Mean Green, Wildcats clash for Sweet 16 spot in the South Region
A spot in the Sweet 16 is on the line Sunday evening when Villanova and Conference USA champion North Texas meet in Indianapolis. Both teams are coming off first-round victories that required some strong performances in the second half. Villanova shouldn't be breathing a sigh of relief by avoiding Purdue in the second round though. The Wildcats may have their hands full with North Texas.
South Region: No. 13 North Texas (18-9) vs. No. 5 Villanova (17-6)
Time: Sunday, March 21 at Approximately 8:45 pm ET (Sunday)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Spread: Villanova -6.5
Keys for North Texas
North Texas guard Javion Hamlet powered the Mean Green to the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history with a team-high 24 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists against the Big Ten's Purdue Boilermakers. It was because of Hamlet that North Texas was able to avoid letting the win slip through their fingers. Purdue mounted a second-half rally and took a lead late in the game before its offense went dry at the worst possible time. Hamlet rescued the day for North Texas with a strong showing in overtime. North Texas will need another performance out of their star player in order to take down another top-five seed in the second round.
Keys for Villanova
As expected, Villanova looked vulnerable against Winthrop in the first round. Fortunately for the Wildcats, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl rose to the occasion. Villanova did lose the rebound battle against Winthrop, although that was expected to be a strength for the Eagles. Villanova's ball control was solid in the first-round victory, which helped the more talented Wildcats maintain control of the game after halftime to pull away from the Eagles. Expect Jay Wright to stress the importance of not turning the ball over against the opportunistic Mean Green.
North Texas has plenty of reason to feel optimistic about their chances in the second round. After responding to a stiff challenge by Purdue in the first round, and with Villanova clearly playing like a banged-up team in recent weeks, North Texas knows they can seize the moment. But Villanova's ball control and depth could lead help the Wildcats avoid an upset for a second time in the NCAA Tournament's opening weekend. For the second straight game, Villanova will slip by against a double-digit seed, but will have to sweat out some tense moments along the way.
Prediction: Villanova 73, North Texas 66