The Villanova Wildcats make their way to the Big East Tournament Final for the first time since 1995 in dominating fashion. After dismantling the No. 10 seed Marquette Golden Eagles Thursday, the Wildcats squeezed by the Providence Friars, 63-61, Friday night. The No. 1 seed will face the No. 6 seed, Xavier Musketeers, Saturday night at 8:00 PM.
As the favorites, here is why Villanova will win their first conference tournament in 20 years at Madison Square Garden.
1. Sheer Dominance Against Conference
With only two blemishes on their conference resume, both away from home, the Wildcats ran the table since the start of conference play. Sitting four games up on the second place Hoyas, the freight train known as Villanova steamrolled their way to a possible No. 1 seed, in the NCAA Tournament, while cementing their status as Big East juggernauts. Xavier, this season, has had issues with the lower tier of the conference losing to DePaul, Seton Hall, and Creighton. Excluding their recent triumph over the Friars, 'Nova has had only four conference wins within single digits.
They also can beat you in a plethora of ways. Defensively, Villanova held Marquette sharpshooter Matt Carlino to just five points on 2-11 shooting from the field in the 84-49 beatdown Thursday. The Wildcats also connected on 17 triples with Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart combining to go eight for 11 behind the arc. Against Providence, big man Daniel Ochefu poured in 15 points with 13 boards and five rejections. Versatility has been the norm for the Wildcats all season, with the Musketeers unable to isolate a specific weak point against Villanova in the Big East Tournament Final.
2. Late Season Brilliance From the Wildcats
After Georgetown's 78-58 shocker against the Wildcats in January, Villanova has played near-perfect basketball. The team from Philly has won 14 straight since the upset, heading into the Big East Tournament Final. Three ranked teams have fallen to the No. 1 seed during the stretch. They have only lost one game since early January. In addition, Xavier lost three of five before escaping against Georgetown in the second round of the Big East Tournament.
Last season, the Wildcats won 11 of 12 before being ousted by Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament. Providence almost pulled a similar act, but the experience of the Wildcats surfaced as junior Ryan Arcidiacono sank two free throws late in the win. En route to a 31-2 record, coach Jay Wright was named Big East Coach of the Year and has his most lethal rotation since the Scottie Reynolds-led Wildcats in 2009.
3. Winning in Every Facet
Villanova is superior in a variety of ways to the Xavier Musketeers. With Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston, few teams can out-muscle the Wildcats down low. However, Matt Stainbrook is a beast down low for the Muskies relying on finesse and an assortment of post moves. On the perimeter, Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard provide scoring, versatility, and are both matchup nightmares. Arcidiacono was named the 2015 Big East Player of the Year sharing the honors with Providence's Kris Dunn. The junior is shooting a career-high 40 percent while nailing 37 percent of his looks from deep.
Hilliard leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game and has provided Jay Wright with a go-to option on offense. His length on defense could cause issues for guards Remy Abell and Dee Davis. We haven't even got to 'Nova's secret weapon yet. Off the bench, Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Phil Booth provide instant production that few teams in the nation possess. Hart was recently named the 2015 Big East Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 10 points per game on a lethal 46 percent from deep. If the Wildcats weren't dangerous enough, the team leads the conference in scoring at 76.9 points per game. Villanova overmatches Xavier in talent, and should secure the Big East Tournament title from their deep rotation's production.