#1 Villanova vs. #5 West Virginia NCAA Tournament Preview

By College Basketball

We took Nevada to win by a point on Thursday, instead it lost by a point and we lost for the second time in the last seven plays.

Last night’s card was dry; tonight’s is a bit more appetizing with teams like Kansas, Duke, Purdue and Syracuse in action, plus two powerful teams facing off in Boston: Villanova and West Virginia.

Villanova wasn’t the #1 overall seed when the tournament field was announced but it is now after Virginia’s loss. The Wildcats have certainly looked the part, routing both Radford and Alabama last weekend to get to this point.

I had written a little about West Virginia and how I thought it was slipping under the radar going into the NCAAs. The Mountaineers caught a break by avoiding Wichita State in the second round but it has certainly made things look easy too, defeating Murray State and Marshall by sizable margins.

But despite looking good, WVU is a five-point underdog in this matchup, as big of a ‘dog as Kansas State against Kentucky last night and Florida State against Gonzaga. Of course, both of those underdogs won outright. I’m not as optimistic about West VA.

Free Pick

It isn’t anything against the Mountaineers. They are better than Kansas State and Florida State. They’re better than Loyola Chicago and maybe even Michigan, too. Even with the field pared to 12 teams, West Virginia is still in the top half but it’s up against the team on the top of that list.

In the first two rounds, Jevon Carter was a star. It really makes things easy when you’re best player plays point guard and doesn’t need someone to get him the ball to make a play. Instead, he’s initiating everything so unless the opponent has a really good one-on-one defender to throw at Carter, he’s hard to stop, either scoring or distributing, to say nothing about his defense.

But Villanova may just have that defender in Jalen Brunson. Brunson and Carter share many similarities. They’re both well-rounded talents, point guards, team leaders and have a bunch of experience. They also aren’t the most gifted players in the country, but make up for it with competitiveness and an indomitable spirit. It’s hard for me to see one get a clear upper hand on the other tonight because they both play so hard.

To me, that’s advantage ‘Nova because as good as Brunson is, he doesn’t mean as much to the ‘Cats as Carter means to the Mountaineers. Villanova just has so many other great players, from Bridges to Booth to DiVincenzo to Spellman. If Brunson can play Carter to a stalemate, Villanova’s depth should best West Virginia’s.

That’s not to say West Virginia isn’t deep. Seven guys average at least 17 minutes per game and Bob Huggins uses nine guys fairly consistently. WVU actually has a little size advantage on the wings, which it will have to use to its advantage to win this game.

But Villanova is equipped to handle Huggins’ pressure and just continues to impress me game after game. Once again, I think the line is just a little short tonight.

Free Pick: Villanova -5

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