clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NCAA Tournament 2016: Villanova coach Jay Wright looking forward to the new challenge

New, 45 comments

Wright and company are not too upset with losing out on the 1-seed

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Following a loss to the Seton Hall Pirates in the Big East Tournament Championship, the Selection Committee deemed Villanova unfit for what many hoped to be a 1-seed in the East Region. Fans were eager to see their Wildcats in Brooklyn for the first two rounds, then go to the Wells Fargo Center to hopefully see a trip to the Final Four.

They still get Brooklyn, but it's a 2-seed in the South for the `Cats.

"We had our chance at that" Wright said on the hopes of getting a 1-seed and playing close to home. "We would've had to win the game last night, and we didn't do it. And now we have to move on." He added that it was "fair" and he "has confidence they'd be there" had they completed the comeback vs. the Pirates.

No matter, Jay says their approach is "business as usual." He added that March Madness helps teams get over losses like that very quickly. "It's a new season, it really is."

Interestingly, Wright added that while they would have "loved to be in Philly" he looked at the negatives of being so close to the home crowd. "We've done that before, and there are a lot of distractions. It is almost overwhelming, but when the game starts it's an advantage." He went back to the negatives of playing in a neutral site no matter how close to the university; "You can get that in Brooklyn, being a two seed, if you play an underdog the place can turn on you. You deal with the challenges of playing in either spot."

But Jay knows having a homecourt advantage trumps everything else. "We have a lot of fans in New York, so we always get the most fans when we play there." He also added how he likes the Marriot being so conveniently close to the stadium, but I'm guessing it's more to do with their continental breakfast or swimming pool, or something along those lines.

`Nova's recent NCAA Tournament history is something that has followed them all season. As you are aware, Villanova has not made it to the second weekend of the tournament since their Final Four run in 2009. Looking at any tweet about Villanova on major accounts like ESPN or Jon Rothstein you don't have to scroll down very far to see something about how they'll just be bounced in the first weekend as usual. Wright pointed out that "players and coaches have heard it all year. It's been a challenge for our players when people would say 'well this really doesn't matter anyway, you have to make it past the second round.'" While dealing with the pressure, Coach praised his team for how they handled it. "The closer we get to it, we don't have to answer it because it's here. People would talk about it, but we couldn't do anything about it. We had to get to the tournament."

It's uplifting to hear Wright wanting to tackle the pressure now, knowing this is the time to prove them all wrong.

That being said, it's hard to ignore the constant calls and reminders of early tournament woes. "I definitely feel the pressure," Jay admitted when asked about the early weekend exits for the fifth time in ten minutes. "But personally I feel my responsibility is to get these guys ready to play and the best chance to win the First Round game. And if we win, get them ready again."

"We can't let the pressure of that second game affect us in the first game. And if we win, it's going to be a challenge because you'll have to deal with the pressure of that second game. There are lots of pressures that come, and that'll be one of them."

But Jay is confident his team will power through and block out the noise. "I think they have their own competitive desire to get there. I think their drive than the pressure. They want to get there."

Being less than 24 hours after the Big East Tournament, Wright commented on how the team was "emotionally banged up, but will get back out again tomorrow." In terms of the performance in that game, he pointed out how SHU is a "very physical, athletic team" and that those are the types of teams "we have struggled with. Very similar to the NC State game." He added that Iowa is similar to that too, the team Villanova would be playing if that pod follows chalk. How comforting.

Wright is aware that UNC-Asheville will watch film of that Seton Hall game, and everyone who will eventually play Villanova will watch it as well.

Jay spoke a bit on the status of Daniel Ochefu and getting him back: "If we can use this week to get him healthy, I think that will be really important for us. That's gonna be a focus with him, to make sure when we play he's 100%." He couldn't praise him enough when explaining Chef's importance to the team. "He is the anchor for our defense, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. He's talking all the time. You could see last night how he got us going and brought us energy defensively. He's so intelligent defensively." When you have a presence like that down low, he acts both as a rim protector and someone who allows your defense to pressure out. With Ochefu in the paint, teams are less likely to decide to drive to the basket. Wright adds that his presence makes the Wildcats more aggressive on D.

But as we have seen all year, he's such a weapon offensively too. "We saw in the Providence game how important it is to have someone to feed down low. The teams in the tournament are all great, you need someone like him out there."

Daniel himself added that playing on Friday is a bonus for the extra day off. As you see here, he's putting lots of weight on that right ankle as he spoke to the crowd of students and alumni, so it looks like being 100% on Friday is very likely.

Wright's schedule is to go "real easy on everybody tomorrow" which further shows how important the Friday game is for the team to rest up.

While the pressure around the team builds up around the post season, Jay knows his players accept it with open arms. "That is exactly why they come here. They watch the seeds, they remember that '09 team. They don't know '85, but they still know '09. They want that."