All previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: Big East
West Virginia Mountaineers
Conference: Big Twelve
Date: Friday, March 23
Time: 7:27 pm Eastern
Location: Boston, MA
Will any #1 seeds survive to the Elite Eight? West Virginia hopes not.
Villanova West Virginia
Strength: #1 Strength: #8
Pomeroy: #1 Pomeroy: #11
Offense: #1 Offense: #11
Defense: #19 Defense: #39
BPI: #1 BPI: #9
LRMC: #1 LRMC: #10
Consistency: #232 Consistency: #345
Schedule Strength: #15 Schedule Strength: #30
Tempo (Pomeroy): #175 Tempo: #129
AP Final Poll: #2 AP Final Poll: #15
AP Pre-season: #6 AP Pre-season: #11
SportsRatings Genetic Model:
Model Rank: #1 Model Rank: #22
The Villanova Wildcats are now #1 across the board in the power ratings surveyed (they were #2 in Pomeroy before Virginia's UMBC debacle). They are #1 in offensive efficiency by quite a margin, and they don't play a slow tempo that would keep things close regardless of efficiency (they are almost exactly average in tempo). Their defense is good, too. To counter, West Virginia offers numbers that are very good for a 5-seed, including a near-top-ten offense that is capable of outplaying Nova's defense. All they have to worry about is their own defense, against Nova's #1 offense. Their secret weapon is their volatility, among the "best" in the nation. If they play on the upside of their potential, they can easily beat the Cats. If they play on the downside, they lose big. Villanova isn't the most consistent team, either, probably due to their reliance on 3-pt shooting. West Virginia's volatility results from their full-court press defensive style, which either works or it doesn't.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (14): =(3)Tennessee+9, (16)Penn+28, =(4)Gonzaga+16, (1)Xavier+24, (10)Providence+20, (8)Creighton+20, (8)Seton Hall+16, (10)Butler+11, @(1)Xavier+16, @(8)Seton Hall+OT, =(10)Butler+19, =(10)Providence+OT, =(16)Radford+26, =(9)Alabama+23
- Wins vs. tournament teams (1): =(4)Gonzaga+16
- Losses to tournament teams (3): @(10)Butler-8, @(10)Providence-5, @(8)Creighton-OT
- Other losses (1): St. John's-4
Overview: Villanova has actually lost to some pretty pedestrian teams—10-seeds Butler and Providence, and 8-seed Creighton, as well as St. John's when the Red Storm were in Red Hulk mode. But they also beat 1-seed Xavier twice, 3-seed Tennessee, and 4-seed Gonzaga, and there's no arguing with 30-4 when your SOS is #11. The key to Villanova is their offense; we've seen loads of teams over the years with 5 players averaging double figures, but Villanova has 6, with Jalen Brunson at 19.4 ppg and Mikal Bridges at 18.0. Yes, they're dependent on shooting the three—even moreso than the last two years—which leads to some inconsistency in play, but they shoot it far better than in their championship year. That held true against Radford, as six Wildcats scored in double figures, making 14 of 27 threes. Against Alabama, they made 17 of 41, not nearly as good but still 41% as Bridges had 23 points.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (12): =(8)Missouri+4, (1)Virginia+7, @(9)Kansas St.+8, (10)Oklahoma+13, (10)Texas+35, (9)Kansas St.+38, @(10)Oklahoma+2, (6)TCU+16, (3)Texas Tech+10, =(3)Texas Tech+3, =(12)Murray St.+17, =(13)Marshall+23
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (4): @(9)Kansas St.+8, (9)Kansas St.+38, (3)Texas Tech+10, =(3)Texas Tech+3
- Losses to tournament teams (8): =(7)Texas A&M-23, @(3)Texas Tech-1, (1)Kansas-5, @(6)TCU-9, (5)Kentucky-7, @(1)Kansas-8, @(10)Texas-OT, =(1)Kansas-11
- Other losses (2): @Iowa St.-16, Oklahoma St.-3
Overview: West Virginia kicked off the season with a 23-point loss to 7-seed Texas A&M; two games later they took out their frustrations on Morgan State, 111-48. Other peaks in the chart above include game 19 (86-51 over 10-seed Texas) and #23 (89-51 over 9-seed Kansas State). Most of their tournament-team wins are over middling seeds, but they beat 1-seed Virginia, and beat 3-seed Texas Tech twice. They went 0-3 vs. 1-seed Kansas, however. Jevon Carter leads the team with a 17ppg average; he had 21 in the win over Murray State and 28 against Marshall.
Game Analysis: Both teams are fairly volatile. Villanova is less consistent than most teams because they shoot so many threes. West Virginia's volatility comes from their defense, a full court press that, when it works, creates lots of turnovers, and on half-court play, lots of blocks due to Sagaba Konate. When it doesn't work, it results in easy baskets or free throws for the opponent. Villanova doesn't look like the type to be affected as much as most teams, as they turn the ball over at a pretty low rate. They're also a very good free throw shooting team.
We can see now why West Virginia beat 1-seed Virginia—by disrupting their patient offense, leaving them less time to work on the offensive court. Villanova takes their time on offense, too, but not nearly as much time as Virginia.
Villanova by 5 1/2
Power rating: spread
Villanova by 5.8
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
West Virginia: 34.6%
Pretty solid agreement on the spread, and we give the Mountaineers more than a 1 in 3 shot at the upset. Historically 5-seeds have less than a 1 in 5 chance against 1-seeds, but West Virginia is more like a 3-seed in quality—and 3-seeds win at a 36% clip.
Bottom line: West Virginia can beat anyone when they have luck on their side—and their defense doing it's job destroying the other team's offensive rhythm. That could happen here, but Nova might be more immune to it than most teams. We pick them to win with a three pointer at the buzzer.
Final prediction: Villanova 79, West Virginia 76
More previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule.