PITTSBURGH - So what can go wrong?
It's hard to spin the ball that way when you're looking at Villanova right now. There may not be a more confident team in this NCAA tournament - on merit. The Wildcats easily solidified their No. 1 seed, they haven't lost since January, didn't lose before January, and are more than 20-point favorites Thursday in their NCAA East Regional first-round game against No. 16 seed Lafayette.
So expect a free ride to the Final Four? Didn't all the pundits declare the East Regional to be the easy regional?
A more relevant question: What does a team need to do in order to beat Villanova? Many teams may not even have the necessary parts to deal with Jay Wright's team at either end of the court.
What do teams have to have?
"First of all, really active, long, athletic guys I think can bother them," Steve Lappas, the former Villanova coach, said over the phone Wednesday morning. The CBS analyst suggested teams such as Arkansas and Arizona are the prototype of the kind of perimeter defenders he's thinking about.
The key is not necessarily getting into a shooting contest with Villanova, he added.
"Look at what Providence did - they only made seven threes," Lappas said, referring to the Big East semifinal that Villanova survived, 63-61. "You don't have to drain them start to finish."
"I just think we're the kind of team that we really, honestly, we can beat anybody," Jay Wright said. "We really could. But we're not super-talented that we couldn't lose tomorrow. . . . Our closest game of the year this year was against Bucknell at home."
We asked a variety of current coaches that same question: What do you need to have to beat Villanova?
Here are the answers, without their names attached:
You need your best offensive game.
You have to think about driving the ball at them.
You really need to outscore, not outguard them.
Big guys don't bother them. They are undersize, but do a great job defending the post and fighting for rebounds.
You have to match their playmaking and shot-making.
Your perimeter players need to outplay their guys. It's individual battles. . . . You need some really talented guards against them.
Handle their pressure, get the ball inside, cover the three-point line.
Pressure point guard Ryan Arcidiacono all over the floor, making him finish off the dribble.
So which teams can claim some of those assets? Lafayette likes the part about trying to outscore Villanova. The Leopards put up over 80 points a dozen times this season. (Counter: Scoring 97 against Wagner may not mean much against Villanova's athleticism.)
North Carolina State, the No. 8 seed and a potential second-round opponent, makes enough threes (36.1 percent) but doesn't depend on them. They have the athleticism to stay with Villanova, so if the Wolfpack get past LSU, the second round certainly wouldn't be easy.
Of all the ways to stay with Villanova, Virginia checks off the defensive ones, which is why the Cavaliers appeared all year to be perhaps the most interesting hurdle if Villanova ended up in their regional. I've had Villanova on my teams that could potentially beat Kentucky, but Virginia at the top of the list that could make life difficult for Villanova's guards.
Go back to that Providence game. Villanova guards Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, and Dylan Ennis combined to shoot 7 for 23. . . . The only game those three had fewer field goals combined was when Villanova lost at Seton Hall in overtime. They also combined for just eight field goals in their other loss at Georgetown.
Sounds simple enough, right? Hope for a combined tough shooting night by all of Villanova's terrific guards? That seemed like the obvious opposing game plan all season. The fact it happened so infrequently speaks to Villanova's top seed. Two of those three guards were all-Big East first-teamers.
But now the pool gets deeper and the opposing talent gets more talented. Remember, though, Lappas didn't just say active, long, athletic guys. He said really active, long, athletic guys.
Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon already has his game plan.
"I'm looking at a box and two," O'Hanlon said, standing in the hallway before his practice.
If Lafayette can't get six players on the court, and knocks off Villanova with five, "they would do a drug test on our team," O'Hanlon said.