Despite breezing through most of the season, the Villanova Wildcats will begin their NCAA title defense as a No. 6 seed in the South. Their first opponent will be Saint Mary's, who earned the No. 11 seed.
The defending NCAA national champions, the Villanova Wildcats may have lacked their typical regular season success, but not their Big East dominance. With a 22-9 regular season record, the Wildcats got the top seed in the Big East Tournament and overcame three tough opponents to win their third straight title and fourth in five years. The NCAA Tournament has not seen a back-to-back champion since Billy Donovan's Florida Gators won it all in 2007, but Jay Wright has proven in a very short amount of time that his Wildcats are among the most well-coached in all of basketball.
A number of bubbles have burst over the last few game, but no team stole a bid quite like the 22-11 Saint Mary's Gaels. Randy Bennett returns to the NCAA Tournament after a year away, bringing his Gaels to the Big Dance for the seventh time. The Gaels topped out in 2010, when they made the Sweet 16 as a 10-seed. They were on the outside looking in for the Big Dance this year, until they shocked rival Gonzaga, the WCC No. 1 seed, in the conference championship game, 60-47. It was a thorough beatdown of the Bulldogs, a team that had won the first match-up this year by 48 points. Saint Mary's is led by star guard Jordan Ford, who averages 21.3 points per game, and forward Malik Fitts, who is second on the team at 15.3 points, and leads the Gaels with 7.6 rebounds per contest. With five players shooting 40-percent or better from three, they could be a dangerous match-up.
Date: Thursday, March 21
Time: 7:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
Location: XL Center, Hartford, CT
Announcers: Carter Blackburn / Debbie Antonelli // John Schriffen
Prediction: Tough as it may have been to get only a No. 6 seed, the Wildcats really got unlucky by drawing Saint Mary's in the first round. A team that less than a week ago held Gonzaga to under 50 points is not to be taken lightly.
There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Villanova could be on upset alert, and the Gaels can really play up to or down to just about any opponent's skill level.
Saint Mary's pulls off the upset over Villanova.