No. 8 Villanova has lost just three times this season: at No. 4 Syracuse in December and twice to No. 9 Creighton during Big East play. Not a particularly flashy team, the Wildcats are tough, unselfish and they’ve got plenty of skill as well. Those attributes were on display Sunday afternoon as Villanova beat Marquette 73-56 in Philadelphia.
The leader, offensively speaking, on Sunday was junior guard Darrun Hilliard. Hilliard made seven of his eleven shot attempts, finishing with a game-high 26 points to go along with four assists and three rebounds. Averaging 13.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, Hilliard’s versatility is one asset that has helped propel Villanova to the top of the Big East.
Hilliard’s a capable perimeter shooter, as evidenced by his 5-for-8 afternoon against Marquette and the fact that he’s shooting 40.9% from deep on the season. He’s also good off the dribble, and from a decision-making standpoint Hilliard committed just one turnover on Sunday. Hilliard’s big afternoon was one reason why the Wildcats were able to beat Marquette by such a comfortable margin despite the fact that leading scorer James Bell struggled with foul trouble and didn’t score a point.
Also of note were the 12 three-pointers made by Villanova and the 13 points contributed off the bench by freshman Josh Hart. Given Marquette’s lack of consistent perimeter shooting a 24-point gap (36-12) in points from beyond the arc will be difficult for the Golden Eagles to make up, and that was the case against Villanova.
As for Hart, he hadn’t reached double figures in a game since scoring 13 in a win over DePaul on January 18. With veterans such as Bell, Hilliard, Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston the freshman doesn’t have to be a primary scoring option. But when one (or more) of those players struggles Villanova will need Hart, and on Sunday he rose to the challenge.
Between the performances of Hilliard and Hart and a defensive effort that limited Marquette 40% shooting, Villanova had all it needed to pick up its 26th victory of the year with the total establishing a new school record. And if they can continue to play as they have for much of this season, the Wildcats are bound to enjoy even greater success.
Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.
Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.
A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.
Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.
Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.
The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.
Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.
“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”
The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.
Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.
Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.
“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”
Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.
In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.
One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.
Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.
“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”
Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.
“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”
With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.
“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.
Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.
Maybe he wasn’t.
Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.
And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.
As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.
But that’s neither here nor there.
What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.