As if he wasn't already busy enough preparing for their next contest against Butler on Saturday, Coach Wright spoke to the media Thursday afternoon regarding the Wildcats' past, future, and the status of the Big East.
Last night's victory against Providence marked one of the best performances of Villanova's season to date. It's value wasn't lost on Coach. "Both teams played well. I thought defensively for us we took another step." It certainly was a step in the right direction. Previous Wildcat teams have struggled to contain their opponents best offensive weapon, especially if that player is a guard. For Providence, that role falls upon Kris Dunn's shoulders. Before going into last night's bout, Dunn had shot 27-45 (60%) from the field over his last four games. Against the Wildcats' stifling defense, however, the star sophomore only managed 17 points on an inefficient 7-20 shooting night.
Looking at a broader view of Villanova's defense, Wright continues to single out one particular player -- JayVaughn Pinkston. While his offensive statistics have dipped in his senior season, Pinkston has found a way to make contributions beyond just putting the ball in the basket. "He's been our best defensive player. Usually on our team you can tell by the minutes who's playing well because they're staying in the game. He's guarded one through five. He's shot well from the foul line. He's always in there for end of the game situations. He hasn't needed to score."
That mentality has greatly impacted the Wildcats in more than just the win/loss column. "His patience has been an inspiration to our guys. When your senior leader and captain does that, it's great for the team."
Coach Wright seemed to enjoy taking part in the game against the Friars as much as Villanova fans. "It was a great Big East game. Great environment. I'm always impressed at the passion of Providence fans. It's a fun place to play."
Well, fortunately for Coach, he'll get a chance to travel to another hostile, road environment when the Wildcats takes a trip to Indianapolis on Saturday; he remembers his first trip last year fondly. "It was our first time there and it lived up to everything you anticipated. It was an incredible basketball game. The passion of the crowd. The basketball intelligence of the crowd. It was kind of like basketball heaven."
But Wright isn't taking this game lightly by any means. "Butler is playing as well as anyone in the country right now."
What makes Butler so good, though, is hard to quantify. They lack the star power of Providence or the athleticism of St. John's. Their strength resides in a concept Villanova fans should be familiar with. "Basketball is a team game. The really good teams are the ones that are playing together and efficiently. Butler has a style of play that is well defined. They're efficient offensively and defensively and it's hard to take them out of what they do. If you have good enough talent, which they do, are efficient enough, and can't be taken out of what you do, you're a very unique and successful team."
Butler, not having played since last Saturday, will come into the contest with a full week of preparation to battle the Wildcats. Villanova, on the other hand, is not so lucky. "We've only had a day to prepare, but we'll be ready."
No matter who wins on Saturday, Villanova and Butler can both be extremely confidant about their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. And, despite early forecasts of doom and gloom for the conference, a majority of Big East teams have to like their chances as well.
This success comes as no shock to Coach Wright, however. "It's kind of what I expected. We're gonna be the only conference one through ten where any year anybody can make the tournament, anybody can win the championship, anybody can be in the bottom four. There's not one team in our conference that's not a traditionally successful basketball program."
In the midst of big budget programs, conference realignment, and a general state of malaise within the NCAA, Wright finds comfort in what the Big East has become. "We're a unique entity in college athletics."