VUHoops is kicking off its ramp-up to Villanova Basketball’s 100th Season with Ten Top 10 lists. We’ll cover everything you love about Villanova basketball from 1920 to 2020. Be sure to check out all ten of our lists, and check back over the coming weeks as we begin the celebration of 100 years of Villanova Basketball!
Only a handful of Villanova classes were able to say they witnessed a National Championship during their undergrad years. Only two got to double dip. As a member of the class of 2019, I was fortunate enough to witness two National Championships in my four years at Villanova undergrad. I was also lucky enough to be a part of the Villanova Band (sorry we play Sweet Caroline so much) and travel for some incredible games. Here are my top 10 games during my four years at Villanova.
10. 1/10/2018: Villanova 89 - Xavier 65 @ Wells Fargo Center
This may not seem like an important game to the average reader, but this was the day JP Macura had enough of my twitter antics and blocked me after the game. I brought a sign to the game simply reminding him of the time he got arrested and spent a night in jail for disorderly conduct which he noticed during the pregame warm-ups. Unfortunately, his twitter DM’s were open at the time so I sent him a few messages of support as well. Needless to say, my sign rattled him and he only scored 5 points as the ‘Cats demolished the Musketeers.
9. 11/29/2017: Villanova 90 - Penn 62 @ Jake Nevin Field House
While the Pavilion was under construction, most of Villanova’s home games took place at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly, preventing many students from attending all home games. Tickets to this game were more valuable than getting the first selection time for choose classes. On this Wednesday night, Jake Nevin had to dust off the cobwebs to host its first collegiate men’s basketball game in almost 30 years. To say the atmosphere was electric would be an understatement. With the stadium filled beyond capacity, students were practically on top of the players on all four sides of the court. In my four years at ‘Nova, the only other game I can think of that matched this level of intensity and energy was the 2016 National Championship watch party in the Pavilion, which is definitely saying something. The Quakers were hopeless in the 28-point rout.
8. 12/22/2018: Villanova 81 - UConn 58 @ MSG
You sure you guys want to join the Big East again? Just before winter break the band made the trip up to the Garden for an old-fashioned Big East showdown against the Huskies. The atmosphere felt like the old Big East slug-fests that took place back in the old days of the Garden (I think I head the phrase, “the old Big East,” at least fifty times that day). The ‘Cats had been coming off two straight losses, and were able to avoid the first three-game losing streak in almost six years thanks to the combined efforts of Eric Paschall and Phil Booth. UConn also got a good taste of whats to come in the near future after they re-join the Big East.
7. 2/27/19: Villanova 67 - Marquette 61 @ The Pavilion
The coming of Jermaine Samuels. Coming off a three-game losing streak, Villanova had to face a tough Marquette team lead by Marcus Howard in the now possibly-cursed Finneran Pavilion. Samuels had barely shot the ball in the past few games but unleashed in prime-time, dropping 29 points and going toe-for-toe with Howard. ‘Nova’s 8-0 run in the final few minutes of the game sealed the victory in what was easily the most exciting game at the Pavilion this season. After we had been treated to lack-luster home games, the Pavilion was absolutely rocking all game and screaming for MVP votes for Samuels. Also, one of our most important duties as the Villanova Band is to find dirt on other players. During the game we found out that Howard is afraid of birds, so naturally we played the jazz classic ‘Birdland.’
6. 2016 Final Four: Villanova 95 - Oklahoma 51
Buddy Hield this, Buddy Hield that. The media would not stop talking about Oklahoma’s star player before the game, and Villanova must have taken notice. This was my freshman year so I was not able to travel with the band to Houston, but the students took over Connelly Center to watch the game on every available screen. They definitely did not anticipate how many people wanted to watch the game as they eventually stopped letting people into the Villanova Room and forced them to watch elsewhere. The ‘Cats shot an unbelievable 61% from beyond the arc and routed Oklahoma in the biggest Final Four blowout in March Madness history. We took to Lancaster Ave and the Quad post-game for a celebration that lasted into the early hours of the morning. I can neither confirm nor deny a few things were set on fire.
5. 2018 Final Four: Villanova 95 - Kansas 79
Did somebody say Oklahoma flashbacks? In ‘Nova’s second Final Four appearance in three years, they replicated their style from 2016 and shot lights-out from behind the arc, setting a new Final Four record for most three-pointers in a game with 18. Collin Gillespie also drained a three early in the first half that gave Villanova the NCAA records for most three-pointers in a season. This was my junior year and I was lucky enough to travel with the band for the Final Four weekend. Being there in person was simply something else. Watching the team drain threes effortlessly surrounded by some of my best friends from college was an experience I will never forget. Luckily, the trip only got better...
4. 2019 Big East Championship: Villanova 74 - Seton Hall 72
After a disappointing regular season by Villanova standards, the ‘Cats fought hard in the Big East tournament and made it to the finals against the Seton Hall Pirates. The Big East Tournament was one of my favorite trips we went on as a band. Spending all day watching games and getting to cheer on the ‘Cats at the greatest arena in sports was incredible. The reason this game is on the list versus the other Big East Championship games is simply the expectation we had going into the tournament. The previous three years, the ‘Cats were consistently one of the best teams in the country, but this year was just not our year. We embarked on the bus ride Thursday morning kind of expecting to turn around and make the trip back home later that night. Instead, we got three incredible games of basketball and finished off the weekend with the third Big East Title in four years. Fans who were still celebrating in the Villanova fan bar were treated to some incredible karaoke from the players later in the evening.
3. 1/29/2017: Villanova 61 - Virginia 59 OT @ Wells Fargo Center
The Big Ragu. The Michael Jordan of Delaware. Whatever you want to call him, Donte Divincenzo fought to bring his name into the conversation of Villanova greats. As I was not personally at the UNC Championship game, I think this was the most exciting game I witnessed in person. This game had everything you could possibly ask for. Defeat an ACC powerhouse? Check. Game winner? Check. Comeback? Check. The emergence of a new Villanova legend? Check. At home? Check. Sell out crowd? Check. Divincenzo’s put-back at the buzzer put his name on the national stage and kept it there as he continued a great Villanova career. The ‘Cats struggled in the first half and found themselves down by 9 at halftime, but a 13-0 run in the middle of the second half gave them the lead. Ty Jerome’s jumper with 17 seconds left tied the game at 59, and then... this:
2. 2016 National Championship: Villanova 77 - UNC 74
There is no doubting that this is the single best game in Villanova Basketball, and arguably all of college basketball. However, as I mentioned earlier, I was in San Antonio with the band in 2018 so that game takes the cake for me. Anyway. The whole week leading up to the Championship was quite a time to be on campus. Almost every single person on campus wore something Villanova every day of the week. TV crews and news stations seemed to be permanently parked in the Connelly Center. I was interviewed by some radio station that I had never heard of while I was on my way to my Moderns class. On the day of the game, students lined up for hours outside the Pavilion, waiting for tip-off. The energy in the Pavilion was electric the minute we walked in and ended in Kris Jenkin’s shot heard around the world. One thing I will never forget is that split second of dead silence that reverberated around the Pavilion as the crowd waited for the ball to find its path. Needless to say, the post-game celebration were legendary. Moments after everyone in the Pavilion realized that we had in fact won the National Championship, we exploded out the doors and spilled onto the streets and the Quad for hours of celebration that I will never forget.
1. 2018 National Championship: Villanova 79 - Michigan 62
I was lucky enough to travel with the band for the Final Four weekend. Growing up, I always dreamed of attending a Final Four or National Championship game (at the time hoping it would be my Dad’s Alma Mater, Duke). We flew down with the cheer and dance team and settled in to downtown San Antonio. The city was an incredible venue, as we got to explore the city and the boardwalk during downtime (don’t ask the band about the Alamo). We met the other bands (also don’t ask the band about the Michigan band), played at various events and Villanova-themed parties, and attended the open practices. Of course, we were also court-side to witness Villanova win their second Championship in three years. Watching the game surrounded by some of my best friends from college was truly a once in a lifetime experience. We got to take the court, grab some confetti, take pictures on stage, and celebrate with the players. After the game, we were in the police escort that left the stadium back to the team hotel just in time for the river boat parade. Sure, it was almost midnight, but that didn’t stop thousands of Villanova fans taking to the street and river to watch the team, and of course the band, parade down the river with the trophy. Those 24 hours of preparation, game action, and celebration were unforgettable and take the top spot in my Villanova basketball memories.