There’s one easy way for No. 2 seed Villanova to avoid looking past No. 15 Milwaukee in its NCAA East region game Thursday night in Buffalo.
“Seton Hall,” Darrun Hilliard said. “That’s how we avoid it.”
Seton Hall, which had won just six of its previous 18 games, upset Villanova 64-63 last Thursday in a Big East tournament quarterfinal game in New York.
It was a humbling loss for the Wildcats, who were ranked No. 3 in the last AP poll and would have locked up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with three wins at the Garden. They didn’t get any.
“I’m not going to say we looked past Seton Hall, but they came here to play and we didn’t in the first half, and we’ll learn from that,” Hilliard said. “We’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Milwaukee is 21-9 overall after going 7-9 in the Horizon League and then winning the conference tournament. The Panthers rank 132nd in RPI. They were 2-4 vs. top-100 RPI teams, with both wins coming over No. 57 Green Bay.
Villanova is a 16½-point favorite Thursday night. Seven 15-seeds have defeated 2-seeds in tournament history, three of them in the last two years -- Norfolk State over Missouri and Lehigh over Duke in 2012 and Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown last year.
The game will begin at approximately 9:25 p.m., soon after the St. Joe’s-UConn game on the same floor.
“Milwaukee is a very solid team, they won a lot of their road games and their conference tournament, it’s going to be a difficult game,” Villanova center Daniel Ochefu said.
“They’re a mid-major but they’re one of the best mid-majors in the country. They play hard, they have a bunch of seniors, and they’re all really experienced.”
The Seton Hall game was Villanova’s only lapse this year. Its three other losses were all to top-20 teams -- Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and Creighton twice.
“On any given day, like in the Big East tournament,” JayVaughn Pinkston said. “We’ve just got to come out ready to play. Just don’t take anyone lightly. You can get beat on any given day.”
This is Villanova’s 34th trip to the NCAA tournament and ninth in the last 10 years under coach Jay Wright, who is 12-8 in NCAA tournament play.
In a 2-15 game in 2010, Villanova struggled before beating Robert Morris in overtime in Providence.
“It doesn’t really matter if we’re a 2 or they’re a 15,” Ryan Arcidiacono said. “There’s no seeds when you’re out there playing. They’re a good team. It’ll be interesting.”
Moments after the Seton Hall loss, Wright and his players all promised they would use the loss as motivation to make sure they didn’t come out flat again.
“I think our guys are pretty confident,” Wright said. “They realized they can get beat, and I think it’s a little easier because of that. I would have rather have won all the games up there, but we’ll take it. Showing them film, I can tell they realize anybody can beat us.”
Villanova hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2010 and that Robert Morris game. They lost to St. Mary’s in the Round of 32 two days later, lost to George Mason in Cleveland in their first game in 2011, missed the tournament in 2012 and lost to North Carolina in Kansas City in their first game last year.
Villanova trailed UNC by 20 last year before rallying and actually briefly taking the lead before losing by seven.
Hilliard said that experience was big for Villanova, which returned four of five starters from last year.
“A lot of our guys were there last year and played against Carolina and came back from a 20-point deficit,” Hilliard said.
“It’s going to be a great experience. We’re a lot hungrier from the Seton Hall loss. We know Milwaukee’s a great team, we’ve just got to come out and play.”