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NCAA Tournament: Villanova draws Saint Mary's in South Region matchup

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NCAA Tournament: Villanova draws Saint Mary's in South Region matchup

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Printable bracket with game times  

Nothing will ever erase Virginia's history as the first men's No. 1 seed to lose its NCAA Tournament opener.

At least now the Cavaliers' wait for the chance to make up for that unprecedented loss is nearly over.

The Cavaliers are the second overall No. 1 seed and back in the South Region bracket after losing to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County — better known as UMBC — a year ago. Virginia lost 74-54 to UMBC, becoming the first men's No. 1 seed ever to lose to a 16 seed.

Virginia (29-3) will play an NCAA Tournament newcomer in Gardner-Webb (23-11) of the Big South Conference on Friday in Columbia, South Carolina. Coach Tony Bennett said his Cavaliers know what they have to do to be successful.

"We also realize that we're susceptible as every team is in this tournament and sometimes that's as valuable to know instead of thinking you're invincible," Bennett said Friday of the NCAA Tournament. "So if we play well, hopefully we can go 1-0 and then we'll address the next one."

This is the seventh time Virginia has been a No. 1 seed and the fourth time in six seasons, though the Cavaliers still are looking to reach their first Final Four with Bennett and first since 1984.

Second-ranked Virginia had been in the running to be the top overall seed after winning a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title only to lose 69-59 to No. 12 Florida State in the ACC tournament semifinals. The Cavaliers' only other losses this season were to Duke, the overall No. 1 seed.

They go into this tournament ranked first in the KenPom.com overall ratings, second in adjusted offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) and fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Reaching the Final Four in Minneapolis won't be easy. The Cavaliers find themselves in a bracket with Tennessee, which was the nation's top-ranked team for nearly a month with the Vols hoping for a No. 1 seed until being routed in the Southeastern Conference tournament final Sunday. The No. 2 seed Vols open Friday in Columbus, Ohio, against Colgate (24-10).

The Wisconsin Badgers, who reached the Final Four in 2014 and 2015, are a possible regional semifinal opponent in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 28. There's also Villanova and Cincinnati, which just beat No. 11 Houston for the American Athletic Conference tournament title just before the brackets were released.

Here are things to know about the South Region:

Shadow of Sister Jean: The Tennessee Volunteers (29-5) can sympathize with Virginia's pain over an early NCAA Tournament loss. The Vols earned their first berth since 2014 only to lose in the second round last year, 63-62 to Loyola-Chicago with famous fan Sister Jean watching. The Vols' only losses this season have been to ranked opponents: Kansas, Kentucky, LSU and Auburn (twice).

Now they play Colgate, the Patriot League tournament champ. The Raiders are 2-0 all-time against Tennessee and are making their first trip since 1996, when they had Adonal Foyle.

Defending champs: Villanova (25-9) will try to defend its title — and win its third championship in four years — as the sixth seed playing No. 11 seed Saint Mary's (22-11) on Thursday in Hartford, Connecticut. The Big East champs haven't been seeded this low since 2013. Their opener will be a rematch of 2010 when Saint Mary's upset the then-No. 2 seed Wildcats.

Injury watch: Kansas State (25-8) is hoping to have senior forward Dean Wade back for the fourth-seeded Wildcats' opener Friday in San Jose against UC Irvine (30-5). Wade missed both games at the Big 12 Tournament, and he was still wearing a walking boot on his right foot Sunday when the bracket was announced. Wade is their second-leading scorer, averaging 12.9 points a game.

Home sweet home: Cincinnati might not be happy being seeded seventh. But the Bearcats (28-6) only have to travel about 100 miles to Columbus to play No. 10 seed Iowa (22-11) with a possible second-round game against Tennessee.

The rest of the bracket: Third-seeded Purdue (23-9) plays No. 14 seed Old Dominion (26-8) in Hartford on Thursday, and No. 8 seed Ole Miss (20-12) meets nine-seed Oklahoma (19-13) on Friday in Columbia. No. 5 seed Wisconsin (23-10) meets 12th-seeded Oregon (23-12) on Friday in San Jose, with the Ducks having just won four games in as many days for the Pac-12 tournament title.

Path to Minneapolis: The bracket goes through Louisville's KFC Yum! Arena for the regional rounds on March 28 and March 30.

Villanova beats Seton Hall to become first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournament titles

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Villanova beats Seton Hall to become first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournament titles

BOX SCORE 

NEW YORK — Villanova became the first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournaments, beating Seton Hall 74-72 on Saturday night behind seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth and key contributions from freshman Saddiq Bey.

Seton Hall star Myles Powell, guarded closely by Booth, missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds that could have won it. Booth was called for traveling as he tried to corral the rebound, however, and the Pirates got one more chance with 0.4 seconds left. Anthony Nelson's long inbounds lob bounced off the backboard and was slapped away by the Wildcats, who got to party on the Madison Square Garden floor yet again.

"This one is special, very special. This team has taught me so much," Booth said during the postgame ceremonies at center court. "These young dudes are like a fresh breath of air for me, being around them."

The 25th-ranked and top-seeded Wildcats (25-9) were in the Big East final for a fifth straight year, and have won four of the last five championships. The only loss during that span was to Seton Hall in 2016, and Powell and the third-seeded Pirates (20-13) gave Villanova all it could handle once again.

"Can't thank Phil and Eric for their leadership enough," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "They've been great examples of what a Villanova basketball player is their whole career."

Powell scored 25 points to cap a spectacular three days in Manhattan for the high-scoring guard.

Paschall had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Booth scored 16 and was selected most outstanding player of the 40th Big East Tournament.

Bey, who Villanova fans hope will lead the next wave of championship teams, had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

"Our team loves playing here in the Garden," Wright said.

Villanova had a chance to seal it in the final 30 seconds but Paschall was called for a charge when he lowered his shoulder into Myles Cale with 24 seconds left. Powell quickly scored inside at the other end to cut the Wildcats' lead to 73-72 with 15.5 seconds left.

The Pirates sent Paschall to the line with 13.7 seconds remaining and he made the first and missed the second. Seton Hall rebounded and called a timeout to set up a final play with 8.9 seconds left.

Big picture 
Seton Hall: Nelson scored 12 points off the bench for the scrappy Pirates, but other than Powell, they had a hard time finding offense. They did force 14 turnovers. They'll go as far as Powell and a tough defense will take them in the NCAAs.

Villanova: The Wildcats also got key contributions from sophomores Jermaine Samuels (12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (six points and seven rebounds). The inexperienced players have provided inconsistent production much of the season, and if Wright's team is going to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats will need more games like this one from the young guys.

"Things were rocky right until the last second of this game," Wright said. "It's been a rocky season."

Up next 
Seton Hall: The Pirates are headed to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament, matching a school best (1991-94).

Villanova: The defending national champions will be in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight season, but will probably be seeded worse than a 2 for the first time since 2013. Villanova also won the 2016 national title.

Villanova rallies past Xavier for OT win, advances to 5th straight Big East championship game

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Villanova rallies past Xavier for OT win, advances to 5th straight Big East championship game

BOX SCORE 

NEW YORK — Phil Booth scored 28 points, Jermaine Samuels hit a trio of critical 3-pointers and No. 25 Villanova rallied past Xavier 71-67 in overtime Friday night to reach its fifth consecutive Big East championship game.

The top-seeded Wildcats, trying to become the first school in the 40-year history of the Big East to win three straight tournament titles, will play second-seeded Marquette or third-seeded Seton Hall on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

In a scintillating opener to the semifinal doubleheader, Villanova (24-9) erased a seven-point deficit in the last 3 minutes of regulation. Booth and fellow senior star Eric Paschall each scored five points in the extra period as the defending national champions held off a determined Xavier squad.

Paul Scruggs scored a career-high 28 points and Zach Hankins added 18 on 8-of-10 shooting for the fourth-seeded Musketeers (18-15), who had won seven of eight. Scruggs, a sophomore guard, also had 11 rebounds and seven assists, carrying Xavier all night with an outstanding performance.

Musketeers leading scorer Naji Marshall was limited to a season-low two points on 1-of-12 shooting, including 0 for 7 from 3-point range. He fouled out early in overtime after playing nearly 40 minutes.

Xavier has reached the semifinals in all six seasons since joining the Big East, but its only appearance in the championship game was a loss to Villanova in 2015.

Samuels finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Villanova. Paschall scored 12, including the 3-pointer that put the Wildcats ahead to stay early in overtime.

Booth was one point shy of his career high set against Kansas on Dec. 15.

After trailing by 10 late in the first half, the Wildcats were still down seven with 3 minutes left when they finally made their move.

Samuels sank a pair of 3s, including one that caromed high off the front rim, the backboard and through to trim the deficit to 57-56 with 48.9 seconds remaining.

Hankins hit one of two free throws at the other end, and Paschall tipped in a miss by Booth to tie it at 58 with 7.6 seconds to go.

Marshall was called for a charge as he tried to win it with a floater, but he intercepted Villanova's inbounds pass at halfcourt with 1.6 seconds left and missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, sending this one to overtime.

Scruggs, who came in averaging 12.1 points per game, scored 15 in the first half. He made all five shots from the field, banking in a fortuitous 3-pointer from the left corner high off the glass, to help Xavier build a 34-28 lead at the break.

Big picture 
Xavier: Despite a late push, it appears the Musketeers will miss the NCAA Tournament after making five consecutive appearances and 12 in the past 13 years. They were a No. 1 seed last year, but got off to a slow start this season under first-year coach Travis Steele and couldn't overcome a six-game losing streak in the middle of the Big East regular season.

Villanova: Improved to 13-2 in the Big East Tournament since the 2013-14 realignment. The Wildcats are in the championship game for the 10th time, tying Connecticut for third-most behind Syracuse (15) and Georgetown (13). Syracuse (1986-90) is the only other school to make it in five straight years.

Up next 
Xavier: Will hope for postseason bid Sunday, perhaps to the NIT.

Villanova: Split two regular-season meetings with Marquette in February, with each school winning at home. Also split with Seton Hall, losing 79-75 on the road in the regular-season finale last Saturday.