The last time the Villanova Wildcats took the trip down to the Bahamas, Ryan Arcidiacono was a rising sophomore leading the Wildcats after a 20-14 season and a trip to the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats were unranked entering the tournament, and faced a Kansas team with Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, and a rising Iowa team ranked in the Top 25. The 'Cats were underdogs.
This time around, Villanova is far from the underdog.
National Champions just two seasons ago, the pressure is still on them to perform throughout the year and starts from day one as they took on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the Quarterfinals of this season's Battle 4 Atlantis.
This was no blowout game for the Wildcats as they opened the game shooting just 5 for their first 17 along with missing their first six 3-point attempts. Villanova trailed for much of the first half until a Jalen Brunson three gave the Wildcats their first lead since the 16:32 mark when they led 5-4.
They would not trail for the rest of the game.
A strong open to the second half extended the lead to 11 at 46-35 halfway through and never looked back as they defeated the Hilltoppers 66-58 Wednesday afternoon.
The upperclassmen leadership of Jalen Brunson (18 points), Mikal Bridges (17 points), and Phil Booth (7 points) kept Villanova composed, which allowed them to play freely and keep a comfortable lead to continue their success in preseason tournaments over the past five years (Haven't lost a preseason tournament game since 2011).
Donte DiVincenzo came up big when it mattered
One thing that has been working for the Wildcats over the past year and a half is the emergence of Donte DiVicenzo. With Phil Booth missing all of last season with knee tendinitis, DiVincenzo was forced to step up and take a big role just a year after redshirting his freshman year. So far so good for him this season. DiVincenzo scored 14 points along with 3 assists in 28 minutes of play.
Omari Spellman continues to grow up
After missing last season due to academic issues, Spellman not only had a chip on his shoulder, but had a year of the Villanova playbook under his belt. He hasn't filled the stat sheet in every game this season, but has done the little things. He finished with 4 points to go along with 8 rebounds (4 offensive), and swatted 3 shots. Like Brunson, Spellman was a highly touted recruit and has taken a step back for the benefit of the team and it is reaping benefits early on.
Villanova will play Tennessee in the semifinals Thursday at 12:30 after the Volunteers knocked off #16 Purdue 78-75 in overtime earlier today.