Looking Back: The 2017-2018 Men’s Basketball Season



Looking Back: The 2017-2018 Men’s Basketball Season

Greg Welsh

What started back in November with an ugly, grind it out, win against an unimposing Columbia squad, culminated with a dominant NCAA Tournament run, in which the Wildcats captured the National Championship by winning each game by double digits.

The 2017-2018 season was certainly one to be remembered. The ‘Cats shattered multiple school and NCAA records, accumulated individual accolades and proved to country that they belong amongst college basketball’s elite. Throughout the year, the Wildcats dropped just four games and never spent a week outside the AP’s top 10.

“This was a hell of a team,” Villanova head coach, Jay Wright, said. “The beauty of these guys is they got better each night. As a coach I just feel so blessed to be able to have these kids around me.”

Villanova began the season by running through its non-conference schedule without a loss, capturing the Battle for Atlantis title along the way with victories over Western Kentucky, Tennessee and Northern Iowa. The ‘Cats also handily defeated Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden back in December’s Jimmy V Classic in what would be one of their trademark wins on the year.

‘Nova would not drop a game until Dec. 30, when it ran into a Butler team that was on fire from deep and downed the ‘Cats, 101-93.

Although this year’s story eventually had a happy ending, there was a time this year when a third national championship seemed unlikely. There were injuries, and lots of them. First, it was freshman guard Colin Gillespie, who began what would become trend of hand injuries when he fractured a bone in his left hand. Freshman Jermaine Samuels would be next, suffering a broken left hand in practice immediately following his best game of the season against DePaul. Junior guard Phil Booth continued what has been an injury filled career when he fractured a bone in his right hand against Providence on Jan. 23, forcing him to miss a month. Forward Eric Paschall was also forced to miss time after he was concussed against St. John’s on Feb. 7. Throughout it all, there were questions about the Wildcat’s ability to defend, their streaky three-point shooting and the apparent lack of depth. 

Ultimately, the Wildcats would finish Big East play at 14-4, failing to capture the regular season conference championship for the first time since the conference realigned.

Any disappointment the team felt was quickly put aside, however, as ‘Nova was able to fight its way to a Big East Tournament championship, beating the Providence Friars in an epic final that was decided in overtime.

The success in New York was enough to earn Villanova a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s East Region, where it would become just the fourth team since the Tournament  

From Pittsburgh to Boston to San Antonio, the Wildcats traveled across the country knocking off Radford, Alabama, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas and Michigan to cut down the nets and etch this year’s team into college basketball history.