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No. 2 Villanova ends curse, advances past No. 7 Iowa and into Sweet 16

Ryan Arcidiacono

Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono (15) drives past Iowa’s Peter Jok (14) during the first half of a second-round men’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 20, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


You can go ahead and knock the monkey off of Jay Wright’s back.

For the first time since 2009, Villanova is headed to the Sweet 16. And after first weekend exits as a No. 2 seed in 2010 and 2014 and last year’s second round defeat as a No. 1 seed, you better believe that this was something that was in the back of the mind of everyone on that Villanova roster.

“Everybody’s been talking about this game for the whole year, even in the summertime before the season started,” senior center Daniel Ochefu said in Saturday’s media session.

“Everyone has the right to think what they want, say what they want,” Arcidiacono said, adding that he does not think it’s unfair that Villanova gets judged based on their March successes. Or failures. “We played in those games. We haven’t come through in the second round of the tournament.”

“I can’t really tell people how they should look at [us]. They have the right to think of us how they want to.”

On Sunday afternoon, Villanova looked like a team that had spent the last 12 months stewing over last season’s loss to No. 8 seed N.C. State as they took out their anger on Iowa. The No. 2 seed Wildcats mollywhopped the 7th-seeded Hawkeyes, taking a 54-29 lead into the break and eventually leaving Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with an 87-68 win and a ticket to Louisville for the Sweet 16.

The Wildcats shot better than 59 percent from the floor and his 10-for-19 from three, turning 13 Iowa turnovers into 14 points and outscoring the Hawkeyes 18-0 in transition. It was typical Villanova, pestering 3/4-court defense and a spread offensive attack, creating mismatches, getting to the rim and knocking down threes.

It was arguably the best performance Villanova has had this season, and definitely their best game outside of Philly.

And it came at the expense of an Iowa team that absolutely collapsed this season. The Hawkeyes, 39 days ago, were 19-4 and ranked third in the country while sitting all alone in first place in the Big Ten standings. But they lost six of their last eight games prior to the tournament and eventually bowed out before the second weekend.

This is the third straight season that Iowa has been bounced in the first weekend. McCaffery has been to seven NCAA tournament and never advanced to the Sweet 16.

Did the monkey that was on Wright’s back hop onto Fran’s?