2015 NCAA Tournament: East No. 1 seed Villanova
Villanova's best team since its 2009 Final Four unit needed some help to gain acceptance as a one seed, but offensive efficiency and tenacity make the Wildcats a Final Four threat.
Coach: Jay Wright | NCAA tournament record: 12-7
Best finish: Final Four (2009) | Last year's finish: Loss to UConn in Round of 32
Starting lineup: G: Darrun Hilliard II, G: Dylan Ennis, G: Ryan Arcidiacono, F: JayVaughn Pinkston, F: Daniel Ochefu
Top reserve: Josh Hart
Leading scorer: Hilliard (14.0) | Leading rebounder: Ochefu (8.4)
National championships: 1985 | Last Final Four: 2009
Why Villanova might win it all: Because, as colleague Matt Norlander wrote Saturday night after the Wildcats ran away with the Big East tournament title, this is Jay Wright's best team, and could be one of the best in the program's storied history. Reaching the Final Four and contending for a national title certainly would put this bunch on the short list with Rollie Massimino's 1985 squad, but Wright is very level-headed when looking at his team. "We're not Kentucky in terms of depth and talent, but we could beat them. But we could lose to a 15 or 16, too, if we don't play right. I just think that's what we are."
Why Villanova might not win it all: The lack of a star player, or at least one player who grabs national attention, is a reason Villanova has been overlooked. It also might be the team's downfall. When shots aren't falling and those impressive offensive efficiency numbers drop -- as was the case in losses to Seton Hall and Georgetown -- then who carries this team?
Player to watch: Ochefu. Hilliard and Arcidiacono were first team All-Big East picks and deserve attention, but Ochefu cannot afford to take a game off if the Wildcats are to make a run. Remember what we said about shots not falling? Ochefu's efforts down low, both getting to the rim and grabbing offensive rebounds, can help Villanova battle through cold shooting streaks.
One guy soaring: Hart, who just became the first bench player in 36 years to be named Big East tournament MVP. He was the tourney's leading scorer, averaging 17.7 points with an absurd shooting percentage (72 percent overall, 64 percent behind the arc) and added five steals and three blocks.
Notable stat: Six. As Wright notes, Villanova is not particularly deep, but its top six players comprise one of the country's most balanced rotations. All six average more than 24 minutes and 9 points per game, with Hilliard as the leading scorer and the other five evenly sharing the responsibility.
Final thought: Villanova has won 32 of 34, plays terrific defense shares the ball and has one of the nation's five most efficient offenses, other teams had to lose before the public to accepted the Wildcats as a one-seed candidate. Why? It can't be their strength of schedule, which ranks No. 22 nationally according to the RPI and No. 32 according to KenPom.com. And it's not like the Wildcats have gotten stolen most of their wins, holding a top-five scoring margin (plus-15.4 ppg). Don't let early exits from the last half decade cloud your vision. This team is even better than the 2009 squad that made the Final Four.
Are you buying?
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