Villanova: Standing Tall Among The Madness
After a historic opening to the 2018 NCAA Tournament, in which we saw two teams whom many people predicted to win the national title end up being a “one and done,” who’s the favorite to win it all among the teams remaining?
After rather easily dispatching both of their first two opponents, and advancing to the Sweet 16 with minimal opposition, the Las Vegas bookmakers have Villanova University as the favorites to win the national championship, and rightfully so. Even though they failed to win the Big East tournament for the first time under the current alignment, there are plenty of reasons to believe they can win it all.
The Wildcats entered last year’s tournament as the top team in the nation, are only one year removed from winning a national championship and are the highest ranking team that remains in the tournament so far. They also have a backcourt pairing of two sensational guards — an absolute must for successful tournament play — with one of those guards squarely in the discussion for the John R. Wooden award, given to the most outstanding college basketball player in the nation.
Senior guard Jalen Brunson can shoot, pass, and defend as well as any player in the nation. He is head coach Jay Wright’s floor general, with an uncanny knack for being able to set up his teammates or take on the key responsibilities himself. Whenever they needed the right play at the right time, Brunson has been the guy they’ve counted on all season long.
But teams dominated by a single player rarely advance that far in a tournament, and the Wildcats are far from a one-man band. All five of Villanova’s players average double-digits scoring per game, as the Wildcats can match offensive firepower with any team in the country. Villanova’s offense, predicated on intelligence, patience, skill, and execution, is simply too much for opposing head coaches to game plan against.
Most importantly, there doesn’t appear to be a team in their region who can stop them from reaching the Final Four, much in the way the Wildcats were dismissed prematurely by the Wisconsin Badgers last year. Things can get a bit tough for the Wildcats when you try to bully them in the paint and make them go against teams that are bigger and more physical than them. The earliest they would see such a team, presumably, wouldn’t be until they’ve already reached the Final Four.
Even if they didn’t finish atop the national rankings, when the Wildcats were humming this season, it was hard to argue against the idea that they were the best team in the nation. They have balance, composure, and experience, from the coaching down to the players. Through two games of the tournament, they’ve shown nothing that would indicate there could be hitch in their offense. They can drain shots from deep and stop the opposing team from doing so. They don’t turn the basketball over, and they hit their free throws.
Anything less than a national championship would be considered a disappointment for Villanova. They’re the one team that has stood tall amidst the madness and look primed to win it all.
My prediction: Villanova will win the March Madness Tournament
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