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2019 NCAA tournament preview: Villanova

Villanova Wildcats: 25-9, 13-5 in the Big East Conference

Head coach: Jay Wright (18th season)

Players to watch: Phil Booth (18.6 PPG, 2.7 3PM); Eric Paschall (16.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG); Collin Gillespie (11.1 PPG, 38.2 3PT%)

Season recap: Despite the Wildcats’ Big East regular-season title, this is clearly a down season for Jay Wright’s bunch. The hangover from last year’s national championship is real, and Villanova is still reeling from the loss of its four leading scorers—Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman—from a year ago.

In just their third game of the 2018-19 campaign, the Wildcats demonstrated their decline from last season, losing to then-No. 18 Michigan by 27 points at home. They were unable to bounce back, losing to Furman at home just three days later and also suffered consecutive losses to Penn and Kansas in mid-December.

However, thanks to a bevy of prolific outside shooters, Villanova boasts the most efficient offense in its conference. Although they lost four of their last six regular season contests, with wins against Providence, Xavier and Seton Hall, the Wildcats found their rhythm and secured the Big East tournament title, punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

How they make a run: Behind the leadership of Booth and Paschall, who each made an NCAA All-Tournament team, Villanova produces more magic in March. If the shots are falling for Villanova, it has a chance against any opponent.

How they falter: The Wildcats look overmatched as they did against the Wolverines in November, and fall early on in the tournament. Defensively, Villanova continues to struggle to make an impact, as its steal and block percentages are well outside of the top 100.


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