After easily defeating Marquette, Villanova faced one of their toughest challenges of the season against a hungry Providence team. Villanova held off Kris Dunn and company, as Ryan Arcidiacono sunk two free throws to win the game for the Wildcats after a questionable foul call.
Meanwhile Xavier almost blew a 20-point lead against Georgetown, as they held off the Hoyas' late charge for a 65-63 victory.
What does Xavier have left in the tank?
Both teams are playing their third game in as many days, but Xavier will need to muster all the energy they have after two very physical games. After defeating Butler in overtime in the quarterfinals, and holding off Georgetown in the semis, you wonder if Xavier will have the legs to pull off their third consecutive upset.
Villanova is the type of team that wears down opponents over the course of a game. In order to beat the Wildcats, Xavier will need another strong defensive performance, but that type of effort is very demanding of a team coming off two exhilarating games. That said, Chris Mack is a great motivator and should have no problem getting his team ready to play in the tournament final.
Can Villanova beat Xavier for a third time?
It's the old cliché everyone brings up this time of year: how hard is it to beat a team three times in one season? The answer: it depends.
The first matchup between these two teams was never in doubt, as Villanova led by double digits for most of the game. Although Xavier lost the rematch in Cincinnati a few weeks ago, there were some positives they can take out of that game. Xavier held a seven-point lead at the half before Villanova began to rain three's, eventually outlasting the Musketeers.
Despite the final outcome, Xavier should be able to find some confidence in this performance. Perhaps enough to lead them to their first Big East Championship.
Who will step up for Villanova?
Co-Big East Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono's game winning free throws were only two of his six points in the game. Josh Hart led the Wildcats with 18 and Daniel Ochefu's double-double (in addition to his five blocks) provided Nova all the spark they needed to outlast Providence and send them to the championship game.
It's this type of balance from Villanova that makes them so dangerous this time of year. They don't force their offense, rather they attack what the opponent gives them. Any player on this team can step up and have a big game or hit a big shot. It will take a tremendous defensive effort from Xavier to shut this juggernaut down.
Given the way the semifinals ended, it should take a special performance to win this sought-after conference title.