I take a quote from a great musician of our time, Drake:
"Started from the bottom, now we're here."
For longtime Villanova Wildcats fans, winning a championship is so much sweeter after having to suffer through heartbreaking losses over the past 31 years. This is true with any sport- you see your team have lots of success through a season and think, "Wow, this might be the year." And more often than not, you were wrong, and you wear a proud cliche` on your chest that says "maybe next season." Cubs fans know what I'm talking about.
After winning said championship, fans and players alike occasionally look back at the low points of their team's journey to the top. Ryan Arcidiacono, for example, looked at the loss to Columbia in his freshman year as a big motivator throughout his four years. But an athlete's tenure is shorter than that of a fan, and so an enduring loss for `Nova alumni could occur before November 20, 2012.
Here's a look at some of the poignant losses in Villanova history. Which one would you most like to see changed to a win? (Thanks to KUsports for this idea)
Old Dominion 89, Villanova 81 (F/3OT)
March 17, 1995
The Wildcats had just won their first ever Big East Tournament, defeating fellow top 10 UConn by a score of 94-78. Kerry Kittles had put together his best season with 21.4PPG on 52.4% shooting, capturing the Big East Player of the Year award. These `Cats were one of the most efficient three point shooting schools in the country entering the NCAA Tournament, pitted against CAA Tourney winner ODU. While a 3-seed, `Nova could not stave off an upset as CAA POY Petey Sessoms lead the way with 35 points for the Monarchs. Sessoms had the dagger in the third overtime when he blocked Zeffy Penn with 28.4 seconds left and turned that into a transition layup while drawing a foul to put the lead at 86-81. Kittles did not score in the second or third overtimes.
Here is the final two minutes and change of the third overtime.
North Carolina 67, Villanova 66
March 25, 2005
In Wright's first NCAA Tournament birth at Villanova, the Wildcats quickly advanced to the Sweet 16 with double digit victories against New Mexico and Florida. One could say that their Sweet 16 matchup was against eventual champion UNC was shady to say the least. A total of 45 fouls were called, and some questionable calls were made against `Nova down the stretch. With 40.0 seconds left in the game, Mike Nardi was called for a lane violation on Randy Foye's free throw attempt. The most notable call was the (phantom) travel call on Allan Ray with 9.0 seconds. Rashad McCants hit two free throws after being fouled on the inbounds to put the game away. Ray had a game to forget, going 2-14 from the field including 1-10 from beyond the arc to finish with 7 points. The Wildcats had only 3 bench points in the game, and were outrebounded 42-33.
Here's the full game footage, but fast forward to 1:11:39 to see the final minute.
North Carolina 83, Villanova 69
April 4th, 2009 (LOL 7 years later)
It was Wright's first Final Four appearance at Villanova and the school's first since 1985. The `Cats were fresh off a thrilling Elite Eight matchup against Pitt capped off by Scottie Reynolds' unforgettable last second jumper in the paint. But the Tar Heels proved too much for the Wildcats here. Seven athletes on the UNC roster eventually ended up in the NBA, with six of those seven still in the pros this season. Three point shooting lead to the demise of Villanova as they could only hit 5 of 27, while North Carolina finished with a much more efficient 11 of 22. Ty Lawson put up a near triple double with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, while Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson both fouled out.
If you really want to, you can watch the entire game.
Syracuse 69, Villanova 64
February 21, 2011
While just a regular season game, this was only the beginning of a long, dark stretch for Villanova. In the five point loss the `Cats only shot 32.3% from the field, and struggled worse from three at 19.2%. Maalik Wayns shot a putrid 1-9 off the bench and Corey Fisher went 3-16, missing all 8 threes he attempted. On the other side, Scoop Jardine lead the Orange with 20 points. This loss was the first domino in what would be 6 straight losses to conclude the 2010-2011 season. The number 15 ranking quickly vanished by the Big East Tournament, where they fell to 10-22 South Florida after blowing a 16 point halftime lead. This poor finish dropped the Wildcats to a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament where they lose to George Mason in the first round. Next season was far worse, putting together a 13-19 season.
I could not find a video for this game so here's Jim Boeheim picking his nose (everyone knows it's a Syracuse classic)
Seton Hall 64, Villanova 63
March 13, 2014
In that season Villanova had upset Kansas and Iowa in Battle 4 Atlantis to skyrocket into the national rankings. It was the first year of the New Big East. The Wildcats had dropped both of their inaugural conference games against Creighton (I contemplated putting that first game at Wells Fargo on this list) however the Bluejays dropped two of their final three games to give `Nova the Regular Season Championship title. Going into the Big East Tournament the Wildcats knew that if they could at least make it to the championship, they could earn a 1-seed come Selection Sunday. The Pirates held off Butler in the first round to take on a Villanova team they had lost to twice with a 16.5 average margin of defeat. This was a whole different game, however, and SHU jumped to a 13-point lead in the first half. The Wildcats saw themselves down 8 at the half, but a 16-0 run gave them a 3-point lead midway through the second half. With 7.8 seconds left in the game, Darrun Hilliard hit a jumper to give `Nova a 63-62 advantage, but it was Sterling Gibbs who hit a long-range step-back at the buzzer to upset Villanova. This loss put the `Cats as a 2-seed in the East Region where they met UConn in the Second Round, ultimately having the Wildcats (again) lose to the eventual champions.
Here's highlights of that Big East Tournament game.
In all, if you could change the outcome of any game in Villanova history, which would it be? Is it one of the games listed above? Do you have another in mind? Let me know!
NOTE: I'm sure most of you are depressed after having to relive these terrible events, so here's a video to lift your spirits.