Fortunately, I have the unique position of being able to explain why the Villanova Wildcats are the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions. This championship comes thirty-one years after the Cinderella Wildcats of 1985 shot nearly 80% from the floor to defeat the Georgetown Hoyas and become the lowest seed ever to win the NCAA tournament. Sure, Kris Jenkins made the greatest shot in the history of college basketball, yes, Ryan Arcidiacono made an incredibly intelligent pass, but much more than just the final 4.7 seconds led to the Wildcats cutting down the nets in Houston. Skeptics lurked around every corner, citing the recent tournament failures that Villanova has suffered from and a lack of high-profile recruits that many of the other top programs were able to attract. There were plenty of reasons why the Villanova Wildcats should not have won the national championship, but they did. Here are a few reasons why:
Unlike many of the perennial powerhouse college basketball programs, Villanova tries to avoid recruiting players looking to take the one-and-done route to the NBA. Coach Jay Wright places emphasis on ensuring that players develop to their full potential and graduate with a college degree. This season, four of the five starting players were juniors or seniors. With this, comes a core of more developed players with a great deal of experience and excellent decision making skills. The centerpiece to this group was Ryan Arcidiacono, a senior from Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Arcidiacono has played more games in a Villanova uniform (144) than anyone else in program history. He was a team captain each of his four years at the school, which is a testament to both his leadership and basketball abilities. In the 2014-15 season, he shared the Big East Player of the Year Award with Kris Dunn of Providence.
Villanova quickly became the talk of the tournament with their incredible offensive efficiency. Strong teams like Iowa, Miami and Oklahoma quickly fell victim to the sharpshooting Wildcats’ offense, resulting in blowout wins for Villanova. The peak of this came in the Final Four, when the Wildcats made 35 of their 49 shots (71.4% FG) to eviscerate the Oklahoma Sooners by a score of 95-51, the largest margin of victory (44 pts) in the history of the Final Four.
To complement their strong offensive performances, the Villanova defense put a strangle hold on some of the nation’s most dangerous offensive players. Kansas’ Perry Ellis was held to just four points on one of five shooting (20% FG) in an Elite Eight matchup with the Wildcats. In the Final Four, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, arguably the greatest scorer in college basketball, was expected to tear apart the Villanova defense and send the Sooners to the championship game. Unfortunately, the Wildcats had other plans. Hield was limited to just nine points after scoring thirty-seven in Oklahoma’s Elite Eight matchup with the Oregon Ducks.
Excellent Free Throw Shooting:
In the six games of the NCAA tournament, Villanova attempted 102 free throws. They were able to convert on 83 of these attempts, which comes out to about 81%. This statistic, in most games, is the deciding factor as to who will win, especially in the last few minutes, when every point counts.
World Class Coaching:
Ultimately the players get the job done on the floor, but the coaching staff has the responsibility of watching film with the players to ensure that they are prepared for whatever the opposition throws their way. In addition to this, coaches have to be able to effectively analyze the flow of the game to change the plan if necessary. Villanova’s head coach, Jay Wright, just so happens to be pretty good at this. For the second time in his tenure at Villanova, this year, he was named the recipient of the Naismith Men’s College Basketball Coach of the Year Award. He was chosen over finalists: Bill Self of Kansas, Chris Mack of Xavier, and Tom Crean of Indiana.
Oh, and the Wildcats ran a pretty nice play in the final 4.7 seconds of the championship game. As Kris Jenkins proudly stated in the postgame madness, “I’ve got ice in my veins!”
On behalf of the entire Nova Nation, I’d like to thank the 2015-2016 Wildcats for putting on an incredible show this season. Go Cats!
Villanova University ’19
All Stats from Sports Reference: College Basketball
Picture: CNN (http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/04/05/kris-jenkins-nate-britt-parents-ncaa-championship-pamela-brown-nr.cnn)