No. 4 Villanova ‘psyched’ for matchup vs. No. 12 Gonzaga
Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, Gonzaga (161 wins) and Villanova (151) are the first- and third-winningest teams in Division I basketball.
On Tuesday, they will meet for the first time.
The No. 4 Wildcats and No. 12 Bulldogs face each other in the first game — Syracuse-Connecticut is the other — of the annual Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.
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The Zags (7-1) boast wins over Ohio State, Texas and then-No. 25 Creighton. Their only loss was to Florida, now ranked fifth, in a 111-105 double-overtime thriller.
This is the first real test for the Wildcats (8-0) — and it’s the biggest one on Gonzaga’s remaining schedule.
Potential Wildcats matchups with Arizona and Purdue never materialized in the Bahamas. Instead, when the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket was busted, Villanova beat Northern Iowa for the title.
The Wildcats’ next toughest non-conference opponent is Temple next week.
This Gonzaga team hasn’t had quite the expected drop-off from last year’s team that lost to North Carolina in the national title game.
“I walk out of here knowing we can compete against anybody in the country now and we did not know that coming in,” Few told The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review after his team beat Texas to claim third place in the PK80 tournament. “We hadn’t really played anybody coming in.
“There were some question marks but if you go back to our scrimmage (vs. current No. 7 Texas A&M) and now this (tourney), I think we’ve proven we can definitely play with anybody in the country.”
That theory will be tested on Thursday.
Villanova is coming off a 94-53 thrashing of Saint Joseph’s.
Slowing the Wildcats shooters will be a challenge for the Bulldogs.
“They have a way of trying to win every possession,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said, according to Phillynews.com. “If our kids want to know what the top looks like, that’s it.
“There’s nothing they miss.”
The Wildcats didn’t miss a lot on Saturday, pouring in a school-record 19 3-pointers while outscoring the Hawks 57-16 from long range.
In its 91-74 win over Creighton on Friday, Gonzaga gave up 12 3-pointers.
“We knew they were a really good transition team,” Zags forward Killian Tillie said after scoring 22 points in the win. “It’s a different way of playing. We had to get back on defense really quickly. We had to adapt to them.”
The Zags and Wildcats are both ranked in the top 26 in the nation in field goal percentage.
“I think it’s going to be a great game,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said, according to the school’s website. “At every position, they are operating at a high level. They have depth and are probably as efficient an offensive team as we have played. It’s definitely going to be the best team we have played this year.
“It will be a great challenge for us. We’re psyched.”
The two coaches are close, and Few credits Wright with helping him navigate last year’s Final Four.
“I spoke to Jay before we went to the Final Four,” Few said Monday on the College Hoops Today Podcast. “I spoke to him and he told me what to expect and what the experience was going to be like. He was great. We had an unbelievable experience with the way we handled that weekend. I wouldn’t do anything differently if we’re fortunate enough to ever go back.”
Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert is uncertain to be on the court Tuesday.
Kispert, a freshman who started the Zags’ first seven games, missed the win over Creighton with an ankle injury.