The post on Saturday which showed Jay Wright on the verge of tears talking about how much he loves his team received a predictable series of comments about why Villanova sucks, why they’ll get bounced early in the tournament, why they don’t deserve a one seed, why Jay Wright is a douchebag, why Nova people are douchebags, why the Big East sucks, etc. For some reason, Philly people who went to schools other than Villanova can’t objectively watch or discuss Villanova’s basketball team because they don’t like the fact that Villanova students are generally wealthier than the students and alumni from other city schools (for some reason, Penn is immune to this argument). Or because they don’t like what Rollie Massimino did 30 years ago. Or because they think Jay Wright, who’s had arguably more success in 13 years at Villanova than John Chaney had in 24 years at Temple, can’t coach. Or because the Big East is now a supposedly terrible conference because it lost some of its bigger schools (for some reason, St. Joe’s going undefeated in 2004 didn’t receive the same sort of scrutiny, locally).
I can’t possibly change the perception of Villanova, its students and alumni. I went there and can say that there’s merit to some of it. There are a lot of snobby douchebags. I imagine most expensive private colleges have the same problem. But how any of that relates to Villanova’s basketball team is beyond me. The players hail mostly from the same inner city schools as the players on St. Joe’s, Temple and La Salle. But of course when Villanova has the one-off white guy, like Ryan Arcidiacono or Mike Nardi, he becomes a symbol of Nova’s preppiness in the eyes of many Philly folks (for some reason, Juan Fernandez and Pat Carroll weren’t viewed the same way).
And then there’s Wright. While he may be out of central casting for “Villanova’s coach,” you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone, from anywhere in the city, who can say anything bad about him. Wright, who grew up in Bucks County, has done nothing but embrace the Big 5 and its legacy in Philly (admittedly, the same can’t be said for his predecessors). Besides that one time John Chaney wanted to fight him for rescheduling a game, you won’t find another Big 5 coach who has a problem with him. Hell, beloved-in-Philly Fran Dunphy, WHO WENT TO MALVERN PREP AND LIVES IN VILLANOVA, has been a guest on Jay’s radio show multiple times. Meanwhile, even the most ardent St. Joe’s fan will admit that Phil Martelli can be a pompous blowhard at times, and I’m guessing Temple folks aren’t exactly thrilled with Dunphy’s inability to coach his way out of the opening weekend. Yet it’s Wright who still receives a majority of Philly’s misplaced ire or isn’t given the credit he’s due. “He can only recruit and can’t coach,” but he’s been to two Sweet 16s, an Elite 8 and a Final Four in 13 years at Nova with only a handful of NBA players (and only one who has really amounted to anything– Kyle Lowry). For real, what is your problem with Jay Wright? He’s better looking than you? Has more money? What is it, Scoob?
All that nonsense aside, many still aren’t sold on Villanova and their prospects for a one seed. Someone asked what my rationale was for saying that they’re “goddamn good.” This is my rationale: They’re 28-3. They beat Kansas and Iowa and won their preseason tournament. They lost on the road at Syracuse and to a team that obviously has their number– Creighton. They crushed the rest of their opponents. Great ones? No. Mid majors? Not even close. Many are still NCAA Tournament caliber teams. People forget that rolling a relatively easy conference has worked out just fine for Gonzaga, Memphis and Butler in recent years. And did Philly folks say the same things about St. Joe’s when they rolled the hilarious A-10 in 2004? A little bit, but not as much. Plus, if you watch Nova play, you’d realize that they are easily the most well-rounded and probably best defensive team Jay’s ever coached. They’re scoring is insanely balanced (three players average 14 points per game). They move the ball as good as any team in the country. Their defense creates havoc (only one opponent in the last five games has broken 60 points) and is reminiscent of the team defense that crushed UCLA and Duke en route to the Final Four in 2009. And that supposedly terrible schedule? It was the 18th toughest in the country, according to RealTimeRPI.com. Did they play the UCONNs, Louisvilles and Syracuses of the world on a weekly basis? No. But while it may not be the old Big East, a conference with five 20-win teams and mediocre teams named Georgetown and Marquette isn’t exactly the Big Sky. And all Villanova did was go 16-2 against those given opponents. Yet, for some reason, people still aren’t sold.
Cue the hatred.
UPDATE: Villanova will finish the regular season ranked third:
The No. 3 ranking of @NovaMBB is the highest for the Wildcats in 2013-14. Last time VU was ranked as high was Feb. 15, 2010.
— Mike Sheridan (@sheridanmj4) March 10, 2014