UNC Asheville has put a scare into some high-profile opponents before in March and the bulldogs will look to do that again this season when they faceoff against the second seeded Villanova Wildcats on Friday afternoon. UNCA will look to carry some momentum into the Barclays Center after they knocked off the one seed and the two seed in the Big South Tournament two weeks ago.
For fans who haven't seen the Bulldogs play this year two things will stick out, their 1-3-1 defense and the fact that they are basically a positionless team. Nick McDevitt settled on a 1-3-1 defense in the Big South Tournament and it pay dividends as the Bulldogs frustrated Liberty, High Point, and Winthrop throughout the weekend.
Asheville is a bit of a strange squad because you won't immediately notice a dishing point guard or a presence in the paint. They are, however, the true definition of a team and play as a cohesive unit with eight Bulldogs registering an assist or better per game.
UNCA is driven by their two freshman stars Dylan Smith and Dwayne Sutton. Smith is a confident (or cocky) guard who likes to get under opponents skin. He's also a lengthy defender in the Bulldogs' zone is a catalyst for what the 'Dogs do on the defensive end. Offensively he's Asheville's top scorer with 13.5 points pre game. Sutton is not far behind Smith averaging 12 points per game and is a guy who plays with tremendous energy and hits the boards hard corraling nearly eight rebounds per game.
Surrounding the freshman tandem is Kevin Vannatta, Ahmad Thomas, and Sam Hughes, all of whom average over 11 points per game. The Bulldogs usually play a tight seven-man rotation and these guys are at the heart of it. Vannatta is as gritty of a guy that you're going to see in this tournament. He's always flying around at one hundred percent and is the type of guy that is going to sacrifice his body to get a loose ball. Hughes, Thomas, and Will Weeks are basically the best UNCA can flex for "big men" but none of them stand over 6'6.
Asheville's 1-3-1 could be the equalizer to let them hang around with Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Ryan Arcidiacono. The Bulldogs might have trouble with the Wildcats' big man Daniel Ochefu though. I'm taking Villanova 78-67 in one of those games that the fifteen seed hangs around long enough to make you worried your bracket is totally about to implode.