PITTSBURGH — Mikal Bridges hit five 3-pointers, scored 23 points and helped No. 1 seed Villanova put the field on notice that it’s the team to beat with an 81-58 win over ninth-seeded Alabama on Saturday.

The Wildcats (32-4) are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since they won the 2016 national championship. Bridges, Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth look every bit the favorite to make it two titles in three years.

Villanova plays Friday in Boston against Marshall or West Virginia.

After a tense first half in a round that has given Villanova fits, the Wildcats hit their first six 3s in the second half and put on a thrashing up there among the most dominant under Coach Jay Wright.

Bridges, who averaged 17.9 points and has played his way into a likely NBA draft lottery pick, scored one point and missed all five of his shots from the field in the first half. against the Crimson Tide (20-16). He found his groove once the second half tipped, however. Bridges scored the first five points of the half and then finished a thunderous alley-oop on a pass from Booth that made it 41-27 and sent the Wildcats wildly waving their arms in celebration headed into a timeout.

MIDWEST REGION

DUKE 87, RHODE ISLAND 62: Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Marvin Bagley scored 22 points to go with nine rebounds, fellow freshman big man Wendell Carter Jr. added 13 points, and second-seeded Duke rolled past seventh-seeded Rhode Island in Pittsburgh to earn the program’s 26th trip to the Sweet 16.

Freshmen guards Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval combined for 29 points and 11 assists for the Blue Devils (28-7), who will play Michigan State or Syracuse in Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday. The victory gave Coach Mike Krzyzewski 1,098 wins during his Hall of Fame career, breaking a tie with Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt for the most ever by an NCAA basketball coach.

The Rams (26-8) and their senior-laden roster never threatened after the opening 10 minutes. E.C. Matthews led Rhode Island with 23 points.

KANSAS 83, SETON HALL 79: Malik Newman scored 28 points and No. 1 seed Kansas (29-7) held off eighth-seeded Seton Hall (22-11) at Wichita, Kansas, to reach their third consecutive Sweet 16.

Svi Mykhailiuk added 16 points and Lagerald Vick had 13 for the Jayhawks, who converted on every crucial play down the stretch.

They’ll take on the winner of Sunday’s game between Auburn and Clemson, in Omaha, Nebraska.

SOUTH REGION

KENTUCKY 97, BUFFALO 75: The fifth-seeded Wildcats (26-10) got 27 points and a near-perfect shooting game from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as they pulled away from 13th-seeded Buffalo (27-9) in Boise, Idaho.

Gilgeous-Alexander went 10 of 12 and made both of his 3-point attempts to send Kentucky to the Sweet 16.

It wasn’t a runaway until the last seven minutes.

LOYOLA (Ill.) 63, TENNESSEE 62: Clayton Custer’s jumper took a friendly bounce off the rim and in with 3.6 seconds left, and 11th-seeded Loyola (30-5) beat third-seeded Tennessee (26-7) at Dallas.

Custer’s winner came two days after Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beating 3 for Loyola against Miami, surely to the delight of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 98-year-old nun, team chaplain and primary booster watching from her wheelchair on a platform near the main TV cameras.

Loyola will play Cincinnati or Nevada in the regional semifinals Thursday.

WEST REGION

GONZAGA 90, OHIO STATE 84: Zach Norvell Jr. had 28 points, Rui Hachimura added 25 and fourth-seeded Gonzaga (32-4) is headed back into the Sweet 16 with a victory against fifth-seeded Ohio State (25-9) at Boise, Idaho.

Norvell hit the late tiebreaking 3-pointer against UNC-Greensboro in the opening round to help the Zags advance. He made 6 of 11 from the arc against Ohio State to lead Gonzaga into the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season – two wins from a return trip to the Final Four.