Villanova is back in the Elite 8.
Now this is an interesting piece for me to write on the day I decided to attend Saint Joseph’s University (a rival of Villanova) but I have to give this team credit. They have been dominant. And for the first time since 2009, this team is threatening to make it back to the Final Four.
After suffering an absolute heartbreaker of a loss to Seton Hall in the Big East championship, Villanova seemed very beatable. And after the past two seasons of second round losses, many people did not think much would change. This is just the same old Villanova team that would fold come March. So far, that has been far from the case.
To this point, Villanova has been the most dominant team of the tournament, winning all three of their games by over 20 points. Not bad for a team that had been questioned all season about how good they are. After tonight’s 23 point drubbing of Miami, Villanova has put the average fan on notice. These people are finally seeing why they were the Big East regular season champions again. People are seeing why they were ranked number one in the country for the first time in school history. This successful season has a lot to do with their senior leadership, and head coach Jay Wright.
When you talk about senior leaders, look no further than Ryan Arcidiacono. A four year starter for Jay Wright, the point guard from Neshaminy high school is the engine that makes this Wildcats team run. Arcidiacono has the ability to shoot the three, as well as get to the basket against anybody. He plays fundamentally sound and is always making the right decisions on offense. The best part about “arch’s” games is his defense and toughness. He sets the tone for an elite defensive squad by getting on the floor for every loose ball. This effort by arch is infectious as it gets the rest of his teammates to play with that same intensity. If you watched the game against Miami, you could see that Villanova was getting after every loose ball or second chance opportunity, simply outworking Miami. That is what you have to do when you don’t grow 5 star recruits on trees like a Kentucky or a Duke. You have to outwork people. That motto has been instilled in this Villanova team since day 1 by Jay Wright.
When Jay Wright took over the Villanova Wildcats in 2001, the school had only reached the NCAA tournament 4 times in the previous 9 seasons. Now they are a fixture in the big dance and have now reached the Elite 8 for the third time in ten seasons. All of the winning Wright has done in his tenure at Villanova has to do with him getting his team’s to defend. This season, Villanova ranked 16th in the country in points allowed. So far this tournament, the cats have not allowed a team to score 70 points. You will win a lot of games defending like that. You will also win a lot of games when you hit ten plus threes each game and shoot over 50 percent from beyond the arc for the tournament. They are also shooting a whopping 59.9 percent from the field for the tournament. That is the best by any team since 1994. This excellent shooting percentage is a product of the four out offense Jay Wright runs. You have your post presence in Daniel Ochefu and surround him with four very good shooters in Jalen Brunson, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, and “Big Smooth” Kris Jenkins.
The way this team has played the last three games, they can play with anyone in the country. Don’t be surprised if they are in the Final Four come Saturday night.