Editors Note: Ed has undertaken the writing of a series of posts that harken back to the great memories of 1985, recounting Villanova's march to the NCAA basketball national championship 27 years ago. The posts will be released to coincide with each round of this year's NCAA tournament.
March 10, 1985, Villanova, PA
Eight days had passed since the low-point of Villanova’s ’84-’85 season. Back on March 2, Villanova rode a three-game winning streak into Pittsburgh to face the Panthers in the final game of the Big East regular season, playing before a national television audience on CBS. A win would lock-up third place for Villanova in the Big East Conference standings, giving the Cats 20 wins and assuring them of a NCAA bid. Instead, they were thrashed by Pittsburgh and their NCAA hopes would be in doubt. Trailing by 17 points at halftime, Rollie was livid that his team was not playing hard. In the locker room at half time, he told his starters in no uncertain teams that they had the first three minutes of the second half to show some desire and commitment. Otherwise he would yank them all. It turns out that Rollie lied; he pulled them out after two minutes of continued lackluster play, finishing the final 18 minutes of the game with the likes of R.C. Massimino, Steve Pinone, Chuck Everson, Connnally Brown, Veltra Dawson, and Brian Harrington. The contest came to a merciful end with ‘Nova losing 62-85. Ed Pinckney finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds.
Villanova earned some redemption in the Big East Tournament, drawing a rematch against Pittsburgh in the first round on March 7. Villanova played under intense pressure in the opening minutes, as Pitt jumped to a 14-7 lead. However, Ed Pinckney sparked a turn of events catching up with Pitt’s Joey David on a break away, emphatically swatting away a certain layup. That energized the Cats and the 19,000 fans that filled the Garden. The Cats went on to prevail in thrilling game, winning 69-61 behind 19 points each from Dwayne McClain and Harold Pressley, and a combined 22 rebounds from Pressley and Ed Pinckney. The Cats next drew Chris Mullin’s St. John’s Redmen (1985 preceded the days of political correctness), holders of the #1 ranking for four weeks during the regular season, in the second round on March 8. The Cats played St. John’s tough, getting 27 points from Ed Pinckney, but it was not enough. The Johnnies had five players in double figures in a 89-74 victory over the Cats.
On March 10, Rollie Massimino hosted the players for a dinner of cold cuts and soda while they watched the CBS Selection Sunday show. As Gary Bender read the names of the 64 teams selected for tournament play, the Cats finally heard their name called as the #8 seed in the Southeast Region. The team erupted with joy in an emotional outburst that had been building since the March 2 loss to Pitt. Elated simply to make the tournament, and the players seem unconcerned about the gauntlet that lay ahead, including an opening round game against 19-9 Dayton on their home court, and a near-certain match with #2 Michigan if they were lucky enough to reach the second round.