Villanova has made the first three rounds look like a walk in the park, but awaiting them in the Elite 8 is a date with Kansas that will be anything but easy.
UNC-Wilmington, Iowa and most recently, Miami. All wins, all by at least 19 points.
The second-seeded Villanova, which actually entered the March Madness tournament on a loss in the Big East championship, has been on an absolute tear, systematically taking down each of its opponents since the start of the madness. Let’s look at the evidence.
The Wildcats opened up the tournament with a completely one-sided performance over UNC-Wilmington as could be expected of a #2 vs. #15 match-up. Villanova got minutes for almost every player on the roster in that game, ultimately winning by 30 points, the second largest margin of victory in the first round.
In the second round, what could have been a Philadelphia Big 5 head-to-head turned into the Wildcats taking on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Prior to the game, some of the basketball analysts on ESPN and the other networks of March Madness, actually suggested Villanova could lose in a match-up that was favorable to Iowa.
Well, they didn’t lose and never really were in danger of losing either. Villanova defeated Iowa by 19 points, entering into the second half with a 54-29 lead, the largest such lead of the entire tournament to date.
That earned the Wildcats a trip back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009 in which they took on the Miami Hurricanes, another team that many believed, because of their guard play, could pose some trouble for Villanova. Again however, that never manifested. In perhaps their most dominant performance of the tournament, the Wildcats never trailed in the game and ended up winning by 23 points.
Adding up all three victories, Villanova has bested its three opponents by a total of 72 points. That’s 18 more than #1 Kansas, 14 more than #1 Oregon and 40 more than #2 Oklahoma. It’s the highest such margin of all teams in the tournament.
Nova’s play has been not only the best of the tournament but the best of their entire season.
Against Miami, Villanova hit a season-high 66.7 percent from beyond the arc. They continued to utilize their size advantage provided by Daniel Ochefu as they out-rebounded Miami 27-17. All but one of their starters finished with at least 14 points, with 21 apiece from Kris Jenkins and Ryan Arcidiacano leading the way. Nova also made its free throws, 18-of-19 to be exact.
This is a Villanova team which at one point this season was the top-ranked in the nation, the first time in program history. This is a Villanova team which based on their play right now, could beat anyone. And yes, that includes Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon or anyone else the team might face in the remainder of the tournament.
The detractors however remain but if Villanova were to beat the Kansas Jayhawks and return to the Final Four, which if their shooting doesn’t go cold seems more than possible, the Wildcats have to be considered favorites to win it all.