On Saturday, Villanova cut down the nets at Madison Square after beating Creighton in the final of the Big East Tournament.
If all goes according to plan, the Wildcats will be cutting down the nets again in New York in two weeks as champions of the East Regional. Villanova was expected to be the No. 1 seed in the East Regional and its path toward becoming the first repeat champion since Florida in 2007 starts Thursday in Buffalo against Mount St. Mary's or New Orleans.
"Probably. Probably," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said when asked if he Villanova should be the top overall seed after it beat Creighton on Saturday. "But we don't really care. I'm more excited about what you just said right there. We're going to be fine. We're going to be fine. Wherever they put us, whatever our seed is."
Villanova's primary competition for the East Regional is No. 2 seed Duke, which won the ACC tournament in Brooklyn by winning four games in four days. The third seed is Baylor, which was knocked off last season by Yale as a fifth seed. Florida is the fourth seed.
Still, Villanova figures to be the favorite and it's hard to find a compelling reason to pick against it.
Villanova is No. 1 in the RPI rankings and No. 2 in KenPom rankings. The Wildcats showed they can win any type of game, from the flawless blowout they had over St. John's to the last second win over Seton Hall and the methodical championship game victory.
It helps when you have Josh Hart, who teammates say always is in the right place at the right time. Hart scored 29 Saturday to get the MVP honors and along with last year's championship game shot maker Kris Jenkins provides the Wildcats with senior leadership.
Villanova's path is not a lock but the Wildcats sure seem to be peaking at the right time.
5 PLAYERS TO KNOW
Villanova G Jalen Brunson: The exploits of Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins are well known by now, but Brunson of Villanova is almost as good and the sophomore is the heir apparent when Hart and Jenkins conclude their careers. Brunson was the Wildcats' second-leading scorer at 14.8 points per game and is a 39.6 percent shooter from 3-point range.
UNC-Wilmington G C.J. Bryce: Bryce scored 16 points as a freshman when the Seahawks gave Duke a scare in the first round as the 13th seed last year. This season, he led UNC-Wilmington by averaging 17.6 points with 12 games of at least 20 points.
Duke G Luke Kennard: Many know of heralded freshman Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles along with the various exploits of Grayson Allen. Those overshadow the fact that Kennard is Duke's top scorer (20.6) and a terrific 3-point shooter (44.3 percent).
East Tennessee State G T.J. Cromer: Cromer averaged 19.1 points per game and is a week removed from scoring 41 points against Sanford. He also is a terrific 3-point shooter at 45.4 percent on a team that averages about 80 points per game.
SMU F Semi Ojeleye: Ojeleye seldom played in parts of two seasons at Duke but after sitting out he emerged as the Mustangs' top player. He averaged 19 points and earlier this season SMU coach Tim Jankovich referred to him as a "machine" in praising his work ethic following a 24-point showing at Madison Square Garden against Pittsburgh.
4 NUMBERS TO NOTE
8.9: Baylor's rebounding margin, which is fourth in the nation and makes the Bears the only team in the East Region in the top 20 nationally.
79.9: Devontae Cacok's field goal percentage for UNC-Wilmington. He's ranked first in that category by a wide margin over Creighton's Justin Patton.
43.0: Marquette's percentage from 3-point range. Marquette led the nation in 3-point shooting but it certainly doesn't mean automatic success in the tournament. Just ask Michigan State, which led in perimeter shooting last season only to get knocked off in the first round as a No. 2 seed.
3: The number of times Villanova has been a No. 1 seed. Villanova's three previous trips to the Final Four have been with three different seeds. In 1985, Villanova was an eighth seed, in 2009 it was a three seed and last year it was a two seed.
55.6: The number of points Virginia allows per game to lead the nation. It is the third time in four years the Cavaliers posted the nation's top scoring defense.
3 EARLY UPSETS
No. 12 UNC-Wilmington over No. 5 Virginia: An upset in the 5-12 game is a rite of the NCAA tournament and UNC-Wilmington has a history of winning first round games and scaring teams in its losses. Even if UNC-Wilmington is forced to slow the pace due to Virginia's defense, it seems highly possible. The Seahawks are on a seven-game winning streak while Virginia is a pedestrian 4-5 in its last nine contests.
No. 10 Marquette over No. 7 South Carolina: These games aren't upsets in the traditional sense since teams in this portion of brackets are evenly matched. It's a matchup of contrasting styles and if Marquette can find holes in a defense that was among the best in the SEC, an upset can occur.
No. 13 East Tennessee State over No. 4 Florida: This is another part of brackets where upsets often happen and East Tennessee State seems to have enough scoring punch to pull it out. The Gators despite their two national championships in 2006 and 2007 also have a history of early exits and dropped three of four after winning nine straight.
2 TEAMS TO BEAT
Villanova wins with its senior experience and savvy. The Wildcats also has tremendous depth beyond Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Darryl Reynolds and Mikael Bridges are solid rebounders, Donte DiVincenzo has proven to be a capable scorer at times and transfer Eric Paschal is an effective defender. The combination of experience and knowing when to make the right plays makes Villanova a favorite.
Duke is the No. 2 seed and deserved the nod. Duke's freshman are peaking and its memorable performance in the ACC tournament make the Blue Devils dangerous.
1 GAME WE NEED TO SEE
As much as everyone loves upsets and top seeds losing early, Villanova and Duke for a trip to the Final Four on the line is a game virtually anyone would love to see two weeks from now at Madison Square Garden. It certainly would be better than any game played there by the New York Knicks. If you thought Duke-Kentucky regional final games in 1992 and 1998 were classics, this has the same potential if it occurs.