Villanova’s Sweet 16 matchup against West Virginia in Friday night’s East Region semifinals at TD Garden in Boston will bring together two former Big East rivals.
The two teams played 23 games from the time of the Mountaineers’ entry into the league in the 1995-96 season until 2011-12, their last season before going to the Big 12. The Wildcats held a 12-11 advantage against West Virginia in those contests.
Asked after his team’s 94-71 second-round victory Sunday night over Marshall if he remembered anything about Villanova from the Big East days, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins quipped, “I can’t remember what I had for breakfast.”
“No, it’s a different team,” Huggins said. “Jay [Wright] does a great job. I’ve got great respect for Jay and what he does. We had great battles in the Big East.
“We spend so much time looking at film of who we’re going to play that we really don’t watch a lot of basketball from other leagues and things. I’ve seen bits and pieces and highlights on ESPN. But I don’t know very much about them.”
Huggins, who succeeded John Beilein as West Virginia coach in 2007, is 3-3 against Wright.
The Mountaineers (26-10), seeded No. 5, are in the Sweet 16 for the eighth time since 1998. They are known for a relentless press that forced 18 turnovers against Marshall, including eight from top scorer Jon Elmore.
In NCAA statistics compiled before Sunday night’s game, WVU was second in turnover margin (plus-5.3 per game), 10th in forced turnovers (16.49) and 14th in both steals (8.1) and blocked shots (5.2). The team also pulls down an average of 14 offensive rebounds, fourth nationally.
Senior guard Jevon Carter, a good bet to repeat as national defensive player of the year, is second in the nation in steals and 12th in assists. Sagaba Korate, a 6-foot-8 sophomore center, is third in blocked shots at 3.29 per game.
Carter had 28 points, five assists and five steals against Marshall. According to TBS, he is the first player to go 28-5-5 in an NCAA tournament game since Georgetown’s Allen Iverson in 1996.
“We are just happy to keep playing,” Carter said. “This is March. This is what we came to do. We don’t just want to go to the Sweet 16. We want to win it all. So we’ll go back, prepare for Villanova, watch a lot of film, and get ready for the next game.”