Final Four Profile: Villanova Wildcats

Fabled military general Sun Tzu said it’s important to know your enemy. The sworn enemy of the Seton Hall Pirates is Villanova. As a pirate fan and student, I’ve gotten to know our rivals from the city of brotherly love and now that they’ve reached the Final Four in San Antonio I feel like I can adequately write a short recap of the Wildcats’ season and assess their chances at winning a 3rd national title.

So far this year, Nova is (34-4), and has won the Big East Tournament Championship and reached the Final Four as the top-seeded champion of the east region, beating Radford, Alabama, West Virginia, and Texas Tech to get to San Antonio.

A typical Villanova game in 2017-2018 has played out like this: Villanova and their opponent are even for the first 10 minutes of the game, maybe until halftime, or in rare cases, for the full 40 minutes. But in most cases, Nova hits the accelerator and uses precise ball movement and stifling defense to turn a tied game into a 20-25 point blowout. At their best, Nova can be the most electric offensive team in the country, with 5 guys on the floor that can knock down threes. They could be the sports car that beat Xavier, a 1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament by 24 and 16 points in the regular season. Or they could be the rent-a-car that eked out wins over Seton Hall, West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Providence.

Regardless of what type of game they have, the engine, the pulsating heart driving them forward is Junior Point Guard Jalen Brunson. Brunson is dynamic yet workmanlike, a steady leader, and in my opinion, the national player of the year regardless of the outcome of the Final Four. If an average Joe who doesn’t follow basketball closely were to watch Saturday Night’s game against Kansas or any Villanova game, he would quickly observe Brunson dictating the tempo throughout the contest, finding open looks for teammates, knocking down threes, posting up bigger defenders, and finishing crafty moves around the basket.

The cast of characters around Brunson are far from chumps. In fact, each of them can dominate a game in their own right. Mikal Bridges is a lottery pick, who can dunk and shoot from the outside. He scored 25 point in a win at Xavier on February 17th. Phil Booth had 20 points in the 2016 national title game against North Carolina and recently returned from injury. Eric Paschall is yet another versatile player who can drive as well as hit from the outside. Donte DiVincenzo, (The Big Ragu) is a sniper from three point range who can explode the rim and dunk on people. Finally, Omari Spellman is an NBA 1st round pick who is surprisingly nimble for a 6’9 245 pound big man, dominated Seton Hall when we played them on February 4th.

Nova has been tested this year, specifically by Providence, Seton Hall, and West Virginia, and have responded each time, finding something extra left in the tank to go on a run and pull the game out in the end. Watching last Sunday’s elite 8 game against Texas Tech, I never thought for a second that Nova would let Texas Tech come back. However, the kryptonite for Nova this year has been when they’ve gone cold from three point range. Their four losses have all been a direct result of ice cold shooting, but a promising sign for Nova fans is how they were able to win against Texas Tech while playing their worst game all season, shooting 16 % from three point range. However, Texas Tech is far from Kansas and if they shoot like that against the Jayhawks they will lose. I expect Nova to beat Kansas in a close, high scoring game and advance to the national championship game.


Matt Collins can be contacted at