Villanova and Temple Could Meet in the NCAA Tournament
The NCAA tournament selection committee handed Philadelphia basketball fans a present for March Madness: Villanova and Temple could play in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Villanova received the No. 2 seed in the South Region of the NCAA tournament, with the Owls getting the No. 10 seed in the same region. If the Wildcats beat 15th-seeded UNC Asheville (they almost certainly will) and the Owls beat 7th-seeded Iowa (the Hawkeyes have lost 6 of 8), Villanova and Temple will meet in the second round. Both teams play their first games on Friday; the second game would be on Sunday.
Additionally, the Owls-Hawkeyes matchup has an additional Philly connection: Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery is a Philly native who went to La Salle and Penn, was nickanmed “White Magic” and began his coaching career at Lehigh. Though journalists who have been on mock selection committees report it’s too hectic for the people who make the bracket to set up these storylines intentionally, it’s pretty fun when it happens.
The Wildcats went 29-5 this year, and were ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time ever. They’re led by Josh Hart, who averages 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds a game. But, as usual, Jay Wright has his Wildcats running a balanced look: Five players, including Hart, average 9.7 or more points a game. Nova lost to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament championship game on Saturday, but won the regular season conference title. The Wildcats also went 4-0 in the Big 5.
Temple went 21-11 this season and found itself on the NCAA bubble for the second straight year. The Owls didn’t make it last season, and it looked like they weren’t going to make it again after they started 6-4. But Temple went 13-5 to win the American Athletic Conference’s regular season. The Owls doesn’t really score much — to balance this out, they also never turn it over — but get 15.6 points and 6 rebounds a game from Quenton DeCosey. Temple is also one of the best defensive teams in the country.
The Owls didn’t really have any great wins, but the combination of a tough defense and a slow pace could keep them in the game against Iowa. The Owls played Villanova in February; the Wildcats won 83-67.
Saint Joseph’s, the Big 5’s only auto-qualifier this season, is the No. 8 seed in the West. The Hawks play ninth-seeded Cincinnati on Friday at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Washington.
Saint Joseph’s went 27-7 this year, a complete turnaround from last season’s 13-18 team. Junior DeAndre’ Bembry, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, averaged 16.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Isaiah Miles was the team’s leading scorer, scoring 18.2 points a game this year. Joe’s jumped out to an 18-3 start this season, and would’ve won the Atlantic 10 regular season if not for a late slump where the Hawks lost two of their final three games. But no matter: They won three games in three days to win the Atlantic 10 tournament, clinching an NCAA tournament berth with a with an 87-74 win over Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday afternoon.
Follow @dhm on Twitter.