By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The city of Philadelphia is buzzing about the possibility of a Villanova-St. Joseph’s NCAA Tournament matchup on Saturday. The Wildcats are only worried about Thursday.
Villanova will open NCAA Tournament play in Buffalo on Thursday night against Milwaukee. The second-seeded Wildcats are heavy favorites against the 15th-seeded Panthers and a win would set up a Big Five battle with the Hawks if St. Joseph’s can beat Connecticut. However, Forward JayVaughn Pinkston says the Wildcats won’t get caught looking past the Panthers.
“You never look past anybody,” said Pinkston. “You could get upset on any given day like we did in the Big East Tournament to Seton Hall. They’re pretty good. They have good guards and good folders. We just have to come out ready to play.”
The Panthers finished 21-13 and captured the Horizon League title. Villanova Coach Jay Wright was impressed after watching Milwaukee on tape and believes his team will have its hands full on Thursday.
“They’re a very balanced team,” Wright said. “Their forwards can go out on the perimeter a lot and play inside. That gives you trouble. This is a very dangerous team and I think our guys understand that.”
The Panthers have four players who average double figures in scoring, but do not have as much size as some of Villanova’s Big East foes. That could result in a big night for Sophomore Daniel Ochefu, but the 6-foot-10 forward knows the Wildcats will need a team effort.
“They won their league championship,” said Ochefu. They’re a tough team. They play hard, and they have a bunch of seniors who have experience.”
Even though the Wildcats have their minds on Milwaukee, questions will continue to arise about a potential Saturday showdown with their Big 5 rivals.
“It would be great for Philadelphia basketball,” Wright said. “I don’t think that game would be about the Holy War. It would be about Philadelphia basketball and two really good teams from this area that know each other real well. But I can guarantee you, Phil (Martelli) is way more worried about Connecticut and we’re way more worried about Milwaukee right now.”
Villanova and Milwaukee will tip-off at 9:25pm on Thursday.