Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats had been earning a “quick exit” reputation in the past few years of the NCAA tournament but 2016 is a different story as ‘Nova shredded No. 7 Iowa, 87-68,Sunday to advance to their first Sweet 16 since 2009.
The Wildcats will now face Miami, the No. 3 seed in the South Region, either Thursday or Friday of this week. The Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in the South will be played at the University of Louisville.
There was little drama in Villanova’s victory on Sunday as it was up on Iowa, 54-29, by halftime. The ‘Cats had four players in double-figures as Josh Hart (19 points), Ryan Arcidiacono (16 points), Kris Jenkins (15 points) and Jalen Brunson (12 points) led the way scoring-wise. Defensively, the South’s No. 2 seed put on a clinic – stepping in the way of Iowa passing lanes and not allowing the Hawkeyes’ offense to find any sort of flow.
“That was one of our best games this year,” Wright told CBS Sunday. “This team can win it all. But this team can lose to anybody, too. That’s the beauty of this tournament.”
One could easily make the case that the Wildcats looked like the best team in the entire dance this past weekend. They beat their Round of 64 opponent, UNC-Asheville, and Iowa by a combined score of 173-124. Kansas, which is the No. 1 seed in the South and the team that ’Nova could very well square off against in an Elite 8 matchup on Saturday, was the only other team during the first weekend that looked as impressive. The Jayhawks beat Austin Peay and UConn by a combined score of 178-140.
As for the more pressing matter of Miami (25-7 record). The Hurricanes, the No. 3 seed in the South, toppled No. 14 Buffalo, 79-72, in the Round of 64 and then beat No. 11 Wichita State, 65-57, on Saturday. Senior guard Angel Rodriguez has been a force in the tournament thus far, as he pumped in 24 points against Buffalo and 28 points against Wichita State. Rodriguez plays at a frantic pace and the Hurricanes live and die based on his performances. His highlight-reel, midcourt alley-oop pass to Sheldon McClellan got Miami out of a funk against Wichita State but there have been times in his career that he has shot the Hurricanes out of games with poor shot selection.
Miami’s head coach is Jim Larranaga, the man who authored George Mason’s unprecedented run to the Final Four in 2006. Larranaga has been at “The U” since 2011.