Remembering Villanova's 1985 Championship: Cats Upset Michigan to Advance to Sweet 16

Dayton, OH, Sunday, March 17

Pressley vs. Tarpley

Other teams might have been in a panic drawing #1 seed Michigan in the second round with only 48 hours to prepare. However, these Cats were battle tested despite their #8 seeding, with the experience of regular season games against Georgetown and St. Johns, both of which were ranked #1 at different points in the season. In fact, five of ‘Nova’s ten losses during the season had come at the hands of teams ranked #1 or #2.

Michigan entered the second round boasting a #2 AP ranking and riding a 17-game winning streak.

The master of game strategy, Rollie came up with the perfect plan against the high-flying Wolverines and his Cats executed well, slowing the pace and keeping Michigan out of its rhythm. Dwayne "D-Train" McClain "was running at full speed and Cinderella-in-the-making Villanova was happy to ride him into the Sweet 16," with a thrilling 59-55 victory. (1)

Michigan’s strategy was to stop Pinckney, double-teaming him whenever he got the ball. That freed-up D-Train, who took full advantage. Despite the attention, Pickney played Michigan's 6-10 Roy Tarpley to a draw, with both stars getting 14 points.

"Dwayne "D-Train" McClain made 8 of 12 shots for a game-high 20 points and proved to be a key difference as the Wildcats shocked the Big Ten champs, ending the Wolverines’ 17-game winning streak. "I was looking for my shot today more than the other night (first-round win over Dayton)," said McClain, who actually finished the Dayton game on a roll with 11 second-half points. "They were packing it in on Ed (Pinckney) and that was the shot they were giving us." (1)

"Perhaps an even bigger factor than McClain was Villanova’s experience. The Wildcats, who started three seniors, kept their poise when they endured an 11-and-a-half minute stretch from late in the opening half until well into the second when no one, not even McClain, could find the basket. As a result of that epic field goal drought, ‘Nova saw a six-point lead turn into a 35-30 deficit. Michigan failed to capitalize on its chance to blow out the Wildcats largely because offensive stars Roy Tarpley (only 2 of his 14 points in the second half) and Gary Grant (zero points for the game) were ice cold, too." (1)

"I think their experience, six straight years in the tournament, helped," Wolverines coach Bill Frieder opined. "Veteran clubs are the ones that survive." (1)

"Villanova heated up again and, after a McClain jumper, held a 46-43 lead with four minutes remaining. The Cats’ poise came through as they took advantage of the lack of a shot clock, expertly holding the ball and, when fouled, calmly draining free throw after free throw (25 of 31 for the game, including 14 of 16 down the stretch)." (1)

"If nobody else was convinced that the Wildcats were in the midst of something special, McClain sure was. "We didn’t come into this game thinking we were underdogs," he said. "When you reach this point in the tournament, you have to believe you can play with anybody." (1)

Ed Pinckney would later write in Tales from the Villanova Hardwood, "Everyone on the team knew we’d beat Michigan. We kept telling each other, "We play Georgetown and St. Johns. They don’t." The guys on Michigan were mostly freshman and sophomores. Our guys – particularly the seniors – were indignant about that – that they were so young and favored over a veteran team like ours. Michigan was athletic. Thy wanted to play a fast-paced game. But we were feeling like, "You guys are the underclassmen. We’re not going to let you dictate the pace of this game." We didn’t feel they could apply the kind of pressure Georgetown does. We were determined to execute properly and we did. That game was almost fun. We were confident. We didn’t feel pressure at all."

With the win, Villanova reached the Sweet 16, drawing #5 seed Maryland in the third round. Maryland had defeated David Robinson’s Navy team reach the Sweet 16 behind 20 points from Len Bias. Robinson scored 22 for Navy.

In other second round games of note, #1 seed Georgetown destroyed #8 seed Temple 63-46 with four starters scoring in double figures for the Hoyas. #2 seed Georgia Tech defeated #7 seed Syracuse 70-53 with four players in double figures including 13 from John Sally. Syracuse stars Ronny Seikaly and Dwayne Washington were held to 8 and 7 points, respectively. #1 seed St. John’s narrowly defeated #9 seed Arkansas 68-65 behind 26 points from Chris Mullen. Arkansas was led by Joe Kleine with 23 points in the loss. #2 seed North Carolina defeated #7 seed Notre Dame behind 18 points from Brad Dougherty. #11 Boston College upset #3 Duke in a thriller 74-73 after Duke star, Johnny Dawkins (18 points) missed the front end of two 1-and-1s in the final minute. Michael Adams finished with 19 for Boston College. Tommy Amaker and Jay Bilas finished with 19 and 15, respectively, for Duke. #2 Memphis State defeated #7 Alabama Birmingham in OT, 67-66. Andre Turner scored 23 for Memphis.

VILLANOVA WILDCATS

MIN

FGM-A

FTM-A

OFF

REB

AST

PF

PTS

Ed Pinckney

40

2-4

10-11

-

7

1

2

14

Mark Plansky

9

1-1

2-2

-

1

1

1

4

Harold Pressley

34

3-10

3-5

-

7

2

3

9

Dwight Wilbur

15

0-2

0-0

-

0

1

1

0

Dwayne McClain

36

8-12

4-4

-

4

1

2

20

MIN

FGM-A

FTM-A

OFF

REB

AST

PF

PTS

Chuck Everson

2

0-0

0-0

-

0

0

0

0

Harold Jensen

27

0-1

3-4

-

2

1

0

3

Gary McLain

37

3-5

3-5

-

0

3

2

9

TOTALS

FGM-A

FTM-A

OFF

REB

AST

PF

PTS

17-35

25-31

-

21

10

11

59

MICHIGANWOLVERINES

MIN

FGM-A

FTM-A

OFF

REB

AST

PF

PTS

Roy Tarpley

40

7-14

0-0

-

13

1

1

14

Garde Thompson

18

3-5

2-3

-

1

2

2

8

Richard Rellford

28

5-7

1-2

-

2

0

4

11

Butch Wade

25

0-1

0-0

-

8

3

3

0

Leslie Rockymore

11

3-4

0-0

-

1

1

2

6

MIN

FGM-A

FTM-A

OFF

REB

AST

PF

PTS

Antoine Joubert

30

6-13

0-0

-

1

3

5

12

Robert Henderson

15

2-3

0-0

-

2

1

1

4

Gary Grant

33

0-4

0-0

-

0

1

5

0

TOTALS

FGM-A

FTM-A

OFF

REB

AST

PF

PTS

26-51

3-5

-

28

12

23

55

(1) Source: John Schaefer’s The Villanova Miracle and 63 Other Dreams

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