After the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, we’ve had upsets, close calls and late-game heroics. We’ve also had our first 1-seed knocked out, as Villanova fell to No. 8 NC State, 71-68.
The Wildcats (3-3), who were vying for their first Final Four since 2009, had won 16 straight games and 20 of their previous 21 entering Saturday’s collapse.
“Villanova was kind of the controversial No. 1 seed,” NBC Sports College Basketball Talk managing editor Rob Dauster said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They were the team people thought were overrated. The Big East didn’t get as much credit as it probably deserved heading into the tournament. Here we are heading into the Sweet 16 and Villanova is already heading home.”
Villanova trailed almost the entire game and shot just 31.1 percent from the floor, including 9-of-28 (32.1 percent) from three-point range. The Wildcats were also dominated on the glass 45-32 by a bigger, more physical NC State squad.
“Regardless of how they performed in the tournament . . . that’s not a validation of what happens when the bracket gets put out,” Dauster said. “I don’t think that losing to an NC State team on a night where they shot (poorly) from the field is really a sign that Villanova didn’t deserve to get in the tournament. I hope that we can keep that in perspective.”
In many ways, Villanova losing in the Round of 32 is similar to UCLA advancing to the Sweet 16. Many people thought the Bruins didn’t even belong in the NCAA Tournament, but they’ve beaten No. 6 SMU and No 14 UAB.
“Just because they made it this far doesn’t mean that they actually deserved to get in the NCAA Tournament,” Dauster said. “Good for them. Now that they’ve won, it kind of justifies the committee’s decision, so to speak. But I would still say – and I’ll keep on saying it – that UCLA did not do enough to deserve getting into the NCAA Tournament, especially missing the First Four altogether.”
Still, Dauster believes NC State is the most surprising team left in the tournament – and it has nothing to do with talent.
“I think from a talent perspective, you’re looking at a team that probably should be top 15 in the country,” Dauster said. “They have a lot of really, really good players, a lot of really highly touted recruits on that roster. The fact that they were struggling with the bubble for a little while was kind of a sign that things just (weren’t) going so well. I don’t know why that happened that way.”
The Wolfpack started the season 14-11, barely finished inside the top 100 nationally in scoring offense and barely finished inside the top 150 in scoring defense. They also trailed LSU by 16 points in the second half of their first game of the tournament before coming back to win, 66-65.
“I still have no idea how NC State was actually able to pull that game out when they were kind of getting dominated,” Dauster said. “Down (16 points) with the No. 1 seed coming up in your next game and here they are heading to the Sweet 16 to take on Louisville – it’s pretty surprising that they’ve been able to pull it off. Credit to them. Mark Gottfried has kind of proven that he’s the guy that can get it done in the NCAA Tournament.”
Trevor Lacey (17 points), Anthony Barber (13), Abdul-Malik Abu (13) and Lennard Freeman (11) all finished in double figures against Villanova. Abu and Freeman had 12 rebounds apiece, while Lacey tied for the game-high with four assists.
No. 8 NC State plays No. 4 Louisville (26-8) this Friday at 7:37 p.m. ET. If victorious, NC State advances to the Elite Eight to play the winner of No. 3 Oklahoma versus No. 7 Michigan State.