Villanova and Drexel and Rutgers headed to March Madness

by Marc Narducci | Mar 15, 2021
Villanova and Drexel and Rutgers headed to March Madness
Villanova, a fixture in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, is making its eighth straight appearance, including championships in 2016 and 2018. Rutgers and Drexel will be joining the Wildcats in March Madness after ending long droughts. These are three schools representing the Philadelphia area and New Jersey in this year’s tournament.  
The tournament, which will be staged in Indiana, is highly anticipated after last year’s tourney was canceled due to the pandemic. Villanova (16-6) earned a No. 5 seed and will face No. 12 Winthrop in a first round Midwest Region game on Friday at 9:57 p.m. at Farmer’s Coliseum in Indianapolis.  
While Villanova often enters the tournament with momentum, the opposite is the case. The Wildcats have lost three of their last four and will be missing all-star point guard Collin Gillespie, who suffered a torn ACL late in the season. Potential NBA first round pick Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a 6-9 sophomore, averaged 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds to lead the Wildcats. Forward Jermaine Samuels, a 6-7 senior, averages 11.4 points and 6.3 rebounds.  
Winthrop (23-1) was the Big South champion. Chandler Vaudrin, a 6-7 senior runs the attack and averages 12.2 points and 6.9 assists and 7.2 rebounds. The Eagles have won seven in a row after beating Campbell, 80-53 in the Big South Tournament championship.  
Drexel (12-7) earned its NCAA berth by winning the Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament, beating Elon, 63-56 in the title game. The Dragons are a No. 16 seed and will face No. 1 Illinois (23-6) Friday in the South Regional on Friday at 1:15 p.m. also at Farmer’s Coliseum. Drexel junior guard Camren Wynter, a first-team all CAA selection, averages 16.8 points and 5.3 assists to lead the Dragons in both departments.  
This is Drexel’s first NCAA appearance since the 1995-96 season when they earned a third straight berth. Those three Drexel teams were led by future NBA player Malik Rose. In the 95-96 season, Drexel won its first round NCAA game against Memphis, 75-63 before losing in the second round to Syracuse, 69-58.  
Illinois is on a roll, having won seven in a row after beating Ohio State, 91-88 in overtime in the Big 10 tournament championship. Guard Ayo Dosunmu a 6-5 junior, averages a team-high 20.6 points. Rutgers is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1991 when the Scarlet Knights were in the Atlantic 10. Rutgers lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament 79-76 to Arizona State. 
The Scarlet Knights (15-11 and 10-10 in the rugged Big 10) are a No. 10 seed and will face No. 7 Clemson (16-7) Friday 9:20 p.m. in a South Regional matchup at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, home of the Indiana Pacers.  
Rutgers joined the Big 10 for the 2014-2015 season. They would have earned an NCAA berth last year had the season not been canceled. Rutgers was 20-11 overall and 11-9 in the Big 10, which for the past two years has been considered college basketball’s top conference.  
Coach Steve Pikiell has done a great job turning the Rutgers program around. Ron Harper Jr., a 6-6 junior, averages a team-high 15.4 points for the Scarlet Knights. His father Ron played 15 NBA seasons and was part of five championship teams with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Aamir Simms, a 6-8 senior forward, leads Clemson in scoring (13.2 ppg.), rebounding (6.2) and assists (2.7).

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Author: Marc Narducci

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