When it comes to the subject of college basketball “royalty”, the most commonly named schools one may reference would probably consist of North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke…perhaps UCLA if it was 1972…the point is, Villanova would more than likely be further down on the list, if it was on the list at all. This is no longer the case. There is no more doubting the head coach. No more doubting the system or the culture or the core values in which they believe and religiously adhere to. There is no more doubting Villanova basketball.
By winning their second national championship in three years after overpowering the Michigan Wolverines on April 2nd at the Alamodome, the Villanova Wildcats have become the gold-standard in the college basketball world. They are the preeminent program in the country, and head coach Jay Wright has no intention of shutting down his well-oiled machine anytime soon. The Villanova Wildcats have indeed reached “royalty” status.
After cutting down the nets in 2016, more than a few doubters lingered, wondering if the title won on a buzzer-beater was more a fluke than a system of substance. Their performance during the 2017 season, however, from November through the title game on April 2nd, silenced the naysayers.
The Wildcats ran roughshod over the NCAA Tournament field, defeating each opponent that stood in their way by double-digits. They became the eighth program in the history of college basketball to win two titles in three years, and the first since the Florida Gators went back-to-back a decade ago. Jay Wright is now part of an elite fraternity of coaches with multiple NCAA championships that includes Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp, UCLA’s John Wooden, North Carolina’s Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. You could say worse company could be had.
The 70,000 fans inside San Antonio’s Alamodome on Saturday night were anticipating what most national semifinal games turn out to be – a back-and-forth, heavyweight clash between two blue-blood college basketball programs. What they witnessed instead was an offensive performance that reached a historic level of proficiency, turning the opposing team into nothing more than a fly on a windshield along the way.
The Villanova Wildcats drained 18 three-point baskets en-route to a 95-79 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks, setting a new NCAA record for made threes in a Final Four game. A little less than four minutes before halftime, the Wildcats tied the existing record after nailing their 13th trey, and 61 seconds into the second half, they broke it with their 14th. The only thing standing in the way now of a second national championship in three years for Jay Wright and Villanova are the 3rd-seeded Michigan Wolverines, whom they will face on Monday night.
Villanova showcased their seemingly limitless shooting range and machine-like offense early and often, stunning the Jayhawks by converting 6 of their first 10 attempts from beyond the arc, all accompanied by an assist, to take a 22-4 lead before the game was seven minutes old. National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson scored 13 points in the first half while Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall added eight points apiece, with Spellman also contributing nine rebounds.
As the second half began, Kansas applied pressure onto the perimeter more aggressively to try and slow down the long-range Wildcat onslaught. As soon as they did, however, ‘Nova recognized the gaps in the paint and began to drive the lane. During one stretch, the Jayhawks were down by 15 points, scored on five straight possessions, only to then find themselves down by 17. That, in a nutshell, is how the night went for Kansas.