With the onslaught of celebrity passings and the most controversial presidential election in USA history, it’s safe to say many will be be overjoyed to finally flip the calendar to 2017.
The Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball team will respectfully disagree.
The defending national champions ended their calendar year this afternoon, capturing victory in a hard fought game over Creighton University, 80-70 over their former fellow undefeateds. One of three teams still loss-free, the Cats will end December much like they began April…top ranked.
Let’s take a look at Nova’s epic year by the numbers…
If this whole college basketball coaching thing doesn’t work out for Nova head honcho Jay Wright, then he could certainly join Derek Zoolander in the ranks of male modeling. For Nova’s championship showdown with North Carolina, Wright donned a $4,000 suit, capping off a stylish season both on the stat sheet and on the sidelines.
In 2016 alone, the Wildcats sank 360 3-point baskets. Since Wright’s takeover in the early 2000’s, Villanova and their guard-heavy offense has made a living of the basket worth an extra point, and it has worked very highly to their advantage in the year of dominance.
It has currently been 294 days since Villanova lost a game, back on March 12 to be exact. Despite their epic year, Nova did not even win their conference title, falling to Seton Hall in a Big East championship thriller at Madison Square Garden. Many felt it was precursor to a first weekend exit that Villanova subjected fans to over recent years, but the cast have not lost since.
The futility of Philadelphia sports has been long documented. Sure, the Phillies were able to end a long streak of trophy droughts with a World Series win in 2008, but the Flyers and 76ers, Villanova’s occasional co-tenants at Wells Fargo Center, have not tasted the sweet joy of championship, working on droughts of 40 and 33 respectively. The Cats were able to end that, but Well Fargo is not the only Philadelphia institution they’ve had dominion over. Stay tuned…
Villanova enters 2017 with a 14-0 mark, victorious in their first fortnight of competitions this season. Those W’s perfectly compliments the 24 that carry over from January through April, including the elusive six they earned in taking over the bracket last spring.
Nova made their fans sweat out the championships game, but their route to the final was one of the most dominant performances in NCAA history, with their margin of victory averaging 19 points per game. It’s not like the Cats were taking on any slouches either, with ranked teams Iowa, Miami, Kansas and Oklahoma all becoming victims of the Cats’ scratch to the title. The latter trio, as well as runner-up North Carolina, were all ranked in the AP Top 10.
Of course, Villanova is know for their exploits in the Big East conference, but they also partake in the in the local Philadelphia tradition that is Big 5 hoops, competing with St. Joseph’s, Penn, Temple and La Salle for local supremacy. The Cats have 18 consecutive wins against their Keystone State foes, and won their fourth consecutive Big Five title with another perfect slate against them this year. In a senior class that includes Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, that group will leave Nova with a perfect mark against such competition.
When North Carolina knotted things with that much time to go in regulation during the 2016 National Championship, it appeared we were headed for overtime in what was already a legendary showdown between the Wildcats and Tar Heels. But in those precious four-plus seconds, Nova changed the course of college basketball history, as Kris Jenkins sank the game winning basket for the victory. Appropriately, the basket was a three.
In 1990, defending champion UNLV completed the vaunted trifecta of winning a national title, losing three or less games, and entering the new calendar year ranked at the top of the AP poll. Duke managed to accomplish that feat twice since, in 1992 and 2001, but the Wildcats, who won their final test against a very good Creighton team this afternoon, will more than likely join those elite ranks.
And of course, 2016 featured the Cats capturing their first NCAA title since that magical 1985 season. With the victory over Creighton, talk is already burning across Pennsylvania about a repeat. If the Cats have any New Year’s Resolutions, one would certainly to add a “2” to next year’s list….
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490