LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Ryan Arcidiacono is a natural point guard. Jalen Brunson is a natural point guard as well.

Arcidiacono is tough, smart, hard-nosed, defensive minded and unselfish. Brunson, too.

Arch would rather work to get his teammates an open shot than score himself. Brunson? Exactly the same.

Two point guards with identical approaches to the game, one a senior, one a freshman.

So the dilemma facing Villanova coach Jay Wright coming into the season was how to find minutes for two terrific point guards.

He wasn’t going to take playing time away from Arcidiacono, last year’s Big East co-Player of the Year. But a talent like Brunson couldn’t sit the bench.

The solution was simple. Play ‘em both.

“The traditional definition of a one guard and two guard, a lot of people asked us about that, thought it was going to be a problem, but we were not worried about it,” Wright said.

“We look at our guards as guards. We really don’t have a point guard. We don’t have a two guard. We don’t have a three guard. We want all of our guards to do the same thing.”

Has it worked?

Villanova is 32-5 going into Saturday’s NCAA Tournament South Regional final against Kansas at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

Arcidiacono made all-conference for the second straight year, Brunson was named to the Big East all-freshman team, and thanks in great measure to the two-headed point guard monster, Villanova ranks 14th in Division I in assist/turnover ratio.

Arcidiacono is playing 32 minutes a game while Brunson averages 24 minutes of action.  

Don’t ever let anybody say you can’t win with two point guards and no true shooting guard. The Wildcats are doing it.

“I think we both just have unselfish mindsets,” Arcidiacono said. “We don’t care who gets the glory or who brings up the ball or anything like that.

“We both know there are going to be certain plays where we play off each other and certain plays where coach calls for one guy specifially - not to score but to make the right read.

“So I think we just have that sense that myself and Darrun (Hilliard) had like last year from playing with each other. I think we’ve already established it together in just one year, where we’re going to be on the floor together from practicing and going after each other.”

Arcidiacono is averaging 12 points per game and Brunson 10. Arch has an edge in rebounds (2.9 to 1.8) and assists (4.4 to 2.7), but Brunson is shooting a little better from two-point range (52 percent to 49). Both are right at 38 percent from downtown.

Put them together and the Wildcats are getting 22 points, nearly five rebounds, more than seven assists and just 3½ turnovers from their point guard combo.

“He’s a lot like Arch, he really is,” Wright said. “He’s a lot like Arch, and that’s why they get along so well.

“And I think we got him because of Arch and his visit. We got a hotel room for him and he slept in Arch’s room. They stayed in touch, I think they wanted to play together, I think they’re very good friends, I know he looks up to Arch. I think Arch takes that responsibility seriously.

“Arch has been big for him. I’m sure they’ll stay very close. … They're very similar people and players, very similar backgrounds.”

Brunson, whose dad Rick played at Temple and in the NBA, was a hotly recruited guard. Even moreso after he was selected MVP of the FIBA World Under-19 Tournament in Heraklion, Greece, which the U.S. won last summer.

But he realized during his visit with Arch and the rest of the Wildcats that this was where he wanted to spend the next four years.

“We talked about everything,” Brunson said. “There wasn’t one thing. I was just trying to get a feel for the guys.

“I knew what Villanova basketball was about, I knew it was different from a lot of programs, I just wanted to get to know the guys more. When I met Ryan, I just felt the chemistry gel from that point on.”

Arcidiacono said he had a good feeling about Brunson during his visit.

“I think he just got the general gist of what Villanova actually is,” Arcidiacono said. “I wasn’t saying you’re going to come in here and be a superstar and score points, but if you want to be a part of a great culture and play for a great coach and coaching staff, I think Villanova’s your spot.

“I think he fit in really well on his visit. He was hanging with me and I was showing him around, but I think it was the overall atmosphere at Villanova, the students, the coaching staff and the basketball that fit him well.

“We developed a really good relationship … and I think after that, myself and the whole team, we were like, ‘Yeah, this kid is coming here. I don’t know when he’s going to announce it, but he’s coming here.’”

Arcidiacono and Brunson have been been at their best in the NCAA Tournament.

Arcidiacono has made 17 of 26 shots and 10 of 16 three-pointers with 12 assists and three turnovers in NCAA Tournament wins over UNC Asheville and Iowa in Brooklyn and Miami Thursday in Louisville.

Brunson, who admittedly wore down during the Big East Tournament, bounced back with two fantastic games in Brooklyn, shooting 9 for 17 overall and 5 for 10 from downtown with six rebounds, seven assists and three turnovers. He added five points and a couple assists against Miami.

Why does this unusual dual-point guard lineup work so well?

“We approach the game the same way,” Brunson said. “Me trying to learn from him really shows how much I just look up to him as a role model and a leader. He’s just done so much for me mentally and obviously battling against each other in practice. On the court we know what we’re capable of and we have that experience so we know where we’re going to be at all times.

“Coach puts us in positions where we’re going to be successful. He knows how Ryan can get his shots and he knows that defensively we’re really good together.”

Arcidiacono will graduate this spring, and Brunson will presumably take over the responsibility of running the offense.

It’s a lot to ask, but Brunson has certainly shown signs that he’s up for the task.

Brunson is the only freshman in Division I averaging 10 points and 2½ assists in under 25 minutes.

“Honestly, he plays the game like a 35-year-old man,” Wright said. “He really does. He’s got an old-school game, his dad was the same way, so it fits. It just really fits this group of guys, and he approaches it like a 10-year pro.”

Brunson said even though Arch will be gone next year, the lessons he’s learned in their one season together will serve him throughout his career.

“It’s made life a lot easier knowing I have someone who’s been through it,” Brunson said. “Ryan’s like a big brother to me. He’s a role model. He does everything with such a sense of purpose. He’s someone I really admire.”

With Arcidiacono and Brunson both playing well, Villanova won its first three NCAA Tournament games by a combined 72 points. The Wildcats are the first team since 2008 to win their first three NCAA Tournament games by at least 19 points.

“He’s playing his best basketball of the year these last two games,” Arcidiacono said. “He really trying to focus on the defense and rebounding aspects and that’s what’s let him be so free offensively and take good shots, take the right shots, make the right reads.”

Arcidiacono, the only player in Villanova history with 1,500 points and 500 rebounds, said he sees a lot of freshman year Ryan Arcidiacono in Brunson.

“For sure,” he said. “Definitely. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the captain of the team next year.”