Surgical, clinical, and cerebral. These are the words that best describe the performance by Jay Wright's Villanova Wildcats as they eviscerated an Iowa Hawkeye team that narrowly escape defeat by fellow Philly foe Temple on Friday, 87-68.
The 'Cats had heard all week about their past NCAA Tournament disappointments, and seemed dead set on putting those demons to rest swiftly and quickly. Led by stifling defense and lights-out shooting, 'Nova raced out to a 54-29 halftime lead and never looked back. Suddenly, the talk of Wildcats being overrated was all over.
Guards Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, and Jalen Brunson were key the early success as they locked down the Hawkeyes back court and forced them into a number of early turnovers, leading to lay-ups and open transition threes at the other end.
Balance was key for Wright's ball club, as they put four into double-digits including the three aforementioned guards as well as forward Kris Jenkins who many would call 'Nova's best player over the past two months.
The Hawkeyes came into today's contest largely considered an unknown quantity. At their peak, they reached number three in the polls and were considered a legitimate contender to win it all. However, they finished the regular season 1-4 and went one-and-done in their conference tournament, knocking them all the way down to the seven seed in the South region.
After an early salvo gave Iowa the lead, Fran McCaffery's team were unable to match the relentless pace set by the Wildcats and quickly found themselves in a hole they couldn't climb out of in the end.
The 'Cats now advance to their first Sweet Sixteen since 2009 when Wright and point guard Scottie Reynolds led them all the way to a Final Four appearance. They'll head to Louisville and take on third-seeded Miami, themselves a former BIG EAST member.
Stay tuned to BECB for more from today's game and complete coverage of the BIG EAST and NCAA Tournament.