Unheralded and unranked entering the 2013-14 season, the Villanova Wildcats will enter the NCAA Tournament as the #2 seed in the loaded East region. Despite winning the Big East regular season championship and spending most of the season ranked inside the the Top 10 of both the AP and the Coaches poll, Jay Wright's team is flying mostly below the radar while sexier teams like the Michigan St. Spartans and Iowa St. Hawkeyes have gotten the media's stamp of approval heading into the first weekend of the tournament.
It has been a fantastic season on the Main Line that won't soon be forgotten. Let's reflect on the moment that changed the course of Villanova's season - Ryan Arcidiacono's game-winning three to down the Kansas Jayhawks in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Fans in and around 'Nova Nation knew that this year's team had a chance to be pretty good. More than likely, they were going to exceed the coaches' expectation of finishing 4th in the Big East. How they would stack up against the nation's elite was another story.
Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks are a powerhouse. There is no way around that. They win the Big 12 every year (it's now been 10 years since another program won the regular season title), they consistently put players in the NBA, and they always seem to find success in March.
Villanova wasn't given much of a chance prior to the game, despite an impressive start to the season. After suffocating the Jayhawks in the first half and leading for much of the game, Kansas staged a furious rally late in the contest, culminating in a Frank Mason and-1 layup with with just 33 seconds left.
Insert Ryan Arcidiacono, who already had developed a reputation as a player who thrived in the big moment. Despite having not hit a shot yet in the game, Jay Wright called his star sophomore's number. Arch ran off a double-screen set by Daniel Ochefu and Josh Hart, freeing himself in the near corner for a fadeaway three while Perry Ellis bore down on him.
Arcidiacono got the shot away, and drained it to restore a two-point lead for Villanova with 10 seconds to go. James Bell would ice the game with a pair of free throws, and Villanova garned it's biggest win of the year.
Confidence breeds excellence, which we saw time and time again from Villanova this season as they set record after record, be it with their dominance over the Philadelphia Big 5, or their record-setting win totals in both the Big East conference and regular season.
Without that early win, we might be looking at a much different Villanova squad, instead of the one preparing themselves for a run at the National Championship.