No team has repeated as national champion at the NCAA tournament since the Florida Gators accomplished the feat a decade ago, but the Villanova Wildcats are primed to break that streak this year.
Villanova, the tournament’s top seed, is playing elite basketball right now. As the Wildcats prepare for a first-round matchup against the Sportsbook of Mount St. Mary’s and New Orleans, Sportsbook has tabbed them as +750 favorites to once again cut down the net in the final and +170 front-runners to win the East Region.
Here are three reasons why Villanova will win the NCAA tournament:
Unlike other schools that feature a litany of one-and-done players with extremely high turnover, Villanova was able to return virtually the same team from last season’s championship-winning squad. With the same group back in the big dance, that invaluable experience will undoubtedly help the Wildcats get the job done on the biggest stage.
The three-headed monster of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson will be paving the way for the ’Cats. Hart is having a fantastic season (18.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists), while Jenkins is an ever-reliable shooter from downtown (37.2 percent from 3-point range), which was put on full display when he hit the game-winning trey against North Carolina in the championship game a year ago.
Brunson has come into his own in his sophomore campaign, as the 20-year-old averages 14.8 points and 4.5 assists while shooting 39.6 from three.
Proving the doubters wrong
A year ago many people were writing off Villanova before the tournament even began, with some even going as far as saying the Wildcats wouldn’t see the second weekend. The Wildcats ended up making a run for the ages, dispatching No. 1-seeded Kansas in the South Region final.
While they’re unsurprisingly (and deservedly) getting the favorite distinction now, there are still skeptics who believe they won’t be able to again due to the strength of their region. The difference is Villanova has the talent that other teams do, but they’ve been through the war before and have a conference and national title to show for it. Someone may beat the Wildcats, but they won’t beat themselves.
The Jay Wright Difference
Wildcats head coach Jay Wright was already perceived as one of the best bench bosses in the country prior to last year’s win, but his legacy in Philadelphia was cemented after the Wildcats went all the way. The 55-year-old has been with the university since 2001, leading them to four Big East conference championships, 11 NCAA tournament appearances and a fantastic 500-244 record in his 15 seasons as head coach.
While some coaches specialize in X’s and O’s, Wright has a unique way of connecting with his players and getting the best out of them year in and year out. Don’t count out his impact in March; this is a coach who’s at the top of his game.