Prior to the beginning of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, most prognosticators weren’t giving much love to Big East Champion Villanova Wildcats, saying that that the Conference was overrated, and predicting that the Cats would be the first top seed eliminated.
As it turns out, all of the so called experts were right, as the upstart #8 seed NC State Wolfpack pulled off an improbably upset, beating the #1 seeded Villanova 71-68.
Before Saturday’s upset loss, Nova had only lost twice on the season to Tourney teams Georgetown and Providence, finishing the regular season ranked #2 in the country, second to only undefeated Kentucky.
It’s the 2nd straight season that Villanova was eliminated in the Round of 32, falling last season to the eventual 2014 NCAA Champion UConn Huskies.
The Wildcats were dominated inside by NC State big men Malik Abu(13 points, 12 rebounds) and Leonard Freeman(11 points, 12 rebounds) as well as getting 17 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists from leading scorer Trevor Lacey on the perimeter. Sophomore sensation Anthony “Cat” Barber was also magnificent running the point, regularly blowing past Nova defenders for 13 points and 3 assists.
It was an emotional ending to the careers of Villanova seniors Darrun Hilliard and Jayvaughn Pinkston, who were the upperclassmen leaders of a deep and talented Nova team led by Big East Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacano, who mustered a measly 4 points on the night.
Pinkston put up a respectable 13 points and 6 boards, but it was Hilliard who was Nova’s best player, scoring 27 points, including connecting on 6 treys, in the upset loss.
The win was the Wolfpack’s 3rd ever win over a #1 seed in the Tournament, most memorably beating Houston in the 1985 NCAA Championship Game.
NC State isn’t a team to be slept on as in addition to besting Villanova, they also have key wins over both Duke and North Carolina in ACC Conference play.
Up next for the Pack is a Sweet 16 matchup against the winner of the Northern Iowa/Louisville matchup on Friday.
Allen Moll has been a lifelong NBA and NCAA College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously, and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen has also provided content to Bleacherreport.com, Upperdeckblog.com, Cleveland.com, CSN Philly.com, Buckets Magazine, Balltribe.com, in addition to being a tenured NBA and NCAA columnist for TheHoopDoctors.com.