their system, it’s their style, but their advantage is their experience,” coach Denise Dillon, the Big East Coach of the Year, said about the Cougars. “When you have players who have played season after season within the BYU system, they’re comfortable with what they do, and then playing together, knowing each other’s games and feeding off each other. At this point every team is a great team. You’re aware of that. But in an offensively sound team of BYU, we know we have to be on point as a whole defensively. They’re going to get looks, just try to force some more contested shots, and then end result just try and limit the possessions. So it has to be the one-and-done mentality of rebounding the basketball.”
“Obviously, they’re a really talented team and experience is something they have,” Siegrist said about BYU. “We just have to play Villanova basketball to the best of our ability, go in and have fun, and I think we’ll be all right.”
This season, Villanova was on the NCAA Tournament bubble before receiving a No. 11 seed. What is Herlihy telling her teammates about playing in the Big Dance?
“I think the only thing that I can really say is just to kind of stay calm and play our game,” she said. “Obviously, this is a very big stage, and having so many freshmen on the team new to even a whole entire college basketball season, just kind of staying in our own team within ourselves, and just playing our game.”
The Cougars have relied on their experience all season long.
“We’ve got a lot of veterans that have been through this. Last year we went through this, and they’re excited to really get going and playing,” Judkins said. “We have to play our game. We can’t let them get outside of what we try to do best, and that’s where the key is.”
Certainly, there’s a lot at stake Saturday. The winner advances to the second round against the regional host, No. 3 seeded Michigan, Monday, and for the loser, the season is over. The Wolverines meet American Saturday.
“I think for both of us, we do play really team kind of basketball,” Judkins said of BYU and Villanova. “It’s not a one-on-one game. It’ll be a challenge, and we’re excited for it.”