(16) Lafayette Leopards vs. (1) Villanova Wildcats (-23, 147.5 o/u)
The No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (32-2, 16-2 Big East) took care of business last weekend in the Big East tournament, beating Xavier 69-52 in the final at Madison Square Garden.
The victory ran Nova’s current win streak to 15 games and vaulted them to second in the national polls heading into March Madness.
“It’s good times,” said senior JayVaughn Pinkston. “We’ve been talking about this since I got here in 10. I got in trouble my freshman year. Always promised the coaches I was going to get them a Big East championship.”
In the title game, the Wildcats were led by reserve Josh Hart’s 15 points and seven boards, while Dylan Ennis added 16 points and Darrun Hilliard had 12.
Said Hart of his performance, “I’ve got to attribute that to my teammates. They found me when I was open. They had total confidence in me to knock down the open shots when they found me.”
The win gave Villanova a No. 1 seed in this year’s East Region, on the 30th anniversary of the Wildcats’ upset victory over Georgetown in the 1985 title game.
This time around, a repeat victory won’t be a Cinderella story for Nova. Instead, the Wildcats begin their quest in Pittsburgh against the No. 16 Lafayette Leopards (20-12, 9-9 Patriot), which won its bid by beating American 65-63 last week.
The team was led by Nick Lindner, who scored 25 points in the Patriot Conference Championship.
“[Lindner] is on one of the biggest runs I’ve ever seen,” Leopards guard Seth Hinrichs said. “He’s just carried us the last three games. Without [Nick], we’re not winning the game.”
While it’ll take a major Villanova collapse for Lafayette to pull off the upset, look for the streaking Leopards to cover the spread (+23).
(Photo credit: By Keith Lovett [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)