Villanova is 11-0 and the 8th Ranked Team in the Country

Photo: Villanova Basketball (we capitalize that B)

Photo: Villanova Basketball (we capitalize that B)

Dana O’Neil, who used to cover Villanova for the Daily News, wrote an outstanding (but I’m biased) in-depth piece on Jay Wright and the 11-0 Wildcats today:

Villanova is, in fact, back — back in the top 25 and back to national relevance after a four-year run of quick NCAA exits and one sub-.500 season. The Wildcats are a surprising 11-0, with wins over Kansas and Iowa. And they stand No. 8 in the country and tops in the retro new Big East.

The national media is starting to poke around and, more telling, the Philadelphia newspapers and radio shows are sacrificing a page or some air time from round-the-clock Eagles coverage to make room for the Wildcats. On the surface, everything looks pretty much the same as it did a few years back, when Villanova lived in the top 25 and was a solid bet for a deep NCAA run.

The results, though, are the only similarity.

Dig a little, study the roster, talk to the players and, most of all, talk to Wright and you will discover a man and a program that has changed significantly. The team on the court is more than just a simple return to the program’s roots; it’s the result of a philosophical shift that came via the hard-earned route of sudden success turned into sudden failure.

Yum.

Here’s the thing that’s not talked about in the article: Wright’s best teams at Nova haven’t used his small-guard-heavy lineup. His best teams have had size. I’d argue the 2005 team – which lost to North Carolina in the Sweet 16 thanks partly to a horrible traveling call on Allan Ray – was better than the team that was ranked in the Top 5 and lost to Florida in the Elite Eight the following year. The 2005 team had a healthy Curtis Sumpter for most the season– he made the Wildcats both more versatile on offense and stronger on defense. The four-guard lineup was successful for much of the following season, but it caught up with them at the end against much bigger and more athletic Florida.

In 2009, when they went to the Final Four (I get erect writing that sentence), they had Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark – long and lanky defenders – as well as Corey Stokes. Collectively, they were able to shut down other teams, Duke and UCLA specifically.

This year? Their top five leading scorers are all listed at 6’3 or above, with only one below 6’5 (Arcidiacono). That means they can shoot over people and score in the paint, and have big players on the floor playing tremendous defense.

Wright gets a lot of credit for his unique guard play, but it’s when he has size on defense that he’s at his best.

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10 Comments

  • SH December 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    your surveys are getting longer and more annoying.

    • NoScript December 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      NoScript plugin + Firefox or Chrome = no more of Kyle’s survey BS. You’re welcome, Merry Christmas!

  • Catch a damned pass December 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I have no evidence or idea of who is on the team, but I bet their collective GPA is not 8th in the country.

  • Sarah Lockard December 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    ‘Nova Nation!!! Mainline represent! I traded 5 Instagram pics for two tickets to the game!!!

  • Sumpter's Pumper December 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I stay rockin that #34 every year….big time game 12/28 @ Cuse. Better beat them punks and move on up!!! Much love for Jay Wright – fun program to watch every year.

    P.S. Sarah L sounds fun.

  • Sarah Lockard December 24, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Sumpter’s Pumper- I am fun!!!! And an awesome Lockard!!!!!!!

  • More t-shirts December 24, 2013 at 10:14 am

    More t-shirts coming!

    Buy your block print 11-0 / #8 t-shirts now. Nobody knows what it will mean, but who cares. Easy money for Kyle the douche.

  • Nick December 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Nice to see Nova getting some national press. Cuse and Butler in Indy to kick off Big East schedule will be another test for the Cats.

  • EB. December 25, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    J pink is a beast.   Better post moves/hook than dante cunningham (love him) and deeper range.  can score in bunches and pass the ball.  Must Stay focused. 

    Ochefu still so raw, but so much heart.  Swatting on D.  Needs to learn to dunk w 2 hands on peeps faces and he’ll be a monster.    Really root for danny.   

    Colonel Archie hasn’t been en fuego (yet).   Perma-green light from jay to pull trigger and he should.   Better pure handle than scottie or corey poss?   Good passer.   So fun

    James bell embodies the 4yr nova guard as others before him.  Skills and tick both increase year to year.   Wisdom.  Tenancity.  Shot that’s falling.   Stays positive.  

    Hilliard.  All of the sudden.. A pro prospect perchance?   Putting together game at both ends.   Scores in several ways.    Attacks you like a wildcat on the mean streets of Sping Mill Rd.

    Josh hart.  Rook has been fire.  Showing lots of athleticism and talent. Jumpers and jams.    

    Tony tone-  philly guard.  Tone setter.   Pushes the ball.   Can get to the rack. 

    Ennis/Jenkins-  keep learning. Keep improving.  Be aggressive

    Love the squad this year. Such a fun group. Lets dominate

  • Senior Citizens Bank Park December 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Have not been out to the Pavillion in years. Did they get the stench that Rollie left out of the building? God, he made Tarkanian look like a choir boy at UNLV.

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