Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats are ready for March Madness. After beating an inspired Xavier Musketeers squad at the Cintas Center 77-70, the Wildcats (27-3) are the Big East regular season champion and have a outside shot at clinching a no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The game was not without drama. Chris Mack beseeched his team before the game to take it to the Wildcats because they “owed them.” The last meeting was an 81-58 drubbing where Xavier was badly outplayed on both ends of the floor. Tonight was a different story. The Matt Stainbrook-less Musketeers drove and slashed through the lane often during the game, with three players scoring in double figures.
However, the Wildcats are one of the best shooting teams in the country and Xavier could not stop the shots from falling. Villanova shot almost 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from behind the arc. Four players scored in double figures. Ryan Arcidiacono, Kris Jenkins and Darrun Hilliard II combined for nine 3-pointers and kept the man-to-man defense of the Musketeers on their toes all night.
The Wildcats used this shooting barrage to set up the press and create points off turnovers. This will be crucial in the NCAA tournament as the Wildcats are undersized and at times, they can be susceptible to strong inside play. However, the fact remains that Villanova withstood Xavier’s best shot and came out victorious.
Xavier played with the ferocity of a team on the bubble, desperate for a signature win on Senior Night. The Musketeers lineup was considerably larger. Yet, Villanova performed as they have most of the season, without regard to the size disadvantage. The Wildcats won the rebounding battle by matching Xavier’s ferocity and showing why only two teams can claim victories over them this year.
It appears Xavier will be “owing” Villanova for a little while longer. This win puts the rest of the country on notice that if the shots are falling, the Wildcats are prone to beat anyone, anytime.