On Senior Night at The Pavilion, the No. 6 Villanova Wildcats (26-2, 13-2) got a reminder of how much senior leadership can matter in their 89-61 romp over the No. 25 Providence Friars (19-9, 9-6).
The Wildcats shot over 50 percent from the field and from deep as they were led by seniors Darrun Hilliard (24 points, 4 rebounds) and JayVaughn Pinkston (16 points, 8 rebounds). The Friars, who turned the ball over 15 times, struggled to find a rhythm on both ends of the floor even though they shot nearly 44 percent from the field.
Here's three things we learned:
1. Villanova can earn a No. 1 seed if things play out well for them
The Wildcats made a statement to the selection committee. On a night when two-seed competitor Wisconsin fell at Maryland, the Wildcats dropped a 28-point drubbing on the No. 25 Friars. Villanova made a very good Providence team look bad.
There will definitely be two number one seeds up for grabs in 3 weeks. The Kentucky Wildcats and either Virginia or Duke (depending on how things shake out in the ACC) will lock up two No. 1 seeds. There are a slew of other teams that will be competing for a number one seed.
These teams are led by Gonzaga, who has decent numbers but also 19 wins against RPI 100+; Villanova, the second place of the aforementioned ACC teams; and Wisconsin. The Badgers just lost and at least one of those ACC teams will have to lose. This presents an opportunity for 'Nova to jump into the top line with a perfect finish. As winners of 15 straight, they will certainly be up to the eye test.
2. Providence Needs to Protect the Rock
For better or worse, Kris Dunn is a turnover machine. He has singlehandedly mastered the ability to create turnovers on both ends of the floor. The talented sophomore point guard had been averaging 4.4 steals per game and 4.6 turnovers per game over his previous five games. Unfortunately for the Friars, the Wildcats only let the turnovers continue on Tuesday. Dunn finished with six turnovers and the Friars coughed it up 15 times as they sputtered in their race to secure an NCAA Tournament bid of their own. One perennial truth persists: If the Friars want to make the most of their tournament bid, they're going to have to find a way to protect the ball against staunch defenses.
3. Darrun Hilliard Deserves Consideration for Big East POY
All year everyone has sang the chorus of praise about Villanova's depth and balance. Well.... Not any more. Darrun Hilliard is the leader of the pack. The 6-foot-6 senior from Pennsylvania's eastern steeltown has emerged as a legit contender for the Big East Conference Player Of The Year Award by averaging over 20 points in the last six games.
Our recent article on the race touched on the potential desire of the coaches to select someone from what is, by a significant margin, the best team in the Big East. Hilliard has the look of a player who just wants to win and lead his team to an April game or two, which is the very reason why he's such a good candidate.
The Big East is the soul of college basketball and Darrun Hilliard is as good of a representative of what this league is about as anyone in the conference could hope to be. A three star recruit who had slowly improved over his four years to be a complete player and leader of a serious National Championship contender...
What more could you ask for?