Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Villanova was not messing around. Villanova was all business right from the outset, taking a quick 11-2 lead and never letting off the pedal throughout the game. Its ball movement was sharp, energy was high, and shots were falling. Despite a massive early lead, Jay Wright wasted no time calling a quick timeout late in the first half after Lafayette ‘cut’ the lead down to 16. The Wildcats responded, closing the period on a 9-4 spurt and bursting out of the locker room with a another 17-4 run. All told, six different players scored in double figures and the Big East champs won by 41.
- Does this team have a ceiling? Entering the week, many pundits pegged Villanova as the most vulnerable #1 seed, a team somehow not as sturdy as its 32-2 record suggested. The question is why? The Wildcats have now beaten three of their last five opponents by more than 30 points and rank among the NCAA Tournament’s very best teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They are athletic, experienced and deep – again, six different guys scored at least 10 points – and simply do not let up against inferior opponents, something many other high seeds perhaps can’t say. At some point, we have to view Villanova as a legitimate National Championship contender. These guys might not have a ceiling.
- Everyone thinks they can win, everyone thinks they can lose. Think Lafayette entered tonight’s game expecting to lose? Think again. Leopards’ senior Seth Hinrichs (13 points) was holding back tears in the postgame press conference, visibly shaken by the overwhelmingly lopsided outcome. Conversely, Jay Wright kept reiterating how worried and focused his team was entering the night, repeatedly citing last season’s home victory over Lafayette during which Villanova briefly trailed in the second half. The NCAA Tournament is a fickle event, and every team knows it. Or at least they should.
Star of the Game: Daniel Ochefu (14 points, nine rebounds, three blocks). Truthfully, this game didn’t have one ‘star’ – no individual Villanova player scored over 16 points – but Ochefu was pretty darn excellent. The 6’11” big man shot 5-of-5 from the field and did a great job in the paint defensively. His presence as the Wildcats’ top rim-protector will become far more crucial in the upcoming rounds, especially if they run into LSU and its sizable frontcourt on Saturday.