On Wednesday afternoon, ahead of Kansas' Final Four matchup against Villanova on Saturday, the Kansan interviewed Kevin Gamgort, the sports co-editor of The Villanovan, the student newspaper at Villanova.
This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Kansan: What makes Villanova’s offense so efficient and hard to guard?
Kevin Gamgort: It really comes down to just how many shooters this team has. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman all shoot over 40 percent from three and Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo aren’t far behind (39 percent and 38.5 percent, respectively).
Even Eric Paschall, who was 1-25 from deep to start the season, has come around to shoot 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. It is extremely difficult for a defense to stop a team that has five players on the court that can hit the three, especially when they also have to worry about players like Brunson and Bridges driving to the basket.
Kansan: Does Villanova have any deficiencies or weaknesses?
Gamgort: If you had asked this question about a month ago, there would have been an easy answer: defense and rebounding.
However, these areas have vastly improved over the course of postseason play. Villanova is now up to 13th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating, and is coming off a game where they out-rebounded Texas Tech 51-33.
It would be a lie to say there are not still some concerns that these weaknesses could reemerge, but fans are certainly feeling a lot better now about the team’s ability to defend and rebound.
Kansan: Is there a bench player or role player who Kansas’ fans won’t know but should get familiar with?
Gamgort: Donte DiVincenzo is technically a “bench player,” but the consensus all year has been that he is the team’s “sixth starter,” given that he plays the fourth most minutes.
Looking a little further down the bench, there is freshman, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree.
While he is slightly undersized down low and will definitely be looking to put on some weight this offseason, Cosby-Roundtree has proven a capable backup throughout the season. He is a decent defender and seems to always be in the right place on offense to capitalize off of a great pass from a teammate.
In the Elite Eight game against Texas Tech, Cosby-Roundtree racked up four points and seven rebounds, including five on the offensive end. If you are looking for a player who could impact the game despite limited playing time, DCR could be your guy.
Kansan: Villanova lost four games in Big East play. What were some of the things that went wrong in those losses?
Gamgort: Shhh, we don’t talk about those games. In all seriousness, what was common in all of our losses was poor three-point shooting and an inability to execute down the stretch.
When the defense was struggling throughout much of the regular season, Villanova would frequently beat teams by simply torching them from deep.
While the Wildcats shot 40 percent on the year from three overall, the team shot just 26 percent from beyond the arc in their four losses. Additionally, in each of these games, one can point to several late-game mistakes, such as crucial turnovers or poor game management, that ultimately were too much to overcome.
Kansan: What makes Spellman different from Azubuike?
Gamgort: The matchup down low should be an interesting one, as these players are very different. Azubuike is a seven-footer who has three inches and 35 pounds on Spellman. In the post, Azubuike’s superior size should give him a bit of an advantage, while Spellman should thrive out on the perimeter. Spellman has the ability to knock down the three-ball and drive to the rim, two things Azubuike does not possess.
Kansan: Is Jalen Brunson the best player on Villanova? Watching some games, it feels like Mikal Bridges is the better player.
Gamgort: They are both really good, and while Mikal Bridges is certainly the better NBA prospect, Jalen Brunson is the superior college player. Brunson simply does it all for this team. He can score, pass, take a charge, whatever the moment calls for. He is an extremely smart player who plays well beyond his years.
While Bridges is a bit of a streaky player who gets hot, but then disappears for stretches of the game, Brunson is as consistent as they come, having scored in double figures in every game this season. When it comes down to crunch time, Wildcat fans want the ball in Brunson’s hands.
Kansan: Jalen Brunson, Devonte’ Graham, Marvin Bagley or DeAndre Ayton for National Player of the Year?
Gamgort: Brunson Brunson Brunson!!! Okay, I may be a little bit biased but seriously this guy is unbelievable. He scores, passes, defends and leaves it all on the floor each and every game. He is the most important player on a team that has gone 34-4 and reached the Final Four.
Kansan: Does Kansas deserve a No.1 seed?
Gamgort: Of course! If there was any doubt about this coming into the tournament, the Jayhawks have erased it by reaching the Final Four. Consecutive wins against Seton Hall, Clemson and Duke is pretty impressive, and I have no doubt that Kansas is one of the best four teams in the country this year.