HARTFORD, Conn. -- What an ignominious end for the reigning national champs.
The 2017-18 national champions were downed in the XL Center 87-61, the 26-point margin of defeat serving as the second largest in tournament history for a reigning national champion.
Villanova is done, Purdue is moving on. Credit to Boilermakers swag captain Carsen Edwards, the junior combo guard who entered the season as one of the guys on the short list for preseason national player of the year. Edwards had a good campaign -- he keyed Purdue to a top finish in the Big Ten -- but fell short of those NPOY expectations. So to see him go for 42 points, hit an XL Center-record nine 3-pointers and boot Villanova out of the bracket the way he did was a powerful turn of events.
Edwards has to feel incredible after this, too. He's been an inconsistent shooter this season, but going 9-of-16 from 3-point range puts those concerns at bay. Purdue moves along in the South and will face the winner of No. 2 Tennessee and No. 10 Iowa on Thursday night in Louisville.
As for Nova, it starts largely anew next season. It will be a talented but young team. Wildcats coach Jay Wright said afterward that his team's dreadful start vs. Purdue reminded him of what Villanova did to Kansas in the 2018 Final Four. To be on the other end of it is a humbling thing.
"I would be lying if I said that didn't come into my head during the game," Wright said. "Your job, as a coach, is get it right out of your head. But it did come in there, and you just have to compete. You have to continue to compete each possession. And this game is a humbling game. You could be on either side of it. And it's one of the things we said to the guys after the Kansas game: Give those guys respect because we came out and made every shot. It doesn't happen every night."
This is still the best program in the Big East and figures to be nearly as good, if not better, next season if the pieces grow correctly. A word of congratulations to Nova seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. Those two kept Villanova playing at a level that it probably should not have even gotten to this season. But they were reliable veterans who didn't run from their posts and didn't bail on the team.
To see them so emotional afterward was a reminder of how cruel and harsh this tournament can be. The endings come swift, like a machete for some.
"I thank Coach Wright for everything he's done for me," Paschall said. "Without him, I wouldn't be here. I guess losing in your senior year, but at the end of the day, I love Villanova. I mean, everything they've done for me, every little thing, that's all the emotions that were happening."
We've now gone 12 straight seasons with the standing national champion failing to make the Sweet 16. The last team to do it is also the last team to win back-to-back national champions: Florida in 2007.
Villanova's exodus also means the Big East will have no teams in the Sweet 16, which is a rarity for the conference.