On Jan. 8, Villanova and West Virginia were ranked 1-2 in the AP poll. Now they’re colliding in the Sweet 16.
Minutes after the Mountaineers ousted Marshall 94-71 on Sunday night in San Diego, assistant coach Ronnie Everhart offered a cursory scouting report:
“They’re a lot like Kansas, they run the same type of schemes. They don’t have an (Udoka) Azubuike but they’ve got guys who gang rebound. They’re the best team in the tournament in my opinion.”
Here’s a primer for the East Regional semifinal game at TD Garden in Boston:
Tipoff: Friday, 7:27 p.m. (TBS)
Records: Villanova 32-4, West Virginia 26-10
Last meeting: Dec. 28, 2011, when the Mountaineers won 83-69 in Morgantown
Series: Villanova leads 22-20 (with 23 of those meetings occurring from 1996-2011)
How Villanova advanced: The Wildcats dominated 16th-seeded Radford 87-61 in the NCAA’s first round before making 17 3-pointers in an 81-58 flogging of Alabama.
Streaking Wildcats: They’ve won seven in a row, including a run to the Big East tournament championship. The highest-scoring team in the country, Villanova’s last loss came Feb. 24 at Creighton, 89-83 in overtime.
Strong resume: As you’d expect of a No. 1 seed, Villanova excelled against one of the nation’s strongest schedules. They own a 13-3 record against the RPI top 50 with only one bad loss — 79-75 vs. St. John’s on Feb. 7. … The Wildcats opened the preseason ranked No. 6 and subsequently spent eight weeks at No. 1.
Players to know: Coach Jay Wright’s most balanced team boasts six scorers in double-figures, led by point guard Jalen Brunson at 19.1 per game. Forward Mikal Bridges (18.0 points) is one of six players who shoots 39 percent or higher from 3-point range. Sophomore guard Donte DiVencenzo (13.1 points) scored 18 of the team’s 32 first-half points against Alabama. Freshman Omari Spellman (10.6 points, 7.9 rebounds) can post up at 6-9, but almost half of his shot attempts have come outside the 3-point line.
In the other semifinal: Third-seeded Texas Tech (26-9) could be a sexy pick to upend No. 2 seed Purdue (30-6), which lost center Isaac Haas to a fractured elbow.