Reigning NCAA champions. 14-0 start with road wins over Purdue and Creighton. National Player of the Year frontrunner on their roster. Number one team in the country. No talk about them. This is VIllanova. Listen, full-fledged I have been a huge Nova supporter over the last few years. Despite their poor tournament history, I picked them to win the title in 2015. After losing in the second round, nobody was on them for the 2016 tourney. Yet, somehow I could not go against Ryan Arcidiacono and the boys, and I picked them to finish runners-up last year. After their unbelievably impressive run for the title last season, they entered 2016-17 under the radar. While, Duke and Kentucky got all the headlines, Jay Wright’s crew kept working. Even now, after an undefeated start, Grayson Allen and Duke, and Lonzo Ball’s UCLA team have stolen all the attention. I am writing this a few hours before the Wildcats face another massive test, as they must go on the road to take on the Butler Bulldogs. Therefore, I am writing this a few days after Nova defeated Creighton in a battle of undefeateds. In my eyes, that win is right up there with UCLA at UK, for the best win of the season. If you do not know, Creighton is legit with a lineup consisting of studs like Maurice Watson, Marcus Foster, Cole Huff, and Justin Patton. They also just so happen to have one of the biggest home-court advantages in the country. In the matchup, the Blue Jays played very well, taking a big lead early and applying pressure on the champs the entire game. Yet, Villanova absorbed every blow, and were the far superior team during crunch time. Not only did Josh Hart make big plays, but the young Jalen Brunson came up huge with clutch shot after shot. The one word to describe Jay Wright’s bunch is; composed. They never get sped up, or stray from their gameplan. Their squad is filled with guys that love to compete, and have tremendous mental makeup.
Everybody plays a role. While Josh Hart is a star at the college level, his defense and effort sets the tone for the rest of his teammates. He is “Mr. Do-Everything”, and his leading partner is Kris “Big Smoove” Jenkins, who is an elite shooter. Brunson is a smart PG that can score, Darryl Reynolds is a glue-guy inside, Donte Divincenzo is a good defender, Phil Booth provides a scoring punch, and Eric Paschall has a really unique skillset for an undersized big man. All together they have a perfect, and very rare combination of elite shooting, defense and effort. I do not think people understand that this is a legitimately great college basketball team.
Speaking of things that people might not realize; Villanova has had one of the best years (2016) out of any NCAAM team ever. To make it even more impressive is the fact that Nova is a small catholic, elite academic school on the east coast. They recruit well, but certainly not to the level of a Duke or Kentucky. Such a phenomenal program has been established outside of Philly, that it is a shock when a player they bring in does not fit the system, or contribute at some point. This program’s accomplishments in recent times have been unbelievable and nearly unprecedented. And guess what? They are not done yet.