Nova’s last two title teams to settle score virtually

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For the past few years, members of Villanova’s 2016 and 2018 national championship teams have bickered about a hypothetical matchup: Which team would win if they faced one another on the hardwood?

On Monday, beginning at 7 p.m. ET, the teams will finally get their answer when players from both squads face off, albeit virtually, in a customized version of NBA2K on Twitch.

The event, which will be streamed as part of the World Showdown of Esports on Twitch and YouTube, will raise money for Philadelphia-based charity Philabundance, a hunger relief organization that aims to feed children who are missing meals now that schools are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve had some spirited arguments about which team would win if we went head-to-head,” event organizer and 2016 champion Kevin Rafferty said in a news release. “Now we’ll have an answer and help support a great cause in the process.”

According to players, the idea started when members of the 2018 squad claimed that their team, which finished 36-4 and beat every team in that year’s NCAA tournament by double digits, would clobber the 2016 Wildcats, who went 35-5 in a season punctuated by Kris Jenkins’ miracle buzzer-beater to defeat North Carolina in the national title game.

“We realized how big it could be with this debate being televised,” said Darryl Reynolds, who made 63 percent of his shots inside the arc as a member of the 2016 title team. “So then we said, all right, ‘How do we make sure we can help people with this?'”

Added Jenkins: “They were talking trash. They were talking crazy. They said they would smash us.”

Players from the 2018 championship squad assigned rankings to the 2016 championship squad and vice versa. Then they created each player for the matchup. Those who played for both teams got to choose the squad they’ll represent.

Donations have poured in for the event, including a $10,000 gift that arrived Monday afternoon.

Key members from both squads, such as New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart and Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, will participate.

“My matchup would be Mikal Bridges,” Hart said about the former Villanova star and current Phoenix Suns standout. “Mikal is a good defender but I’m [messing] Mikal up mentally and physically [if the 2016 team played the 2018 team in a real game]. I’m going to score and talk s—. I’m definitely walking out with 20, 25 points.”

Added Jenkins: “I like my matchups. I’d give them a lot. I’m at least at 20 points. That’s at least.”

While that debate will persist after the virtual matchup, all players agree that raising money for charity is the goal.

“We definitely want to win the game and show everyone that we’re the better team,” 2018 champion and current Golden State Warriors rookie Eric Paschall said in the release. “But more importantly, we want to raise as much money as we can to help hungry families and kids.”

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