Given the cancellation of this year’s NCAA Tournament, we have decided to use the next few weeks to look back and remember Villanova’s greatest tournament successes of the past. We will be walking through Villanova’s three National Championships on a game-by-game basis. So, as you’re locked inside quarantining and social distancing, share your thoughts, memories, and stories as we relive Villanova’s greatest moments.
Tune in to the VUHoops’ screening of the Second Round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament between #1 Villanova and #3 Texas Tech TONIGHT AT 7:00 p.m. EST.
The game should play simultaneously for all who are watching so please take part in the live game chat!
Link: VUHoops Re-Watch
Villanova returns to Final 4 with 71-59 win over Texas Tech
BOSTON — With all of the underdogs and upsets that have upended the NCAA tournament, no one has managed to come close to Villanova.
The 2016 national champions are headed back to the Final Four, thanks to a fourth straight double-digit victory in a month of March where they’ve played every bit like the No. 1 seed they earned.
”This tournament’s a crazy tournament. Anybody can beat anybody,” guard Jalen Brunson said after the Wildcats beat Texas Tech 71-59 in a cold-shooting East regional championship on Sunday to send Villanova back to the Final Four for the second time in three years.
”The underdog mentally, they may have it. But, honestly, they believe they’re good. That’s why they’re in that position. That’s (also) why we’re in that position,” Brunson said. “We’re a good team, and we believe we can keep getting better.”
The Wildcats (34-4) will play fellow No. 1 seed Kansas, which beat Duke 85-81 in overtime later Sunday. They will join 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago and its telegenic nun , along with No. 3 seed Michigan in the national semifinals on Saturday in San Antonio.
Sister Jean, get ready for Father Rob.
”I very much look forward to meeting Sister Jean,” said the Rev. Rob Hagan, the priest on the Villanova bench. “I was 12 years of Catholic School and taught by the nuns. I have great respect for the Nuns. Usually what Sister says is what goes.”
But if these two Catholic schools — one Jesuit, one Augustinian — meet in the national championship game, the Wildcats won’t be without spiritual support of their own.
”He’s our rock,” said guard Donte DiVincenzo, who scored eight points. “He keeps us level-headed to make sure we don’t get too high or too low. So to be able to share that moment with him was actually real fun.”
Eric Paschall had 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, Brunson scored 15, and DiVincenzo also had eight of the Wildcats’ season-high 51 rebounds. After starting four guards, Texas Tech (27-10) grabbed just 33 boards and shot just 18 free throws compared to 35 for Villanova to miss a chance to play for a championship in its home state.
”We knew they were a great 3-point shooting team and talented players, but we also knew how tough they were,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “We knew the identity of their team was the toughness and physicality, and that proved to be true.”
The teams matched each other with 33 percent shooting from the floor — Villanova’s lowest since 2015- and the Wildcats made just 4 of 24 from beyond the arc. One of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in NCAA history, they need seven to set a Division I single-season record.
They’ll get that chance in the Final Four.
”Wasn’t really a pretty offensive game. But we played pretty good defensively too,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose team spent eight weeks in two different stints as the No. 1 team in The Associated Press Top 25 this season.
”That’s why I give Texas Tech credit, they did a great job,” Wright said. “But we don’t rely on our shooting. There’s a lot more to the game. Our guys take pride in that. We never worry about missing shots. It’s fun when they go in, but we don’t worry about missing them.”
Texas Tech star Keenan Evans scored 12 points for the Red Raiders, and revealed after the game he has been playing with a broken toe since injuring his foot in mid-February against Baylor.
”We take a lot of pride just knowing that the amount of work we put in to get here,” Evans said. “We came short of what the ultimate goal was, but just for us digging down and us going through injuries ... we took a lot of pride with it.”
Texas Tech had never reached the Elite Eight in the 93-year history of the program but easily handled Purdue in the Sweet 16.
It’s Villanova’s third trip to the Final Four in Wright’s tenure; in 2009, they also advanced from the Boston regional before losing in the national semifinals. Four players remain from the team that won it all two years ago.
”You just see how together we are. Every Villanova team I’ve been on has been like that,” Brunson said. “Every time you get to do it is special, every time you’re on that court with those group of guys, it’s special.”
Villanova quickly fell behind 7-0 and trailed 9-1 — the largest deficit the Wildcats had faced in the tournament. But they scored 14 of the next 18 points to lead and closed the half on a 35-14 run for a 36-23 lead at the break. The 23 points was the lowest-scoring half of the season for the Red Raiders.
After falling behind by as many as 15 early in the second, Texas Tech got within eight points with under seven minutes remaining, and made it 52-47 on Brandon Francis’ 3-pointer with 6:06 left. They nearly cut it to three points when Evans found Zach Smith in the lane, but Paschall blocked him and sparked a fast break that ended with Phil Booth’s basket at the other end.
Texas Tech made only two baskets from there. Villanova had only one in the last three minutes but made its last 12 free throws.
Brunson finished with only four assists, but he had the ball in his hands for much of Villanova’s possessions and didn’t seem troubled by the defense.
Beard compared them to the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers that played across the way in the old Boston Garden.
”It was like watching Magic Johnson back down. They’ve got (Michael) Cooper in one corner,” Beard said. “He’s a multi-dimensional player. He can play at the next level for a lot of reasons. I think his toughness and intangibles ... are at the top of that list.”
Villanova Returns to Final Four With Gritty Win Over Texas Tech
BOSTON — It was nine years ago that Scottie Reynolds hit a game-winning runner here as the seconds ticked down in a round of 8 matchup with Pittsburgh, the shot that effectively started it all for Villanova Coach Jay Wright. He is still riding the wave of success that soft little teardrop shot created.
On Sunday, Villanova did not need any last-second heroics to earn its second trip to the Final Four in three years. The top seed in the East Region, the Wildcats did not need to shoot particularly well, either. They just did everything else to smother No. 3-seeded Texas Tech, 71-59, at TD Garden.
In what has been one of the most unpredictable N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournaments in recent memory, Villanova has remained a model of dependability, pacing through early wins against No. 16 Radford and No. 9 Alabama before a hard-earned victory over No. 5 West Virginia on Friday. And on Sunday, on tired legs, the Wildcats grinded out a win against one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams.
All along, their formula has not wavered: Fill the floor with shooters for the four-out, one-in motion offense Wright patented in the mid-2000s. Every player has range, including the 6-foot-9 center Omari Spellman, who went 2 for 4 from 3-point range on Sunday. It is no surprise the Wildcats are seven 3-pointers shy of setting an N.C.A.A. Division I record for the most made in a season.
Villanova, the 2016 national champion, has proved it is much more than a finesse team. The Wildcats illustrated that again on Sunday, when shots were not falling, particularly in the second half. They outrebounded Texas Tech, 51-33, and drew 23 fouls, leading to 35 free throws.
But more important, they revealed a vastly improved defense that seems to be peaking at the right time.
“That was definitely our best defensive effort of the year,” Wright said.
The hidden truth about this Villanova team, the nation’s top offense, is that, despite being slightly undersize, it has quietly formed an energetic and complementary defensive identity. Since Feb. 24, the date of their last loss, the Wildcats are holding opponents to 66.7 points per game on 39 percent shooting.
“We knew we can’t just get by on offense,” the reserve guard Donte DiVincenzo said. “We were going to run into a team that really buckled down, and we were going to miss shots.”
Exhibit A: Sunday. The Wildcats’ 33.3 percent shooting was their lowest in a game since December 2015.
Jalen Brunson, named the region’s most outstanding player, went 0 for 4 from 3-point range but still finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. Eric Paschall had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
“I was missing a lot of shots, and my teammates were looking me in the eye in the huddle and saying, ‘Jalen, keep shooting the ball. Keep shooting the ball,’” Brunson said. “That’s just the confidence they have in me and we have in each other.”
Texas Tech’s surprising run to the round of 8 began with defense as a foundation, but the team’s casualness on the biggest stage in program history also stood out. The Red Raiders laugh, joke around and blast music during practices; their playlist includes hip-hop selections and Merle Haggard.
“Diversity is the spice of life,” Coach Chris Beard said on Saturday.
Beard would know a little something about it. His professional biography reads like the closing credits of a feature film. There were stops at Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian, North Texas, McMurry University, Angelo State University and Arkansas-Little Rock and U.N.L.V. And those were just the N.C.A.A. schools. Beard also coached two junior colleges (Fort Scott Community College, in Kansas, and Seminole State, in Oklahoma), a team in the American Basketball Association and the Swiss national team.
All along this itinerant path, he has maintained an attitude of “win or go home,” one he said he cultivated as a youth player in pickup games at Northwest Park Recreation Center in Irving, Tex. The one-shot mentality never left him.
So surprised was Beard to be in this position that after Friday’s win he could not even remember the name of the round his team had just reached.
“What’s it called?” he asked. “Great Eight?”
“Elite,” guard Keenan Evans corrected him, with a laugh.
Evans, Texas Tech’s leading scorer, never found a rhythm on Sunday. Justin Gray never hit a field goal. Jarrett Culver never made an assist.
Texas Tech tried to rally in the second half. A 3-pointer by Brandone Francis with six minutes remaining brought the Red Raiders within 5 points, but a steal by Brunson led to a Villanova layup by Phil Booth on the next possession. Two minutes later, a putback dunk by DiVincenzo, who finished with 12 points, kept the margin just wide enough.
“That’s one of the best defenses we’ve played against,” Beard said. “We got some good shots, but they were all contested.”
It was Villanova’s 134th win in the last four seasons, breaking the record for the most in a four-year span, set by Duke in 2001.
These Wildcats have given themselves an opportunity to compete for two more.
“He just kept saying, if we keep winning, we have a chance to keep getting better,” Brunson said of Wright. “That’s what ‘survive and advance’ means. We’re getting better.”