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Final Four Preview: Villanova

VILLANOVA WILDCATS (33-5)

2016 NCAA Tournament Path

  • Round of 64 – Def. (15) UNC Asheville, 86-56
  • Round of 32 – Def. (7) Iowa, 87-68
  • Round of 16 – Def. (3) Miami, 92-69
  • Round of 8 – Def. (1) Kansas, 64-59

After claiming the Big East regular season title, Villanova fell short in the conference tournament with a 69-67 loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Championship, a loss that wound up costing the Wildcats a chance at a No. 1 seed. Instead, they were given a 2-seed in the South region. With the likes of Kansas, Miami, and Iowa standing in their way, it was sure to be a tough road to the Final Four.

The Wildcats began their tournament run in Brooklyn and made their presence known with a 86-56 blowout victory of UNC Asheville. In the round of 32, ‘Nova turned their attention to a very talented Iowa team that had fallen down the stretch. After failing to get out of the first weekend of the tourney as one of the top-seeded teams the last couple seasons, the Wildcats left little to chance easily dispatching the Hawkeyes 87-68.

Back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009, the last time Villanova played in the Final Four, ‘Nova had a tough match-up with 3-seed Miami. The Wildcats were hot from the field as they shot 62.7% and pulled away in the second half for another blowout victory by a score of 92-69. Although Villanova’s tournament run had looked easy thus far, they faced a far stiffer challenge with the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed Kansas. This time the Wildcats defense would be key as two late steals sealed ‘Nova’s first Final Four appearance since 2009 with a gritty 64-59 win over the Jayhawks.

Why they can win the title

While Villanova has the offensive numbers to match any team in the country, it has been their defense that has gotten them this far.

The Wildcats have been able to lock down some of the best teams this season, as evident by their performance against Kansas in the Elite Eight. ‘Nova held the Jayhawks to a season-low 59 points and have held each tournament opponent to less than a point per possession.

Not to mention, Villanova is the only Final Four team ranked within the top ten in defensive efficiency (7th) according to KenPom.com. Only one team has ever won a National Championship while be ranked outside the top-20 in defensive efficiency(North Carolina in 2009).

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The Wildcats are a balanced team with 4 double digit scorers including a team-leading 15.3 points per game from junior guard Josh Hart. Senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono has had a tournament to remember for ‘Nova leading the team in scoring and has been a menace with his perimeter defense.

If Villanova is to win its first national title since 1985, they will have to get through an Oklahoma team with national player of the year candidate Buddy Hield who has had a sensational tournament so far. The Sooners beat the Wildcats back in December 78-55 at the Pearl Harbor Invitational.

A tall task indeed for the ‘Nova, but not out of the question for a team that has overcome doubters to get to this point.

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