BOSTON–Friday’s matchup between No.1-seeded Villanova and No.5-seeded West Virginia has the ability to be one of the best games of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Jay Wright’s one of the elite coaches in the nation and his Wildcats will be a true test for Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers.
Villanova (32-4) has won 13 consecutive games and were crowned the Big East Tournament Champions earlier this month.
The Wildcats have one of the most dangerous offenses in college basketball. However, WVU has one of the toughest defenses, which should make for an interesting matchup.
Villanova ranks first in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 86.9 points per contest. Currently, the Wildcats are third in assists to turnover ratio (1.75), fifth in field goal percentage (50.3 percent), third in 3-pointers (11.6), 12th in 3-point percentage (40.2 percent), eighth in assists (605) and second in the nation in win-lost percentage (88.9 percent).
Jalen Brunson is one of the top point guards in the nation and paves the way for Villanova. The junior is averaging 19.1 points per game and shoots 53.5 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Brunson is one of the best all-around players in the country. Through 36 games, he has turned the ball over just 62 times.
However, the Mountaineers possess one of the other top point guards in the nation in Jevon Carter, who is one of the top defenders in the country. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is a pest on the court and can get under almost anyone’s skin.
Besides Brunson, the Wildcats have several players with some pop in their shot.
Mikal Bridges is second on the team, averaging 18.0 points per game. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound junior erupted in the second half against Alabama last weekend.
In the first half, Bridges shot-0-for-5 from the field but after the half, he couldn’t miss, making 7-of-11 and hitting 5-of-6 from deep. Bridges finished the afternoon with 19 points.
Defensively, Villanova is sound. The Wildcats held their first two opponents — Radford and Alabama — to 40 of 107 shooting from the field (37.4 percent) and 59.5 points per game.
Phil Booth (10.6 points) adds a veteran presence for Villanova. He is smart, a team leader and a defensive asset.
Eric Paschall (10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds) is a 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior who can guard big men and point guards. And defense is something that Paschall prides himself in.
Omari Spellman (10.6 points, 7.9 rebounds) is a versatile forward and very affective down low. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound redshirt freshman can rebound and guard the paint. He has 51 blocks.
But the big man can also score. Spellman has proven he is a threat from long range.
Donte DiVincenzo is the Wildcats’ sixth man. He comes off the bench and is averaging 13.1 points per game.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard is second on the team in assists (3.6). Against the Tide last weekend, he scored 18 points in the first half.
WVU is a tough interior defensive team but they have been known to let teams take easy 3s and that could prove costly against Villanova.
This will be the 43rd meeting between the Mountaineers and the Wildcats. Villanova leads the series 22-20.
The last meeting between the two teams Dec. 28, 2011 in Morgantown and WVU came out on top.
Huggins is 3-3 against the Wildcats and Wright is 5-8 all-time against the Mountaineers.
Cover Photo Credit: Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports