Jay Wright is making his second appearance in the Final Four with the Villanova Wildcats. The last time the Wildcats made it to the Final Four came in 2009. It’s been seven long seasons since Villanova won the regional final, and their emotions were abundant in the aftermath of the Elite 8 win over Kansas. However, these Wildcats have unfinished business. Jay Wright has never made it to the championship game, losing his only Final Four contest to North Carolina.
Since their run to the 2009 Final Four, Villanova has finished in the Top 10 of the AP Top 25 Poll four times. Unfortunately, they weren‘t able to sustain a Sweet 16 run until this season. However, once they got through the first weekend, the Wildcats had plenty of confidence in their ability to reach Houston this year. Prior to that, there was a reason for some doubt this postseason.
In 2010, Villanova lost to St. Mary’s in the second round, finishing (1-1). Over the next three seasons, the Wildcats did not win an NCAA Tournament game. They lost to George Mason in 2011, then lost to North Carolina in 2013. Villanova didn’t make the tournament in 2012. The past two seasons, Connecticut and North Carolina State knocked out the Wildcats in second round play.
With a combined record of (62-8) the Wildcats were not living up to their stature in the NCAA Tournament. Therefore, plenty of skepticism surrounded the program during Brooklyn’s first two rounds. From the beginning, Villanova looked like one of the most impressive teams in the tournament. They finally backed up their gaudy record with stellar postseason play.
The Wildcats enter Final Four Saturday with a (33-5) record. As a team, they were ranked No. 1 for three weeks, but took a 23 point loss to Oklahoma earlier in the season. Both teams are playing the best ball of the season, so this should be one intriguing contest. The Wildcats won’t get complacent facing their second straight Big 12 team.
Overall, Wright has an (18-12) record in the NCAA Tournament. Two of those losses came when he led Hofstra to consecutive appearances in 2000-01. Wright became the head coach of Villanova in 2001, and has led the Wildcats to 11 NCAA Tournament bids in 15 seasons.
Four players average double figures for the Wildcats. Josh Hart leads the way with 15.3 points per game, while Kris Jenkins is second on the team at 13.5 points. Ryan Arcidiacono scores 12.3 points per game, and leads the team with 4.3 assists, while Daniel Ochefu contributes 10 points and 7.6 rebounds to lead Villanova. Freshman Jalen Brunson scores 9.8 points per game, giving the Wildcats a dual point guard look.
They also have plenty of bench production from three players. Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges combine to score over 12 points per game, and give the Wildcats a great defensive presence on the perimeter. Darryl Reynolds provides another post presence for the Wildcats.
South Region Recap
The Villanova Wildcats were a dominant force throughout the tournament. In the first round, they crushed North Carolina-Asheville, 86-56. With five players scoring double figures, the Wildcats finished the game with 21 assists. It was a total team effort, and a precursor of what was to come.
The second round match up against Iowa turned into a laugher early. The 87-68 win wasn’t indicative of how well Villanova played. As a team, they shot over 59 percent from the field, and made 10 of 19 3-pointers, while dishing out 23 more assists. The win pushed Villanova into their first Sweet 16 since reaching the Final Four seven years ago.
In round three, the Wildcats had a third straight dominating performance. Their 92-69 victory over Miami came as a surprise to many. Plenty of people predicted a close game, but the Wildcats made short work of the Hurricanes. They made 10 of 15 3-pointers, and only turned the ball over seven times. Overall, Villanova shot 62.7 percent in the game, continuing their impressive performance.
The Elite 8 match up could have been in the Final Four if not for Villanova’s loss in the Big East finale. Instead of playing an up tempo style, the Wildcats used their pressure defense to slow down the Kansas Jayhawks. They held Perry Ellis to four points in the 64-59 win.
Villanova can win in a myriad of ways as the tournament has shown. Now they have to slow down the best player in the country. Buddy Hield is coming off of a 37 point performance, and 8 3-point makes. Villanova held Kansas to six 3-pointers, so they must be up to the challenge this weekend.
The Villanova Wildcats defeated Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA Championship game.