As we’ve all suspected for a long time, the world revolves around Villanova Basketball. Ok, that may be an exaggeration (wink). But Villanova is a big part of college basketball, so much so that it can be tied to just about every team in the NCAA tournament in one way or another. And so, for those of you filling out your brackets in “unconventional” ways, here’s a guide to the Villanova fans rooting interest in every first round match-up this year.
#1 Villanova vs #16 Mt. St. Mary’s/New Orleans
The best way to root for Villanova is to... root for Villanova. Let’s go Wildcats!
#2 Duke vs #15 Troy
Villanova and Duke have faced off 11 times in program history. The last time Jay Wright faced Coach K, Villanova crushed Duke 77-54 in the 2009 Sweet 16. On the other hand, Villanova has never played Troy. As my mother told me as a kid, it’s always good to try something new. She was usually talking about vegetables, but I’d never disagree with my mother, and you shouldn’t either. Let’s go Trojans!
#3 Baylor vs #14 New Mexico State
It’s one thing to be a Villanova alum, but you take it to a whole new level when you’re also a VUHoops alum. Say hello to New Mexico State’s Video Coordinator and statistics guru, Jordan Sperber. He’s all the proof you need that sometimes someone on this site knows what the hell they’re talking about. Or at least they used to. Let’s go Lobos!
#4 Florida vs #13 Eastern Tennessee State University
The last time Villanova played ETSU, Phil Booth did this. Let’s hope seeing them again will trigger some sort of muscle memory, magically heal his leg, and bring him back for another Championship run. Let’s go Buccaneers!
#5 Virginia vs #12 UNC Wilmington
While they don’t share the gridiron, Villanova and UNC Wilmington are both members of the Colonial Athletic Association. Villanova is an associate member in only football and women’s rowing, while UNC Wilmington is a full member. This seems like the right time to root on our conference brethren. Let’s go Seahawks!
#6 SMU vs #11 Providence/USC
As much as I’d love to see Ed Cooley march his way through the bottom half of this bracket, the Villanova rooting interest here goes to SMU and their assistant coach Jay Duncan. First off, Jay played and was the team captain for Rollie Massimino at Northwood University. Then, he became a graduate assistant at Villanova under Jay Wright from 2010-2012 while getting his masters in education. An alumni with ties to Villanova’s two greatest coaches? Yeah, he’s our guy. Let’s go Mustangs!
#7 South Carolina vs #10 Marquette
Even though Marquette’s one of only two teams to beat Villanova this year, it’s still better for the ‘Cats if the Big East schools perform well in the tournament. Besides, South Carolina Coach Frank Martin makes scary faces. Let’s go Golden Eagles!
#8 Wisconsin vs #9 Virginia Tech
Villanova might have a chance to take down two deserters at once in the second round. Buzz Williams (former Big East coach) and Virginia Tech (former Big East school) both bolted for football money in the ACC. As much as I’d love to see them lose in the first round to Wisconsin, I’d much rather see a Big East team deliver the crushing blow. Let’s go Hokies!
#1 Kansas vs #16 NC Central/UC-Davis
You know what they say about Real Estate: Location, Location, Location. Well located a short 5 blocks away from the UC-Davis campus, you can find yourself on sunny Villanova Drive. Sounds like a great place to live. Let’s go Aggies!
#2 Louisville vs #15 Jacksonville State
If you google “Who is college basketball’s best dressed coach”, the first thing that comes up is an ESPN article with a picture of Rick Pitino. Almost every other article is about Jay Wright, but somehow the first thing that comes up is a guy that dresses like he’s auditioning to be in KFC’s next commercial. Sad! Jacksonville State needs to take him down a peg. Let’s go Gamecocks!
#3 Oregon vs #14 Iona
The phrase “Once a Wildcat, Always a Wildcat” doesn’t just apply to graduates. Even though he’s taken his talents across the country to Oregon, Dylan Ennis is still on good terms with his former team and regularly texts with his former head coach. Ennis said that the dream finish to his collegiate career would be to get his Villanova teammates one more time in the Championship game. Hopefully, he’ll get his wish. Let’s go Ducks!
#4 Purdue vs #13 Vermont
From 1953 to 1956, the Vermont basketball team featured a short, scrappy, Italian guard. That player’s name was Rollie Massimino, and he would go on to lead Villanova to the school’s first National Championship. The least we can do is root on the old ball coach’s alma mater. Let’s go Catamounts!
#5 Iowa State vs #12 Nevada
Ok, stay with me on this one. Nevada’s head coach is Eric Musselman. Musselman used to be the Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors from 2002-2004. While coaching Golden State, he had Mike Dunleavy Jr. on the roster. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is the brother of Villanova Associate Head Coach Baker Dunleavy. That works, right? Not really? Oh well. Let’s go Wolf Pack!
#6 Creighton vs #11 Rhode Island
Despite having to overcome the loss of their star player, Creighton still made it all the way to the Big East Tournament final before falling to Villanova. Now they’re one of just three Big East teams who will be the higher ranked seed in their first round match-up. But the same way you’re the only one who can make fun of your family members, we want Villanova to be the only ones who beat Big East teams. Let’s go Bluejays!
#7 Michigan vs #10 Oklahoma State
This year Jay Wright won his 500th game and is currently up to 507 career wins. Michigan coach John Beilein also won his 500th game recently, and now sits one game behind Wright at 506 career wins. Just like JayVaughn Pinkston did in 2014, Nova fans need to do their part by rooting for Oklahoma State to BLOCK Beilein from getting a win over Wright. Let’s go Cowboys!
#8 Miami vs #9 Michigan State
I’m not going to name names, but a certain local 5-star recruit who talked up Villanova for a full year turned around this past November and selected Miami to the surprise of A LOT of people. Many Nova fans were none to pleased by that turn of events, and I don’t think any of them will be rooting for the Hurricanes anytime soon. Let’s go Spartans!
#1 North Carolina vs #16 Texas Southern
As was widely published last season, Kris Jenkins brother Nate Britt plays for the Tar Heels. As a Massimino disciple, Jay Wright always preaches the importance of family, so we’re more than happy to support Nate. Besides, when it comes down to it, we know Villanova can beat UNC. Let’s go Tar Heels!
#2 Kentucky vs #15 Northern Kentucky
Back in 2009, hot off taking Villanova to the Final Four, Jay Wright was again the hottest coach in college basketball. Having just opened up their coaching search, Kentucky came calling for the head coach’s services. But just as Jay did eight years ago, we’re going to pass on Kentucky. They’re just not “Wright” for us. Let’s go Norse!
#3 UCLA vs #14 Kent State
Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright has said multiple times that his love affair with the Wildcats started when he watched the 1971 team’s run to the Championship. Even though they lost to UCLA and their the mythical run of championships, Wright was hooked. Most of the credit goes to Jack Kraft’s team, but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to throw some support UCLA’s way. Let’s go Bruins!
#4 Butler vs #13 Winthrop
Butler was the only team Villanova faced this season that they didn’t beat at least once. That needs to be remedied. Unfortunately, the only way that can happen is if the two meet in the Championship game. So in order to get some sweet sweet revenge, ‘Nova fans will have to root for Butler to advance. Let’s go Bulldogs!
#5 Minnesota vs #12 Middle Tennessee
Another member of the Jay Wright Coaching tree, Minnesota’s Ryan Livingston spent three years under Wright as a Graduate Assistant and the Special Assistant to the Head Coach. Now Minnesota’s Director of Basketball Operations, Livingston and his new Head Coach, Richard Pitino, will look to avoid the popular 5v12 upset pick. Let’s go Golden Gophers!
#6 Cincinnati vs #11 Wake Forest/Kansas State
Earlier this season, Josh Hart dropped 30 points on Wake Forest en route to a 96-77 victory. Five Wildcats would end up scoring in double digits in that game as the Wildcats dismantled their opponent during an early season tournament. Wake Forest has performed much better since then, and if they can make a run in the tournament it only makes Villanova look better. Let’s go Demon Deacons!
#7 Dayton vs #10 Wichita State
It’s rare that a team gets home court advantage in the tournament these days, but it used to happen more often. However, it was still very rare for a lower seed to have home court. That’s exactly what #8 seed Villanova faced in 1985 when they had to travel to #9 Dayton for their first round game. The ‘Cats pulled out a two point victory en route to their first national championship. We don’t need to give Dayton another leg up here. Let’s go Shockers!
#8 Arkansas vs #9 Seton Hall
At the end of the Big East Tournament Semi-Final, Angel Delgado lay on the floor. The junior was devastated after missing a shot that could have tied the game and given his team a chance to upset top seeded Villanova. Then, over came Josh Hart. In a wonderful show of sportsmanship and respect, Hart put his arm around Delgado, told him to remember this feeling and let it fuel him in the tournament, then they embraced and shook hands. With that kind of high-character showing from Villanova’s leader, we can’t help but pull for Seton Hall to forge their own path through the bracket. Let’s go Pirates!
#1 Gonzaga vs #16 South Dakota State
This past December, South Dakota State got the better of Villanova on the gridiron as they squeaked out a 10-7 home win in the Second Round of the FCS Playoffs. More significantly, the defeat officially ended the career of Villanova’s legendary head football coach Andy Talley. Nova fans were not ready for coach to leave, and we’re not about to let the Jackrabbits forget it. Let’s go Bulldogs!
#2 Arizona vs #15 North Dakota
In the summer of 2015, Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller was coaching the USA Under 19 Team in the World Championship. His team was led by a young guard who was named the MVP of the Tournament. Miller was so impressed with the play of this player that he said, “That kid is a Final Four point guard.” That guard was incoming Villanova freshman Jalen Brunson, and not only did he go to the Final Four that year, but he won a National Championship. For that kind of Nostradamus-type premonition, Miller’s got my support to reach his own Final Four this season. Let’s go Wildcats!
#3 Florida State vs #14 Florida Gulf Coast
Villanova’s biggest “traditional” rival in the Big East is the Georgetown Hoyas. These days they don’t need any help embarrassing themselves, but back in 2013 they were one of the favorites to win it all as a #2 seed. Then they ran into “Dunk City” during the first round in Philly, and possibly the most entertaining upset of all time. Any team that can so emphatically dismantle the Hoyas gets some love in my book. Let’s go Eagles!
#4 West Virginia vs #13 Bucknell
During the early 80’s, a young Jay Wright was averaging 8 PPG during his career playing at Bucknell. It would take almost 20 years to get from there to the time he became Villanova’s head coach, but Nova fans would agree it was well worth the wait. Now, Wildcat fans are more than happy to cheer on Wright’s alma mater as if it were their own. Let’s go Bison!
#5 Notre Dame vs #12 Princeton
In the first ever Ivy League Tournament, Princeton was able to come into the Palestra as the #1 Seed and leave with the Championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament. It’s probably not a coincidence that their first title since 2011 came during Kerry Kittles first season as an Assistant Coach. Villanova’s All-Time leader in scoring and steals is someone every member of the Nova Nation can get behind. Let’s go Tigers!
#6 Maryland vs #11 Xavier
Xavier just squeaked into the tournament, and they were one of the teams that kept Syracuse from getting in. Supporting the Big East while excluding those who left it? Yup, I can get behind that. Let’s go Musketeers!
#7 Saint Mary’s vs #10 VCU
Yes, back in 2010 Saint Mary’s knocked off an overrated Villanova team in the 2nd round. But say “St. Mary’s” to any Villanova alum, and their first memory will be of St. Mary’s Hall on West Campus. This place had everything. Dorm rooms, class rooms, a dining hall, a swimming pool, basketball courts, mail rooms, pool tables, lounges, and of course the “Second Story” food store. Say VCU and most alums will ask, “VC-who?”. Let’s go Gaels!
#8 Northwestern vs #9 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt has had exactly ZERO success against Villanova. The teams first met in the 1994 NIT Championship game, which Villanova and Kerry Kittles won. The teams faced off again at Vanderbilt in 2012, but that resulted in a double digit loss to the Wildcats. Even in football, current star running back Aaron Forbes chose Villanova over Vanderbilt. So with that in mind, we can throw our fellow “V” school some sympathy support. Let’s go Commodores!