How Villanova’s Modern Dominance Is Rooted In Old School Values

Jay Wright’s Villanova program is the most dominant NCAA hoops program with 134 wins over the last four seasons. In fact, with Sundays 71-59 win over Texas Tech in the Elite 8, the Wildcats (34-4) passed those legendary Duke teams from 1997-2001 for the most wins over a four-season span in the history of  Division -1 college hoops.

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(1) Villanova beats (3) Texas Tech, 71-59, to advance to the Final Four. It’s Villanova’s 134th win in the last 4 seasons, moving the Wildcats past 1997-2001 Duke for the most wins in a 4-year span in Division I history.

Next Saturday, Nova will play fellow No. 1 seed Kansas, which beat Duke 85-81 in overtime last night. They will join 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago along with No. 3 seed Michigan in the national semifinals in San Antonio.

What Wright and Nova have accomplished is remarkable considering that in the era of the one-and-done collegiate career, whereby 18-year-olds spend a year just chilling and auditioning for the NBA, Villanova, one of the last small Catholic schools (only 6,000 undergrads) to compete at the games highest level, continues to overachieve with scrappy, overlooked guys who stay in college more than one season. Wright continues to raise the profile of the school while preserving those principles instilled by the late Rollie Massimino back in the original Big East’s glory 80s.

He got to the Final Four in 2009 with scrappy but effective guard Scottie Reynolds.

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(2009) Scottie Reynolds sends Villanova to the Final Four with a game-winner against # 1 seed Pitt!

Nova rode the backcourt of underrated junior Josh Hart and senior Ryan Arcidiacono to the championship in 2016. Before that win revived the conference,  the Big East was plunging into mediocrity. Two years later, the backcourt of Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Donte DiVincenzo are the blood and guts guards who are the driving force behind Novas run to the fifth Final Four in school history.

The lone New Yorker on Novas squad, Eric Paschall had 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, Brunson scored 15, and DiVincenzo also had eight of the Wildcats’ season-high 51 rebounds against Texas Tech.

True to form, the Nova defense eventually wore out Texas Techs offense and hit some big threes to pull away.

“We knew they were a great 3-point shooting team and talented players, but we also knew how tough they were,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “We knew the identity of their team was the toughness and physicality, and that proved that.

Jalen Brunson, who has done nothing to hurt his National Player of the Year chances or his NBA lottery chances, has proven to be an elite guard whose multiplicity of skills has positioned him for some major money at the next level. While Brunson was highly recruited out of high school, he’s not an entitled superstar.

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Wildcats Elite 8 Jalen Brunson scores 27 points in Nova’s 90-78 win against West Virginia.

Brunson had to sit and watch other guys lead Nova to monumental victories and pay his dues before ascending to NBA Draft lottery status. His workmanlike personality, willingness to get dirty on defense and reserved leadership and humility fit in perfectly with Wright’s blue-collar attack.

Brunson is the head of the Nova snake and will have to be at his best to get past a talented Kansas squad and then win the schools second NCAA championship in three seasons and solidify Novas place as college basketballs most dominant program.

Its been awhile since a Big East school could claim such a title, but Novas success is also a win for those who believe that championship teams should be developed through players growing together and developing an unbreakable chemistry over several years time. The microwave championships, filled with freshman sensations that Coach K and John Calipari have become known for,  have become the exception rather than the norm through Nova’s success.

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Villanova back in #FinalFour and ready to let loose.

The Nova program is a place where the coach still coaches his teams to greatness and is doing more than managing egos. Its what college basketball should really be about; team development, players adapting their games to a philosophy of winning, sacrifice and teamwork.

As the sport suffers through another scandal involving the top one percent of student-athletes, unscrupulous recruiting practices and further disintegration of morals, there is a place where the old school process still works and one mans philosophy, integrity and commitment to team building, not talent snatching can make a difference.

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