Villanova Wildcats

No. 4 Villanova 'psyched' for first-ever game vs. No. 12 Gonzaga

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No. 4 Villanova 'psyched' for first-ever game vs. No. 12 Gonzaga

Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, Gonzaga (161 wins) and Villanova (151) are the first- and third-winningest teams in Division I basketball.

On Tuesday, they will meet for the first time.

The No. 4 Wildcats and No. 12 Bulldogs face each other in the first game — Syracuse-Connecticut is the other — of the annual Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Zags (7-1) boast wins over Ohio State, Texas and then-No. 25 Creighton. Their only loss was to Florida, now ranked fifth, in a 111-105 double-overtime thriller.

This is the first real test for the Wildcats (8-0) — and it's the biggest one on Gonzaga's remaining schedule.

Potential Wildcats matchups with Arizona and Purdue never materialized in the Bahamas. Instead, when the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket was busted, Villanova beat Northern Iowa for the title.

The Wildcats' next toughest non-conference opponent is Temple next week.

This Gonzaga team hasn't had quite the expected drop-off from last year's team that lost to North Carolina in the national title game.

"I walk out of here knowing we can compete against anybody in the country now and we did not know that coming in," Few told The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review after his team beat Texas to claim third place in the PK80 tournament. "We hadn't really played anybody coming in.

"There were some question marks but if you go back to our scrimmage (vs. current No. 7 Texas A&M) and now this (tourney), I think we've proven we can definitely play with anybody in the country."

That theory will be tested on Thursday.

Villanova is coming off a 94-53 thrashing of Saint Joseph's.

Slowing the Wildcats shooters will be a challenge for the Bulldogs.

"They have a way of trying to win every possession," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said, according to "If our kids want to know what the top looks like, that's it.

"There's nothing they miss."

The Wildcats didn't miss a lot on Saturday, pouring in a school-record 19 3-pointers while outscoring the Hawks 57-16 from long range.

In its 91-74 win over Creighton on Friday, Gonzaga gave up 12 3-pointers.

"We knew they were a really good transition team," Zags forward Killian Tillie said after scoring 22 points in the win. "It's a different way of playing. We had to get back on defense really quickly. We had to adapt to them."

The Zags and Wildcats are both ranked in the top 26 in the nation in field goal percentage.

"I think it's going to be a great game," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said, according to the school's website. "At every position, they are operating at a high level. They have depth and are probably as efficient an offensive team as we have played. It's definitely going to be the best team we have played this year.

"It will be a great challenge for us. We're psyched."

The two coaches are close, and Few credits Wright with helping him navigate last year's Final Four.

"I spoke to Jay before we went to the Final Four," Few said Monday on the College Hoops Today Podcast. "I spoke to him and he told me what to expect and what the experience was going to be like. He was great. We had an unbelievable experience with the way we handled that weekend. I wouldn't do anything differently if we're fortunate enough to ever go back."

Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert is uncertain to be on the court Tuesday.

Kispert, a freshman who started the Zags' first seven games, missed the win over Creighton with an ankle injury.

Villanova has 1 big advantage in NCAA Tournament pressure cooker

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Villanova has 1 big advantage in NCAA Tournament pressure cooker

VILLANOVA, Pa. — There were many reasons why Villanova was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And many more for why it's one of just two top seeds still standing.

The Wildcats do a lot of things well. They have depth, they can shoot from three, they defend, they are well-coached and they play hard. But perhaps their greatest attribute isn’t physical or psychological.

It’s experience. 

Of 'Nova’s core six, five were on the national championship team two seasons ago. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth played key roles on that squad. Donte DiVincenzo (injured) and Eric Paschall (transfer) were on the team but did not play. Having players that talented and that seasoned can’t be quantified. Not to mention a coaching staff still in tact from that title team. 

Between that run in 2015-16 and playing one of the toughest schedules in the country in a battle-tested Big East conference, there is nothing this group has not seen.

“Obviously the playing experience is most important but having coaches who have been in it," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said Monday. "Having guys like Donte, Eric, who were sitting out, be a part of that '16 run — that’s important, too. They learned a lot, they picked up a lot. To be able to share that experience with the young guys, I think that helps this team a lot.”

DiVincenzo agreed with his coach's sentiment.

“We’ve seen the biggest stage," the redshirt sophomore guard said. "Although myself and Eric were not playing, we were there and witnessed it and we know what it takes not only to win it but to get there.”

Next up for Villanova is the Sweet 16 and fifth-seeded West Virginia on Friday night in Boston. The Mountaineers begin guarding you in the parking lot. It is a 90-foot torture test of relentless pressure, end to end. A brutal matchup for any team.

But rest assured, Villanova will be prepared and won’t be overwhelmed. 

“No matter what the stage is, we don’t care," Bridges said. "You can put us anywhere, we’re going to play the same game. We tell the young guys, 'Don’t think of it as the Sweet 16, think of it as the next game.'"

It may be more than just the next game.

But the moment won’t be too big for this bunch that’s seen it all.

How Sweet it is — 'Nova crushes Alabama

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How Sweet it is — 'Nova crushes Alabama


PITTSBURGH — Mikal Bridges hit five 3s, scored 23 points and helped No. 1 seed Villanova put the field on notice that it's the team to beat with an 81-58 win over ninth-seeded Alabama on Saturday.

The Wildcats (32-4) are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since they won the 2016 national championship. Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth -- and yes, The Big Ragu -- look every bit the favorite to make it two in three years.

Villanova plays Friday in Boston against the Marshall-West Virginia winner.

The sport is still buzzing from top-seeded Virginia's 20-point loss to 16th-seeded UMBC on Friday night.

Alabama (20-16) failed to make it two No. 1s KO'd in less than 24 hours.

After a tense first half in a round that has given the program fits, the Wildcats hit their first six 3s in the second and put on a thrashing up there among the most dominant under coach Jay Wright.

Bridges, who averaged 17.9 points and played his way into a likely NBA draft lottery pick, scored 1 point and missed all five shots in the first half. He found his groove once the second half tipped. Bridges scored the first 5 points of the half and then finished a thunderous alley-oop on a pass from Booth that made it 41-27 and sent the Wildcats wildly waving their arms in celebration headed into a timeout.

Bridges hit his first three 3s in succession to cap an 18-1 run and a Sweet 16 berth was in sight.

Brunson added a 3 to make it 56-31 and the rest of the half was simply a countdown to Boston. Villanova made 17 of 41 3s.

The Wildcats lost in the first weekend as a 1 or 2 seed in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Villanova got a brief scare that it might add `18 to the list against Alabama.

The Wildcats live-and-die by the 3-pointer -- they say, "shoot em' up and sleep in the streets" -- and when it's on, look out. The Wildcats are as dangerous as any team in the nation.

When it's off, well, that's how they're so upset-prone in March. They missed eight of their first 11 3s in the first half and Alabama briefly grabbed the lead.

Donte DiVincenzo steadied Villanova with three straight 3s that brought a gasp from the crowd and gave the Wildcats a 22-15 lead. He threw in a fastbreak layup off his own steal and hit his fifth 3 of the half to make it 32-27.

DiVincenzo -- the redheaded guard nicknamed "The Big Ragu" -- scored all 18 of his points in the half. Villanova attempted 20 3s (made seven) out of 27 shots.