The team that Tuesday evening walked into Hinkle Fieldhouse wore the uniforms of the team that walked of out the Alamodome last April with the 2018 NCAA championship trophy. Which is not to say this Villanova team is the same one that won the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
There are glimpses, though, that remind us of what the Wildcats have been.
Power forward Eric Paschall airballed his first 3-point attempt, then hit four of his next five tries from long distance in only the first dozen minutes of the game. The last of those elevated Villanova from a back-and-forth scuffle against the Butler Bulldogs into a lead the Wildcats never surrendered.
Paschall, shooting guard Phil Booth and point guard Collin Gillespie, who played a combined 66 minutes in last year's NCAA title-game victory over Michigan, contributed 22 of the team’s first 26 points in what eventually became an 80-72 Villanova victory. In a road environment where even the best Villanova teams since the reformation of the Big East have either struggled or fallen, their experience appeared to coerce Butler into playing like the visiting team.