After a strong season, including a No.1 ranking in the nation and undefeated conference run early in the season, Villanova is not exactly thrilled with their No. 2 seed in the South Region. Unlike many teams, the Wildcats were not hoping to get a big on Selection Sunday, they were hoping to be the No. 1 seed with a chance to play in Philly in the regional semi-finals and finals.
Although many expected Villanova to win the Big East Tournament game over Seton Hall, perhaps it will be the reality check they need to mentally prepare for the NCAA tournament. Sometimes going into the postseason overconfident can lead to a team to being more susceptible to an upset. For the Wildcats, they are trying to get farther then they did last year.
Up first, the Wildcats play 15-see UNC Asheville Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Bulldogs defeated Big East opponent Georgetown earlier this season. They come into the first round after winning their first Big South Championship since 2012 and fourth NCAA Tournament appearance.
Sunday afternoon in the Connelly Center, something else happened that has rarely ever happened in the Big Dance. If they Wildcats defeat UNC Asheville Friday night, they play the winner of #7 Iowa and #10 Temple. Iowa, coached by Philly native Fran McCafferty, was once one of the top teams in the nation, before losing six of their last eight games.
The rarest March Madness matchup is that if both Temple and Villanova win in the first round, Jay Wright and his Wildcats will play Fran Dunphy and his Owls in a Philadelphia showdown, for the second time this season. It is very rare that two Big 5 teams face each other in the NCAA Tournament. Regardless, if the Wildcats win they will be playing a Philly guy.
Villanova hopes to quiet the critics and make it further than they have in the last seven years. 2009 was the last time the Wildcats made it to the Sweet 16 or beyond. For the team, it is a chance to bounce back after last year’s second round upset to NC State. The years before that, they also suffered an early loss to UConn, the eventual champions in 2014. They have been bitten by the upset bug the last few years and lost many early rounds to keep them from reaching their Final Four dreams.
The image of last year remains in everyone’s head. Coming into the tournament, Villanova was the overall second seed behind only Kentucky. The striking image of a piccolo player from the Wildcats band crying after the loss, has been replayed in many videos, news, and media. It is a memory many fans, the piccolo girl, and the team would love to erase.
For seniors Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono it will be their fourth straight NCAA tournament. The seniors have won 89 games over the last three season and won three straight Big East regular-season titles.
Although disappointed they will have to travel to Louisville for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, if they make it that far, instead of staying in Philadelphia if seeded in the East Region, the Wildcats hope this is their year to make it out of the first weekend. So far this season, they have won all four games they played in the Barclays Center and had great turnouts of fans. The team is hungry to get on the road and make this the year to go far. Villanova and UNC Asheville tip off on Friday at 12:40pm at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.