Beyond the Bison: House of the rising sun

Doug Hendry, Senior Writer

It’s a chaotic period in the world of sports. Playoff races are coming down to the wire in the NBA and NHL, opening day for the MLB is just two days away on April 3, and the quarterfinals for the Champions League is just around the corner. And one thing we can expect at the beginning of every April is here too—the Final Four of college basketball’s NCAA tournament.

Of the four elite teams still alive in the midst of this madness, the Villanova Wildcats possibly have had the most satisfying run in reaching its first Final Four appearance since 2009. Since that incredible stretch where Scottie Reynolds led the Wildcats past Pittsburgh, Duke, and UCLA, Villanova has been upset in the round of 32 on three occasions while at a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

Because of the Wildcats’ recent history, their expectations for the national tournament have been limited despite their high ranking in the regular season AP poll. This year, both experts and fans didn’t have much confidence in head coach Jay Wright’s second-seeded squad to make it to the Elite Eight, let alone the Final Four.

Luckily for Villanova, this year is different.

Entering the tournament with a 29-5 record, Villanova handled each of its first three opponents, No. 15 UNC Asheville, No. 7 Iowa, and No. 3 Miami, by an average of 24 points per game. All of that success left them with Kansas–the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.

The Wildcats and Jayhawks faced off in Louisville, Ky., and Villanova stole the show with its best win of the season in a 64-59 battle.

People might have put all of their faith in Kansas to easily pull that game off, and maybe even win the national championship, but Wright and his players knew all along that the Elite Eight wasn’t their final destination. Not even the Final Four. This team is fighting for the trophy.

Now, can they win it all? With three No. 1 seeds being eliminated in the most recent round, Villanova may be the team to beat throughout the final three games. The makeup of the team is what makes it so difficult for opposing teams to scout. There is no one star that stands out on this Villanova squad; instead, each player contributes his own abilities for the good of the team–the way it should be in college basketball.

Villanova may be “a team of no-names,” but the players may be some of the best out there at the collegiate level.

Everything goes through Ryan Arcidiacono at the point, and his hustle alone has led to several Villanova victories this season. Daniel Ochefu has fought through his injuries this year to be the most physical player on this team in the post. Josh Hart has played in all 38 games, and leads the team in scoring with 15.3 PPG. Kris Jenkins has been the most valuable player down the stretch, fueling this team throughout the tournament with his three-point shooting, post offense, and shutdown defense.

Not any one player can be credited for the Wildcats’ success; instead, this team plays like an actual unit, and the team’s hustle is what has pushed it to new levels of success.

Wright has his players all working like a well-oiled machine, from the first tip to the final buzzer. He’s certainly had the experience at the helm of this Villanova squad, and this may be the year he finally makes his first national championship appearance for a program that is once again on the rise.

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