After championships are decided in major sports, the first response is to compare the champion with the previous champions in that sport. That is often foolhearty because things change over the years.
However, you can compare teams against their era and this Villanova team not only stacks up well, but is probably one of the top two or three championship teams over the past 10 years.
How do we know that? Just look at the domination. The Wildcats average margin of victory in its nine postseason games was 17.7. The only team in that run that was ranked outside of the RPI top-60 was first-round opponent, Radford. Their record against the other No. 1 seeds in throughout the season was 3-0 with an 18.7 margin of victory.
Villanova was No. 1 and No. 11 in adjusted offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency respectively for an overall KenPom rank of No. 1.
In two of the Wildcats four losses, junior guard Phil Booth didn’t play and in their first loss, it took Butler shooting 60 percent from three just to beat them.
Villanova had pros in juniors Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Erick Paschall along with freshman Omari Spellman and sophomore Donte DiVencenzo, the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
It is foolish to think that just because Brunson was the only five-star recruit that this team is somehow less than. Speaking of which, he played maybe his worst game of the season in the national championship game and the Wildcats still won by 17.
The way they run offense and the way they all can shoot as well as being more than capable on defense leads me to believe this is one of the best teams of this era and is certainly the best since Kentucky won the title in 2012.
The No. 1 Cincinnati Bearcats (29-4) raced out of halftime to defeat the No. 5 Memphis Tigers (21-13) 70-60 in the first semi-final of the American Athletic Conference Championship.
Cincinnati started the second half on a 21-2 run and out-scored the Tigers 41-18 overall in the half. Senior forward Kyle Washington said it was a position the Bearcats had been in before, but not one he’d like to be in again.
“We’ve been in that situation before, to tell you the truth,” Washington said. “We can’t put ourselves in that situation. We have to come out from the gate with a sense of urgency.”
Memphis went into the half with a 42-29 lead in large part because freshman guard Jamal Johnson went 4-4 from behind the arc. Cincinnati senior forward Gary Clark said his team didn’t follow the scouting report and let Johnson get comfortable.
“When you let a guy like that get comfortable then the rim gets bigger,” Clark said. “In the second half we just tried to adjust and not let him get comfortable looks.”
Sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland led the Bearcats with 18 points while Clark added 17 and 12 rebounds. The Tigers were led by Johnson’s 17 points with an additional 12 by junior forward Kyvon Davenport.
The Bearcats move on to face the winner of the game between No. 3 Houston vs. No. 2 Wichita St. There is speculation surrounding the future of Tigers’ head coach Tubby Smith so the postseason may be in the cards for them.
The No. 3 Houston Cougars (25-6) overwhelmed the No. 6 UCF Knights (19-13) 84-56 in the last game of the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals on Friday night.
UCF had been a great defensive team all year, but allowed Houston to shoot 58 percent while forcing only eight turnovers. Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said it was because his team’s familiarity with UCF.
“Because we played, we’re familiar with the teams, there’s certain matchups that we like and we try to go at certain matchups,” he said. “We talked about getting certain players in foul trouble before the game.”
The Cougars were led by junior guard Galen Robinson, Jr.’s 18 points and senior guard Rob Gray’s 17. Junior guard B.J. Taylor scored 20 for the Knights while freshman guard Ceasar Dejesus added 10.
Houston moves on to play No. 2 Wichita St on Saturday. UCF awaits word on a possible NIT bid.
No. 2 Wichita St (25-6) held off a pesky No. 7 Temple (17-15) in a 89-81 win the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals.
The game was won at the free throw line as Wichita forced Temple into foul trouble and made seven more free throws (28) than Temple attempted (21)
Sophomore guard Landry Shamet led the Shockers with 24 points while senior forward Rashard Kelly added 16. Sophomore guard Quinton Rose scored 25 for Temple with 15 points a piece from senior guard Josh Brown and junior guard Shizz Alston, Jr.
Wichita awaits the winner of the last quarterfinal between No. 6 UCF and No. 3 Houston. Temple will most likely be headed to the NIT.
The No. 5 Memphis Tigers (21-12) used a buzzer-beating runner from junior guard Kareem Brewton, Jr. to defeat the No. 4 Tulsa Golden Hurricane (19-12) 67-64.
“It’s just a basketball instinct that you have when the ball come off [your hands] good,” said Brewton. “You feel like its going to go in and that’s what happened.”
The Golden Hurricane struggled shooting all game long. They shot just 41% from the floor, including 2-16 from behind the arc, and 55 percent from the free-throw line. Golden Hurricane head coach Frank Haith expressed he was fine with the shots his team got, but called the shooting performance “unfortunate.”
“We had some really good looks; we just didn’t knock any of them down,” Haith said.
Meanwhile, Memphis had its own struggles as the Tigers had 13 first-half turnovers and 18 overall for the game. Tigers’ head coach Tubby Smith said it was certainly a topic of conversation at halftime.
“We talked about taking care of the basketball,” Smith said. “We had quite a few turnovers.”
Memphis was led by Brewton and junior forward Kyvon Davenport, who both finished with 15 points. Senior guard Corey Henderson, Jr. led Tulsa with 20 while junior guard Sterling Taplin added 14.
Memphis moves on to face No. 1 Cincinnati in the semifinals. Tulsa hopes to continue its season in the NIT.
The No. 1 Cincinnati Bearcats pounded the No. 8 SMU Mustangs on the boards in route to a 61-51 win the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals.
“We played hard enough to get a win in the second half,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said post game. “We picked it up on the defensive end. We picked it up on the backboard.
The Bearcats out-rebounded SMU 39-32 overall and 14-9 on the offensive glass. That led to a 17-7 advantage in second-chance points. SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said that disparity was exasperated by his team’s depth issues forcing him to play zone.
“We’ve got seven people, some playing hurt,” Jankovich said. “We had to make that choice that we had to become a zone team and when you do that, rebounding is far more difficult.”
Senior forward Kyle Washington led Cincinnati with 15 points while junior guard Cane Broome added 13. AAC Player of the Year Gary Clark grabbed 11 boards to go along with 12 points.
SMU junior guard Jahmal McMurray led SMU with 17 points with senior guard Ben Emelogu II adding 11.
Cincinnati moves on to the face the winner of No. 5 Memphis vs. No. 4 Tulsa in the semifinals. SMU awaits to see if the NIT will come calling.
The No. 6 UCF Knights used a late run to pull away from the No. 11 ECU Pirates in their 66-52 win in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Championship.
UCF’s defense stifled ECU for most of the night, but the Pirates were able to cut the Knights lead to 46-45 with 9:36 remaining after a 13-0 run. ECU head coach Michael Perry said he thought his team executed better during that period.
“I thought we were able to get the ball moving and ball reversal,” Perry said. “The ball didn’t stick and we didn’t over-dribble during that period of time.”
The Knights would respond with a 20-7 run to end the game. That run was due to UCF’s calling card; it’s defense.
“Well we needed to get back to the basics,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Usually we fuel what we do defensively and actually [UCF senior forward A.J. Davis] said in the huddle at that timeout and it was great because he was echoing the things that we know we talk about.”
Junior guard B.J. Taylor led the Knights with 17 points while Davis added 14. The Pirates were led by freshman guard Shawn Williams’ 17 points with senior guard B.J. Tyson chipping in 14.
UCF moves on to play No. 3 Houston on Friday night. The loss ends ECU’s season.