"The script is about the same," Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino said, but he isn't prepared to make reservations for the Final Four in Dallas.
"This is not the same team as last year," Massimino said. So it isn't, but Villanova opened defense of its NCAA basketball championship in style today by defeating Virginia Tech, 71-62, in the first round of the Southeast regional in the Louisiana State Assembly Center.
The Wildcats (23-13) advanced to Saturday's second-round game against Georgia Tech (26-6). The No. 6 Yellow Jackets struggled early against Marist and trailed twice in the second half before pulling away to win, 68-53.
Later, Anthony Wilson hit seven free throws in the final 16 seconds to ensure LSU's 94-87 double overtime victory over Purdue. LSU (23-11) will play Memphis State (28-6), which routed Ball State, 95-63.
Junior guard Harold Jensen led Villanova with 20 points. Virginia Tech guard Dell Curry was hampered by the Wildcats' zone defense and his foul problems and finished with just 12 points. Curry had been averaging 24.5 points per game.
"We need Dell Curry to have a super ball game," Virginia Tech Coach Charlie Moir said. "That's the way it's been all year."
Instead, Curry was off and Virginia Tech's season ended at 22-9.
Villanova never trailed and it stretched a 34-22 halftime lead to 19 points in the second half.
Massimino said Villanova's first-half defense "was probably as good as we've ever played." Senior forward Harold Pressley said if Villanova continues to play as it did in the first half, "There's no way we can't go as far as we have."
Virginia Tech committed 14 first-half turnovers and shot 46.4 percent for the game. Villanova shot 52.7 percent as it placed its five starters in double figures.
Pressley had 17 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Doug West and Kenny Wilson scored 11 apiece and Mark Plansky had 10. Keith Colbert scored a game-high 21 points for the Hokies.
Georgia Tech sputtered against 15th-seeded Marist, but senior guard Mark Price proved to be a steadying influence as he scored a team-high 20 points.
Marist, champion of the ECAC Metro Conference tournament, overcame a 31-26 halftime deficit and led by a point twice in the second half.
But 7-foot-3 sophomore Rik Smits ran into foul trouble and fouled out with 7:39 left. Smits scored a game-high 22 points and held 7-foot center John Salley to 12 points.
With Smits out, Georgia Tech coasted past the Red Foxes (19-12). "I'm happy to get over this," said Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins, "but we need to play a lot better."
Memphis State had no problem with Ball State (21-10).
The Tigers led at halftime, 40-34, but pulled away in the second half behind the play of Vincent Askew and 7-foot center William Bedford. Askew scored a game-high 23 points and Bedford had 16 points.