Villanova will have a chance to conquer their Round of 32 demons on Sunday after their 86-56 defeat of UNC Asheville Friday afternoon in Brooklyn.
The Wildcats overcame a somewhat sluggish start from the field in the first half to power themselves over the Bulldogs at the Barclays Center. Balanced scoring, per the usual, carried Jay Wright's team to victory, as seven players scored five or more points. Daniel Ochefu led with 17, playing well on a ginger ankle that at one point looked to keep him out of the Round of 64 matchup.
'Nova will now meet either the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten Conference or their Big 5 rivals, the Temple Owls of the American Athletic Conference in the Round of 32. Jay Wright & Co. will be seeking their first trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2009 when they made the Final Four.
Here's what we learned from this game:
1. Villanova's defense looked very impressive: The Wildcats pressured the ball early and often against the Bulldogs and did so very effectively. They forced 14 turnovers on the afternoon and capitalized big time by scoring 27 points off those UNCA mistakes. If this type of defense continues for the Wildcats in this year's NCAA Tournament, they will prove to be a very tough out and could do serious damage.
2. The Wildcats can overcome sloppy 3-point shooting and turn it around: UNCA challenged Villanova on the perimeter on Friday afternoon, but the Wildcats were able to persevere. Often times they were able to get open looks, especially Jalen Brunson who shot 50 percent from the perimeter. The 'Cats finished with a very solid mark of 46.4 percent from the 3-point line after starting off meagerly from deep. The hope going forward is that it does not plague them too much against a much more potent opponent, but for now, they can breathe a sigh of relief.
3. A trip to the Sweet 16 is ripe for the taking: Let's not mince this: Villanova should be favored in their upcoming matchup no matter who the opponent is. They took care of Temple earlier in the season and while that was a month ago, it ought to be noted that the Wildcats decimated the Owls at The Liacouras Center and the game was hardly ever close. Then there's Iowa, who was once thought to be a top-tier team. But it's hard to deny that they have been fledgling since the month of February. Iowa has won just four games since February 3 and that includes a slide of losing five of their last six games entering their Round of 32 matchup later today against Temple. So 'Nova will either face a rival whom they've already dismissed this season, or a team that has significantly slipped in the last six weeks. The matchups are in their favor, so all that's left is to take care of business.