It’s been all aces for Villanova in recent weeks. They just won their second Big East Tournament in three years on the back of their fourth straight Big East regular season title. Now they’re handed with the #1 overall seed by the NCAA Tournament committee.
That’s landed them in the coveted East region, with a potential return trip to the familiar confines of Madison Square Garden at stake. Here’s a quick rundown of their competition.
No. 1 Villanova Wildcats, 31-3, Big East regular season, tournament champion
KenPom: No. 2
Best Wins: Virginia, at Purdue, Notre Dame (neutral), Creighton (three times)
Worst Losses: Marquette
The Skinny: Number 1 on your seed list, number 1 in your hearts. The reigning National Champions won’t leave the Wildcat-friendly state of New York in the East region, and if they do make it to Madison Square Garden it should be a huge advantage — they just completed a 3-game sweep en route to the Big East Tournament championship there. Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds will be eager to add to their championship resume.
No. 2 Duke Blue Devils, 27-8, ACC tournament champion
KenPom: No. 12
Best Wins: at UVA, UNC (twice), ND (twice), Louisville
Worst Losses: NC State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse
The Skinny: While there were debates raging about whether Duke would elevate to the #1 seed, most knew the Committee wouldn’t pass up the chance to have Duke attempt to dethrone Villanova at MSG. Duke was the preseason pick to win a National Championship and seem to have hit their stride with 4 straight wins to capture the ACC Championship last night.
No. 3 Baylor Bears, 25-7, 2nd in Big 12
KenPom: No. 13
Best Wins: Michigan State, Louisville, West Virginia, Xavier
Worst Losses: Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State
The Skinny: Baylor finished 2nd behind Kansas in the Big 12 this year but were bounced by Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament. They are just 5-6 in their past 11 games with a loss to Texas Tech and two to Kansas State. Jonathan Motley is Baylor’s All-American candidate, averaging 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
No. 4 Florida Gators, 24-8, 2nd in SEC
KenPom: No. 9
Best Wins: Kentucky, Seton Hall
Worst Losses: Vanderbilt (three times)
The Skinny: Coming off of four straight NIT appearances, Florida has overcome a season of injury issues, including one to John Egbunu that knocked him out for the year. The Gators play great defense, #4 overall on KenPom, and are led by Senior point guard Kasey Hill. They’re a deep team but occasionally rely on outside shots that don’t always fall.
No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers, 22-10, 6th in ACC
KenPom: No. 7
Best Wins: Notre Dame, UNC, Louisville
Worst Losses: Pitt, Syracuse,
The Skinny: Villanova is familiar with Virginia, having defeated them earlier this year at Wells Fargo. The packline defense makes for eye-bleeding basketball and Villanova struggled to get their offense going. Virginia struggled down the stretch this year, losing four out of their last eight games.
No. 6 SMU Mustangs, 30-4, 1st in AAC
KenPom: No. 11
Best Wins: Cincinnati (twice),
Worst Losses: Boise State
The Skinny: The consensus the past few weeks has been that SMU is incredibly dangerous and likely to be under-seeded in the Tournament. The Mustangs only give up 59.4 points per game and opponents shoot just 38.5 percent from the field against them. Like ‘Nova, SMU loves the deep ball and as a team they are shooting over 40% from three this year. However, they only play 6 guys and have absolutely no bench.
No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks, 22-10, 3rd in SEC
KenPom: No. 31
Best Wins: Michigan, Florida
Worst Losses: Memphis, Alabama
The Skinny: This is a defense region. The Gamecocks rank 3rd overall in defense on KenPom, allow just 64.5 points per game, and have held opposing teams to 39.6 percent from the floor and 29.2 percent from deep. Chris Silva, a 6-9 sophomore, is a talented inside scorer but has a Paschall-esque knack for getting in foul trouble. This team leads with their defense and needs it to create points in transition, with a 149th ranking in AdjO.
No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers, 25-9, 2nd in Big 10
KenPom: No. 23
Best Wins: Maryland, Michigan
Worst Losses: Ohio State
The Skinny: The early consensus is that the Badgers are criminally underseeded, shocker they project to play Villanova. The Badgers are led by sophomore Ethan Happ. Happ but have an experience senior core that Villanova knows all too well can make the difference in March. Wisconsin plays strong defense, 8th overall, but their offense is outside the Top 40. Creighton was able to decimate them earlier in the season and they looked out of sorts in their Big Ten championship loss to Michigan.
No. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies, 22-10, 7th in ACC
KenPom: No. 37
Best Wins: Duke, UVA, Miami
Worst Losses: NC State, Texas A&M
The Skinny: The Hokies shoot 49 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from beyond the arc, good for first in both categories in the ACC. The Wildcats are familiar with the Hokies’ coach, Buzz Williams, and, like the ‘Cats, the Hokies don’t boast a deep bench. This is the Hokies first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2007.
No. 10, Marquette Golden Eagles, 19-12, 6th in Big East
KenPom: No. 28
Best Wins: Creighton, Villanova, Xavier
Worst Losses: Georgetown, Pitt
The Skinny: Marquette leads the country in three-point field goal percentage at 43.0. Markus Howard leads the team with 13.2 points per game and hits 54.9% of his shots from deep. Marquette ranks 7th in offense and a brutal 154th in defense. Villanova knows Marquette can get hot and it’s possible they pick off someone in the first two rounds.
No. 11a Providence Friars, 20-12, 5th in Big East
Best Wins: Rhode Island, Butler, Creighton
Worst Losses: DePaul, Boston College
The Skinny: Kyron Cartwright is the center of this team, averaging 11.4 points and 6.7 assists a game. Rodney Bullock, Emmitt Holt and Jalen Lindsey all average double digits and Providence is a balanced, but undersized, team. The Friars have been hot of late but were bounced by Creighton in the Big East semis.
No. 11b, University of Southern California Trojans, 24-9, 5th in Pac-12
KenPom: No. 61
Best Wins: UCLA, SMU
Worst Losses: Arizona State
The Skinny: The Trojans went undefeated in their non-conference schedule and haven’t really suffered a bad loss outside of ASU. They’re balanced, with four starters in double figures, but struggle against athletic teams like UCLA and Arizona that make the Tojans run.
No. 12 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks, 29-5, 1st in CAA
KenPom: No. 60
Best Wins: East Tennessee State
Worst Losses: William & Mary
The Skinny: The No. 12 Seahawks come in 29-5 and an automatic bid as CAA champs. The team ranks 21st in nation in three-pointers. Chris Flemmings and Denzel Ingram are both dynamic scorers who can attack the basket and consistently hit three-pointers. However, their defense is a liability with opposing teams shooting almost 60% (?!) against them.
No. 13 East Tennessee State Buccaneers, 27-7, 1st in Southern
KenPom: No. 64
Best Wins: South Dakota State
Worst Losses: Wofford
The Skinny: ETSU is already being tabbed as a sexy upset pick this year. T.J. Cromer is the team’s top scorer at 19.1 points per game and the 6’3 senior loves to drive to the basket and draw fouls. As a whole, the entire team likes to drive the lane. To do that, they shoot threes, at 38%, to try and spread the defense. When threes fall, ETSU attacks the net.
No. 14 New Mexico State Aggies, 28-5, 2nd in WAC
KenPom: No. 88
Best Wins: CSU-Bakersfield (twice)
Worst Losses: Grand Canyon
The Skinny: Eli Chuha, a 6’7 sophomore, leads the team with 9.0 rebounds per game while Jemerrio Jones adds 8.5 per game of his own. Senior point guard Ian Baker leads the team with 16.6 points a game but the Aggies are prone to cold streaks. Despite this, the Aggies put up nearly 80 points a game. They rebound and score but, on the defensive end, they rank 215th in turnovers.
No. 15 Troy Trojans, 22-14, 6th in Sun Belt
KenPom: No. 130
Best Wins: Arkansas State, UT- Arlington
Worst Losses: UAB, South Alabama
The Skinny: The Trojans are undersized and are not a great shooting team. In the Sun Belt Championship, Troy shot just 1-for-17 from deep but managed to escape with a win over Texas State. On the defensive end, the Trojans allow 72.8 points per game and, without much size, the Trojans could get destroyed by an athletic team...like Duke.
No. 16a Mount St. Mary Mountaineers, 19-15, 1st in NEC
KenPom: No. 213
Best Wins: George Mason, St. Francis (to win tournament)
Worst Losses: They lost 15 games
The Skinny: Mount St. Mary’s is led by Elijah Long and Junior Robinson. Long averages 15.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals. Word on the street is that Long is the type of player that can go off in March and cause some trouble for higher seed. Let’s hope he’s not the next Steph Curry. That being said, they allow opponents to shoot 45% from the floor and cannot, and I mean cannot, rebound.
No. 16b New Orleans Privateers, 20-11, 1st in Southland
KenPom: No. 178
Best Wins: Washington State
Worst Losses: Sam Houston State
The Skinny: The New Orleans Privateers are like the ‘Nova of the Southland. The have eight upperclassman and move the ball very well. Erik Thomas, the 6’5 senior, averages 19.5 points and 7.8 rebounds and is a superb scorer inside the paint. Travin Thibodeaux and Makur Puou are strong rebounders but relatively ineffective scorers.
Villanova will face the winner of the play-in game between Mount St. Mary’s and New Orleans. A full preview of our opponent, once it’s set, will be following later this week!