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The Big East’s Last Hope: Villanova takes on West Virginia in the Sweet 16

No. 1 seed Villanova takes on No. 5 West Virginia

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional Practice Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch, Stream, Listen, Follow

Game Time: Friday, March 23 - 7:37 p.m.

Location: TD Garden, Boston


Stream: March Madness App (Google - iOS) / NCAA Streaming

“Bet on it” - Troy Bolton

Villanova is favored by 5.5, according to OddsShark

Series History

Feb. 20, 2008: Villanova 78, West Virginia 56 | February 13, 2009: West Virginia 93, Villanova 72 | February 8, 2010: Villanova 82, West Virginia 75 | March 6, 2010: West Virginia 68, Villanova 66 (Overtime) | February 5, 2011: Villanova 66, West Virginia 50 | December 28, 2011: West Virginia 83, Villanova 69

For the first time in over six years, Villanova and West Virginia are going to be facing off on the court, each desperate for a win. Something about the magic of the NCAA Tournament seems to make every player better, each team stronger, and all of the games more exciting than any other time in the year. The players on these two teams haven’t ever faced each other on the college stage, and most of them likely won’t spend another 40 minutes on the same court with one another ever again.

It’s hard to look at their past meetings to predict their future, and after West Virginia’s second round win Sunday night, head coach Bob Huggins commented that he couldn’t predict the outcome of the upcoming game either. “No, it’s a different team, Jay [Wright] does a great job. I’ve got great respect for Jay and what he does,” said Huggins. ”We spend so much time looking at film of who we’re going to play that we really don’t watch a lot of basketball from other leagues and things. I’ve seen bits and pieces and highlights on ESPN. But I don’t know very much about them.”

There’s a feeling unique to the Wednesday after the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. All the upsets, the upset fans, and the wild finishes are behind us, with just a few too many hours to go before it all starts up again. The pain (and confusion) of the first few days without a game or two constantly being on has passed, and I don’t find myself habitually pulling up a basketball streaming service every time I power up my laptop anymore. It begins again Thursday, and then Villanova suits up on Friday to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers.

There are three things to keep an eye on this game - besides Jay Wright’s beautifully fitted suit (his pants would never tear) and the fact that Collin Gillespie still looks a little too much like ‘Nova alumn Ryan Arcidiacono.

  1. West Virginia’s Defense.
  2. Villanova’s Offense.
  3. The match up between Jalen Brunson and Jevon Carter.

There’s no point in beating around the bushes here: West Virginia’s defense is not just good, it’s great. They’re especially talented with their signature full court press, and their innate ability to appear to surprise and overwhelm teams with it.

Villanova’s head coach, Jay Wright, commented on the challenge West Virginia’s defense will pose to the Wildcats. “I think we’re going to have to just get in there,” said Wright. “Take a hit... like being in a boxing match where you take a couple of hits. You hope it doesn’t affect you too much, and be used to it, and grind through it.”

Wright isn’t the only member of the ‘Nova squad that takes their next challenge seriously. It’s (easily) arguable that no other collegiate team plays a more intense, physical type of game than the Musketeers.

“It’s going to be a very tough test with their athleticism and the length they have and how hard they play for 40 minutes,” Villanova guard Phil Booth said. “It’s pretty amazing. They bring a lot of challenges. They force a lot of turnovers.”

To counter their defense, however, Villanova is bringing an exceptional offense to the table. Much like their 2016 National Championship run, the Wildcats are sinking nearly 50% of their shots from beyond the arc, and they’re taking enough shots for that to make a big difference.

“[We have] five perimeter shooters, but also five guys who can make plays for others,” Wright commented earlier this season, then reconsidered. “Actually, we have six, because Donte [DiVincenzo can, too]. They can all put the ball on the floor and pass. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that again.”

Every single time Villanova has possession of the ball in this game, it is going to be either beautiful or painful to watch (depending on who you’re rooting for) - and I’m assuming it’ll be a lot of both, for both teams.

Now, on to the upcoming match-up between Villanova’s Jalen Brunson, and West Virginia’s Jevon Carter. In his last three games, Carter has finished with 20+ points, and has made over half of the shots he’s gotten off. Against Marshall, he scored 28 points, and he’ll likely be looking forward to making a similar impact against the Wildcats.

After winning their most recent tournament game, Carter sat down for an interview. “We’re just happy to keep playing,” Carter said to the reporters. “ This is March. This is what we came to do. We don’t just want to go to the Sweet 16 -- we want to win it all, go back, prepare for Villanova, watch a lot of film, and get ready for the next game.”

Hopefully - for them - they’ve been preparing hard, as National Player of the Year candidate Jalen Brunson has seemingly been preparing his entire basketball career for this game. The Villanova junior is likely playing in his last NCAA tournament ever, as he is graduating (a year early!) in the spring. He also sat down with reporters after the Wildcat’s last win.

“It’s a great feeling when you move on and get to the next round with your team,” Brunson relayed to the press. “We’re just really excited we have the opportunity to go out there and play with each other at least one more time. We’re going to try and make the most of it and play Villanova Basketball.”

As it always is in this time of year, the next game will be the most important one of the season - for both teams. The 2018 tournament has been anything but ordinary (shoutout to the UMBC Retrievers!!!) and we shouldn’t expect anything less than an extraordinary 40 minutes of Villanova Basketball this weekend.