It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
Villanova (31-3, 15-3/Big East)– The defending national champions did a pretty good job of defending that title, winning 31 games and cruising to the Big East regular season and tournament titles. The only team that really proved to give ‘Nova much trouble was Butler, which it lost to twice.
The biggest question coming into the season for the Wildcats was whether or not sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson could slide in and replace senior Ryan Arcidiacono, but he’s been so consistently good (14.8 ppg. 4.2 apg) that sometimes you forget Arcidiacono, a program legend, was even on the team last year.
6-6 senior guard Josh Hart (18.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.1 apg) is one of two players in school history to score 1,800 points, grab 700 rebounds, dish out 250 assists and come up with 150 steals (Kerry Kittles is the other). He won the Big East Player of the Year award, and alongside Kansas guard Frank Mason, has to be considered the favorite to win National Player of the Year as well.
6-6 senior Kris Jenkins (13.4 ppg) hasn’t had much of a letdown after he hit the national championship-winning shot at the buzzer last year, as he’s shot 37 percent from three and pulled down a career-best 4.2 rebounds per.
Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric paschall and Darryl Reynolds are also important players for this squad, averaging 20-plus minutes per game.
So will Villanova get back to the Final Four?
It won’t be easy. Their path is filled with roadblocks, from a potential matchup with Virginia, which it narrowly edged, 61-59, in Philly back in January, to possible games with Florida, Duke or Baylor.
The Bears might cause the most problems for the defending national champs, as ‘Nova doesn’t have a plethora of size and could be vulnerable at the hands of Johnathan Motley and his crew.
It’s hard to pick against the Wildcats, especially since this is virtually the same team as the one that won the national title last season. But if you want to get adventurous, take Baylor, which will pose a matchup problem for the ‘Cats with their size inside.