Keep your eye on the goal, No. 24

Philip Consuegra

Glory. Respect. Greatness. At Villanova, these are just three things we strive for in everything we do. Our journey begins freshman year and continues throughout our lives. There are specific moments in time when we arrive in places that exemplify these ideals.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thought we had arrived.

Finally, battling injuries, heartbreaks, close games, turnovers, selfish play, 20 point defeats to teams we should have routed, cold spells and disappointment, we had arrived. Yes, Villanova was in the Top 25. We had one of the 25 best teams in the nation. Finally!

There’s a different attitude around the Pavilion these days, and with good reason. There’s an attitude of confidence, hunger, certainty. The Wildcats know how important this season is for them, and it seems they understand the necessity of dancing in March. They realize that this is the season to set the tone. This is season of the glorious return of the Villanova Wildcats. If you listen hard enough you can almost hear the whispers coming from the spirits in the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse.

What appeared to be a season of “more of the same” from the Wildcats, starting off with a two-point, sloppy loss against a mediocre Temple team, and after blowing a six-point lead against Boston College, fans became restless. They lost whatever confidence they had in the Villanova Wildcats.

“Oh well,” we said, “Another season squandered.”

It seemed as though we were wrong, as this Villanova team had answered the call and was poised to capture the nation’s spotlight. With a victory against a Kansas team, then-ranked No. 2, Villanova became the “spoiler” team. After coming from behind to defeat a solid Notre Dame team, ‘Nova dominated Rutgers at the RAC in arguably one of the toughest arenas to win in the nation, as Syracuse almost realized. The Wildcats looked ready to make the transition from a bubble team to a certain invitation to the dance.

Well, now, hang on a second. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still have time to squander our season. We still have time to let it all slip away. If anyone watched the game against UConn, you noticed the inopportune technical foul called on Coach Jay Wright after chastising the referees (who should be punished for letting UConn take 50 foul shots and allowing Villanova to take only 10). I hate to state the obvious, but the technical foul at 30 seconds left, your ball, down by three, is just plain inexcusable. After a loss against a very beatable Husky team in Hartford, the ‘Cats squandered their opportunity to burst onto the national scene.

As much as it breaks my heart to say it to the hardworking Villanova basketball staff, you are a top 25 team now. You’re playing like a nationally-ranked team, but ya also need to act like it.

While the officiating was clearly more than questionable, I find it unfathomable as to what can go through one’s mind in costing our team the game. Considering how much the refs were just dying to see us lose by calling fouls left and right against ‘Nova, the players played exceptionally well. It’s time, as a top 25 team, to start holding people accountable. It’s time to shut down the excuse factory and start facing reality.

All top programs have one major thing in common: discipline. I said it at the beginning, and I’m saying it now. Unfortunately, the ‘Cats are leaving the Top 25 faster than they arrived in it. Not because of sloppy play or because they didn’t deserve to be there, but because of a gift given to Jim Calhoun on his 1,000 game as a coach. I hope Calhoun gave a nice pat on the back to Jay Wright as he walked out of the Hartford Civic Center.

So where do we go from here? The Big East is one of the top conferences in the country, and the ‘Cats find themselves in the lower middle portion. It seems like it’s an uphill battle for the Wildcats down the stretch, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse coming to town. Although the ‘Cats seem destined to be a perennial bubble team, if they can play as well as they have been down the stretch, they’ll dance. However, if irresponsible actions continue, Villanova has another NIT to look forward to.

The fans will do their part – cheer, yell, scream, dress up in a kilt. But now is the time to step up. It’s time to show the rest of the country what kind of spirit we have. We must rebound this weekend against Providence, and take it one game at a time down the stretch.

There is no better time than the present to get it going. Get momentum. Get to the tournament. Get to the goal.