Rushed Reactions: #1 Villanova 90, #5 West Virginia 78

Posted by Matt Patton on March 23rd, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Matt Patton (@pattonm08) is in Boston for the East Regional this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Jalen Brunson was the best player in the country Friday night. (Photo credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. West Virginia controlled the first 30 minutes of the game. Villanova was uncharacteristically sloppy. Donte DiVicenzo and Mikal Bridges were totally lost. Even when the Wildcats avoided turnovers, they took contested (often rushed) shots. If Jalen Brunson was the best player on the floor — keeping the Wildcats within striking distance — it was his former teammate on the other side, Jevon Carter, who set the tone for the game. With 11:08 remaining, the Mountaineers were up six and looked like they had seized control. To that point Villanova was 2-of-11 in the half with a whopping zero points in the paint. Then everything fell apart for Bob Huggins’ team.
  2. And then Villanova settled down. From that point, Villanova outscored West Virginia 36-18 the rest of the way. Brunson started things off, as he always seems to do, with an and-one, and the Wildcats ripped off 11 points in a row to regain control of the game. The Mountaineers missed nine straight shots over the next five minutes before finally getting something to drop at the 6:25 mark. Villanova, on the other hand, made 10 of their last 14 field goal attempts while committing only two turnovers (both of which came when the outcome was effectively decided). But even so, the game felt much closer than the final score. West Virginia compounded their closing woes with missed layups, open threes and free throws.
  3. Villanova is the favorite to cut down the nets in San Antonio. The Wildcats looked rattled at times against West Virginia’s relentless press, but they also run the prettiest offense in college basketball, bar none. They space the floor as well as an NBA team, and Brunson will be the best player on the floor no matter the possible remaining opponent (even against Duke). And considering that Villanova looked totally rattled (apart from Brunson), they were only down six to West Virginia tonight. Their ceiling is as high as any team remaining, but their floor is quite a bit higher than the rest of the field.

Star of the Game. Jalen Brunson, Villanova. Brunson kept the Wildcats from being run out of the gym during the first 30 minutes of the game. He looked every bit the National Player of the Year candidate that he is, creating opportunities for himself as well as his teammates. He broke the West Virginia press with ease for most of the night. He drew fouls when necessary. It felt like he never missed an open look. His closing line was 27 points and four assists in 37 minutes of floor generalship.


  • “That would’ve been 58-50 back in the day. And no fouls called.” – Jay Wright, comparing the physicality of tonight’s game to the old Big East, contrasting it with the faster pace and three-point prowess.
  • “I’m trying to say the right thing. When the whistle keeps blowing it takes your aggressiveness away.” — Bob Huggins, discussing his feelings about the 48 fouls called in this game (28 on his team).

Sights & Sounds. Sagaba’s Konate‘s block on Villanova’s Mikal Bridges was so forceful you could feel it in the rafters of the TD Garden tonight. Have a look.

What’s Next?  Jay Wright’s team takes on the winner of Texas Tech and Purdue on Sunday afternoon, and his group will be a nice favorite against either squad. The Wildcats need to recover their legs tomorrow after all of their starters, save Bridges (who experienced some foul trouble in the first half), played over 30 minutes this evening. Wright will need more out of his bench, though, period.

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One response to “Rushed Reactions: #1 Villanova 90, #5 West Virginia 78”

  1. Instead of whining about refs why not have a bit of class and say something positive about Nova.Wright spent a considerable amount of time discussing how relentless and mentally tough WV was during the entire game.Bridges sat half the time on the bench due to two quick fouls, yet nobody mentions that on West Virginia.Nova was simply the better team and has been in the top five all year.Now you know why.

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