PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Without a hint of doubt, Villanova flexed its top-seeded muscle and showed why President Barack Obama picked the Wildcats to reach the NCAA Tournament title game, thumping Lafayette 93-52 on Thursday night.
Thirty years after stunning the basketball world with an improbable national championship, the Wildcats (33-2) are going to try it this time around as a prohibitive favourite to reach the Final Four.
Canadian Dylan Ennis scored 16 points and helped the Wildcats win their 16th straight game. Up next on Saturday, the winner of N.C. State-LSU.
The Wildcats shot close to 70 per cent for most of the game as they cruised to a lead of more than 30 points.
Dan Trist led the Patriot League champion Leopards (20-13) with 18 points.
Ennis, from Brampton, Ont., opened the game with a 3-pointer and the Wildcats simply romped from there. Kris Jenkins hit consecutive 3s for a 14-point lead, part of a 6-of-12 effort from 3-point range in the first half.
While the Wildcats drained 'em from long range, they shut down Lafayette's potent 3-point game. The Leopards were second nationally in 3-point shooting (41 per cent), and the thought was, if the Leopards got hot from 3, they could give the Wildcats a game.
Not a chance.
The Leopards missed six of their first seven 3s and were just 2 of 9 in the first half. Joey Ptasinski led the Leopards with 72 3-pointers at 46 per cent shooting. He missed all three attempts.
The Leopards seemingly would have had to make all their shots to keep pace with the Big East champion Wildcats.
Villanova used a 13-0 run to lead 34-13. When Big East co-player of the year Ryan Arcidiacono hit a 3 early in the second half for a 58-30 lead, Villanova was shooting 67 per cent (24 of 34) and 54 per cent on 3s (7 of 13).
Ennis may have led the Wildcats in scoring, but everyone assisted in stuffing the stat sheet. All five starters reached double digits, and Jenkins had 10 off the bench.
The Wildcats finished No. 2 in the AP Top 25 and were a trendy pick to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2009. They won the Big East regular-season and tournament titles in the same season for the first time in program history. They hold a No. 1 seed for the second time in history. And, they have gone two months without a loss, putting them in the mix as the best of all the Wildcats — with both Kentucky and Arizona.
Villanova won its first Big East Tournament championship in 20 years and would like to mark another milestone with a championship — 30 years since it upset Georgetown to win the 1985 national championship.
Obama picked coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats to reach the national championship game and lose to Kentucky.
Lafayette: Leopards coach Fran O'Hanlon was once one of Villanova's biggest stars. He averaged 13.1 points and was co-captain of the 1969-70 team that won two NCAA Tournament games. O'Hanlon still holds the Villanova record for assists in a game, 16 vs. Toledo on Feb. 24, 1970. His Wildcats teams went 62-21 over his three seasons under coach Jack Kraft. O'Hanlon was inducted into the Villanova Hall of Fame in 1972.
Villanova: The Wildcats have not advanced past the first weekend since 2009. They have just two NCAA Tournament wins and missed the tourney once during that span.
Lafayette: Season finished.
Villanova: Will play the winner of N.C. State-LSU on Saturday at the Consol Center.