Villanova vs. Michigan: Maybe a rematch, maybe not
The two teams are missing a combined seven players from the 2018 national championship game won by the Wildcats. But the two coaches are excited to see where their teams are at.
The easy thing to do would be to call Wednesday night's game between eighth-ranked Villanova and No. 18 Michigan a rematch because the two teams met seven months ago in the national championship game.
However, it you look at each team's roster, there are a lot of names missing from the box score of the Wildcats' 79-62 victory that April night in San Antonio. Nova lost Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo and three teammates, and the Wolverines are without three players, including the team's high scorer, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who had 23 points.
"It's not much of a rematch," Wildcats guard Phil Booth said Tuesday after practice at Finneran Pavilion. "There aren't a lot of the same players playing on both sides. We both lost a lot. We have a whole new young team. They have a whole new young team. It's going to be completely different teams out there but it's great to be back out there competing again."
All right, so it's not a rematch, but this contest, the marquee matchup of the annual Gavitt Games pairing teams from the Big East and Big Ten, is one of the most eagerly anticipated pre-conference games for both teams in a long time.
The Finn will be packed with 6,500 people, and there are still some tickets out there if you feel like spending between $200 and $4,500, the price range on StubHub as of Tuesday night.
Villanova coach Jay Wright joked that when he texted Tuesday with Michigan coach John Beilein, they both lamented the fact they couldn't get more tickets. But he can't wait for the game.
"It's a different game but the excitement, I can feel it," he said. "This is great to have us playing again.
"This is perfect for us at this time of year because they're very disciplined and very well-coached. We're going to see where we are, and we're going to have something to always refer to, no matter what we do, after this game."
Beilein told reporters Tuesday in Ann Arbor that he's sure that the Wolverines who competed last year in San Antonio consider the game a rematch but he echoed Wright's thoughts that his team will "see where we are when we're playing against the best."
Both teams are 2-0 and have shown strength in at least one area. Villanova outrebounded its first two opponents by an average of 18 boards per game. The Wolverines have limited their first two opponents to 30.6 shooting from the floor and 26.9 percent from three-point range.
"I think probably of the early teams we play, it's going to be one of the best defensive teams that we'll face," Wright said. "They're playing great defense. It kind of excites me to see this because if we can score against them, we're going to be able to score against a lot of people."
Booth leads the Wildcats in scoring at 20.0 points per game, with Eric Paschall right behind him at 18.5. For the Wolverines, freshman Ignas Brazdeikis averages 15.5 points and Charles Matthews 15.0.
Michigan's holdover players may have something to prove but Beilein doesn't feel that will be the case, and got off a good line when he said, "I don't think it's 'Remember the Alamo.'
"Hey, that was pretty good, wasn't it?" he said with a laugh. "We want to go and really play well against a good team, continue to grow and find out where we are."