By Craig Dimitri
A look back at the most memorable Selection Sunday at Villanova for many, many years – and possibly the best ever….
Let’s begin with the latest set of superlatives:
First, and foremost – this was the highest seed Villanova has ever received in its illustrious 85 seasons of intercollegiate basketball. To boot, although ‘Nova did not receive the #1 seed overall (Duke, regrettably but deservedly, took that honor), the Wildcats do have the advantage of playing the winner of the play-in game, to take place in Dayton on Tuesday, between Hampton and Monmouth. Villanova will play on Friday afternoon, in the second game, tentatively scheduled to tip at 2:50 PM EST (in practice, it will be 20-30 minutes after the conclusion of #8 Arizona/#9 Wisconsin), which will tip around noon.
Given that no top seed has ever fallen to a #16 seed, in the 21 NCAA tournaments that have taken place with 64 teams, it seems reasonably safe to say that ‘Nova can count on still being around for round two, particularly with the advantage of playing at the Wachovia Center. In that case, they will play the winner of #8 Arizona/#9 Wisconsin, on Sunday afternoon.
I think that this particular bracket was a tremendous godsend from the Selection Committee, for the following reasons:
1) The right to face the play-in winner.
Logically, that should have gone to Duke. However, since the play-in game is on Tuesday, by rule the NCAA must send them to a Friday site – and Duke was playing on Thursday in Greensboro. Villanova, I presume, was given the play-in game winner as a possible compensation for the fact that the hated UConn Huskies will get to play the Sweet 16 in Washington, while ‘Nova Nation has to trek all the way to Minneapolis.
Obviously, drawing the play-in winner is a huge advantage – that team has to travel to Dayton immediately after hearing the bracket, prepare for its Dayton opponent, play Tuesday, and then travel to Philadelphia and prepare to play Villanova on its quasi-home floor. The basketball gods were generous here.
2) A second round opponent that is a good fit for a deep run.
One never wants to play a mid-major conference champion, one that has a chip on its shoulder about how it wants to prove something to its critics or to establish that it should have received a higher seed. Arizona and Wisconsin couldn’t be further from that profile. Both are decent, power-conference teams that certainly deserved to be in the tournament, but neither are likely to stop Villanova, particularly in Philadelphia.
3) The right to potentially play traitorous Boston College in the Sweet 16.
After the perfidious betrayal of the Big East in October 2003, perpetrated by BC, it would be sweet to have a chance to hand the new ACC-affiliated Boston College a defeat in Minneapolis.
As soon as I can compose it, there will be a comprehensive preview on the play-in winner (Hampton/Monmouth), in anticipation of Friday afternoon’s contest…
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