Super-Nova; Why This Villanova Team Is Different
Coming soon to an SAT booklet near you, in the analogies section...
Villanova is to the NCAA Tournament as...the Bengals are to the NFL Playoffs.
The similarities between Nova and Cincy are rather striking, even well beyond the feline nicknames. Both are coached by a smart guy in his respective field, Jay Wright and Marvin Lewis respectively. Both also seem to look absolutely ferocious in the regular season. The Bengals have played beyond Week 17 for five consecutive years, and six out of the last seven, while Nova has been invited to the Big Dance for 10 of the past 11 seasons.
However, in the most heartbreaking comparison of all, each team is usually gone when their respective tournament reduce by more than half.
Since a magical Final Four trip in 2009, Villanova has failed to make it past...the Final 32. Only adding to the pain is the fact that over the past two seasons, Nova has owned a Top 2 seed, including last year's heartbreak, a Round of 32 loss to North Carolina State.
So you'll have to excuse the skeptics who aren't exactly taking Villanova's current #1 ranking in the nation all too seriously.
Look, we get it, this is college basketball. Only here could a team with "#1" next to its name go down so many times. And Villanova knows that better than anybody with the way they've suffered in March in recent years.
But now...for the first time, in what seems like forever for the Wildcats and their Philadelphia fanbase, hope reigns for the Cats in blue.
Villanova has more or less earned a reputation as a team that lives and dies by the three point basket. And, in the haters' defense, that's not exactly a notion that the Wildcats have done much to deny. Wright, known for mastering lineups that could feature as many as four guards, has gotten the most of his guys to improve on the 3 ball. When Wright gets new guards to work with, he molds them from the raw batches of wet clay into dependable shooters that can win Nova basketball games.
That's was different...nay the same...about Villanova. Too often during this stretch of futility, we have seen the Wildcats try to put the pressure solely on guys like Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard to win ball games single handedly. The names would change from game to game...one night it'd be the current Piston Hilliard, another night they'd have the transfer to Oregon Dylan Ennis step up...but Villanova was too often a one man show on a night to night basis.
Wright's finest work came during the 2000's, the heyday of which featured the famed four guard offense of Mike Nardi, Allen Ray, Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry (the latter two still play in the NBA). Nights in Philadelphia were a whirlwind of action, each of quartet working together. The trend continued in Villanova's Final Four trip, with Scottie Reynolds uniting with Dante Cunningham and two Coreys, Fisher and Stokes, to pace the Cats.
This season, Villanova has taken the teamwork and unity a step further.
Look no further than their recent win over Providence, which served as revenge for one of the Cats' trio of losses this year. Nova had not one, not two, but three players tally double-doubles. Certain teams are lucky to get 3 double-doubles in a month. Villanova notched that in a single game.
Different combinations of heroes arise every night. Arcidiacono, who has probably been in Nova since their magical 1985 title run, leads the way, assisted by the antics of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson. Furthermore, when the 3 point shooting goes blank, the Cats have a dominant force inside in Daniel Ochefu, who rose to the occasion when the Cats had a little trouble with St. John's.
So doubt the Wildcats all you want. Call their #1 ranking a sham, a setup to further March heartbreak. But as they keep winning via the power of distribution and variety...perhaps in the #1 ranking, Villanova can achieve their biggest up since April Fools Day '85.
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