This isn’t Villanova day, but there are two glowing articles about them that are worth pointing out.
First, Dick Jerardi, who is actually shockingly fair to Nova:
So, after review and given that national title last April, I think it is pretty clear that Jay Wright’s teams are the midst of the greatest run in the history of Philadelphia college basketball. If, by some chance, these Wildcats can win a second consecutive national title this April, it will then become one of the greatest runs in college basketball history.
The last Catholic school to win the national championship before Villanova in 2016 was Villanova in 1985. The last Catholic school to make the Final Four before Villanova in 2016 was Villanova in 2009.
Villanova has beaten the football cash odds soundly. What has happened on the Main Line is a tribute to the head coach’s vision he was able to sell to his administration and to his mastery of the modern game. It is absolutely a tribute to players whose skill is topped only by their will.
Beyond the winning, it is impossible not to enjoy watching these Wildcats play the game. They are in it for the right reasons and, yes, they play it the right way.
I talked about this with Jay Wright on the podcast a few years ago (I love writing that sentence more than you know). About five or six years ago, just before the Big East broke up, there was fear among Nova fans that they would be left on the outside looking in and could wind up as part of a non-football Catholic Conference with schools such as St. Joe’s, St. Bonaventure, St. John’s, Georgetown, Providence, Xavier, Creighton, Notre Dame and Marquette. In a way, that’s what happened – without St. Joe’s and Notre Dame – but it’s turned out to be a good thing for all involved, especially Villanova. They got to keep the name the Big East – a big deal – keep their conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, and a national TV deal with FOX. Those things matter to high school kids– getting to play at MSG and on national TV. Villanova has become the big dog in the league, making them FOX’s de facto college basketball team much the same way Duke was ESPN’s in the 90s. It doesn’t have the same impact today, partly because of the number of cable options people have and cord cutting itself, but it doesn’t hurt to have a major network pushing you on all their platforms, including this year their five scheduled games on FOX proper. When you’re trying to sell a small, Catholic school without a real basketball arena to high school kids, it helps to be able to tell them they’ll play 5-8 game per year in the Wells Fargo Center and Madison Square Garden, be on national TV every week, and get to play for the favored program of a major network. If anything, the breakup of the Big East has actually helped Villanova.
Now, the New York Times:
Coach Jay Wright acknowledged that if he had been the one who had made what has become known as The Shot, he would have “definitely” talked about it — and talked about it a lot. That may be why he reminded the Wildcats — before they had even left their locker room on the night The Shot went in — that the revelry would have an expiration date.
After the celebration at the final in April had ended, after every cord of the nets had been snipped off, and just after the team prayer, Wright gathered his players around him as the last rectangles of confetti were being swept from the court. As the players stood in a circle, holding hands, he said there was much more to do, in basketball and in life.
“We’re going to celebrate for a long time, and you deserve that,” he told them. “But don’t let this define you.”
Afterward, he made a point of taking Jenkins aside. “This is going to be great because people are going to be talking about this moment for your whole life,” Wright said he told his star. “But if that’s always in your head, you’re never going to be getting better.”
Jenkins, 23, took that advice. He went back to campus just like any other student — albeit one who was regularly stopped for high-fives, photos and autographs. He and the team met with President Obama at the White House, where the president called Jenkins by his nickname, the Big Smooth. Sports stars like Jalen Rose and celebrities like Kevin Hart mentioned him and The Shot on social media.
And what did Jenkins do? With his senior season and a possible N.B.A. career ahead of him, he set to work. The motto for this season’s Villanova team — which improved to 12-0 with a 90-48 home victory over American University on Wednesday and is ranked No. 1 — is “humble and hungry,” and Jenkins has been the poster child for it.