The Big Five



Rachel Bleier

Villanova basketball is not selfish. It is not arrogant. It is not greedy. 

It does not give up. 

It is founded on brotherhood, love and leadership, as coach Jay Wright always says it is.

Wright has repeatedly said that senior leadership is key to the Wildcats’ success. 

On Monday night, the entire ‘Nova Nation watched just how much Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Henry Lowe, Pat Farrell and Kevin Rafferty needed and wanted this win. It was this undying hunger that lead ‘Nova here, to a national championship and one of the most exciting games in NCAA Tournament history.

It all started with senior captains Arcidiacono and Ochefu. Both know what it’s like to face the disappointment of early exits and unsuccessful NCAA bids, giving them the drive to do more with their last shot. 

In the end, the 2016 Wildcats went further than any Villanova team since the 1985 champions, when no one else believed the ‘Cats had a chance. 

Arcidiacono is quite literally Mr. Villanova. With the most starts of any Villanova player in school history, number 15 has provided ‘Nova with hall-of-fame intangibles. 

While he is a talented player, Arcidiacono’s selflessness is what makes him a great leader. The trust and belief he has in his teammates is what makes shots like Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater to win it all even possible. 

Arcidianono’s willingness to give up the chance for glory as a senior lifts his teammates up and shows them what working together and for each other really means.

Prior to winning the national championship game, Arcidiacono reflected on his final game.  

“This is what you always want your last game to be,” Arcidiacono said. “I think for myself, and I can speak for the walk-ons also, no matter what happens in this game, we really just want to go down playing basketball the way we’ve learned to love and grow and play these last three or four years.”

This positive attitude does not go unnoticed by his fellow teammates. 

“Ryan Arcidiacono, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with,” Jenkins said. “For a senior to get the ball and make the right play and not try to shoot the ball in double coverage just shows a lot about him and what he’s about and how he’s just all about winning.” 

Ochefu’s leadership has also had a huge impact on the court and throughout ‘Nova’s incredible NCAA Tournament run. He reached the 1,000-career points benchmark during the Oklahoma matchup, and he really embraces the culture of Villanova Basketball.

“For all the seniors, we’ve been doing a good job of not making it about ourselves,” Ochefu said. “I think just keeping the focus on the team. Taking everything away from ourselves.”

As Ochefu improved athletically throughout his career at ‘Nova, he also became a strong presence on the court. His increased production was a much-needed interior boost for the ‘Cats, but his attitude made the biggest impact on the National Champions.

“Along with my fellow seniors, leading our team to a National Championship, I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Ochefu said. 

Coach Wright’s emphasis on senior leadership has bred a culture of brotherhood throughout the team, whether a player is a starter or a walk-on.

“This program, this culture is about high-character guys,” Josh Hart said. “We genuinely love each other, we love the program, we love playing Villanova basketball.”

Some of the most loved players on the team are the ones who usually have more behind-the-scenes roles. Despite getting to play in four NCAA tournament games as seniors, Henry Lowe, Patrick Farrell and Kevin Rafferty are affectionately known by the Nation as “The Bench Mob.” However, these seniors’ roles extend far beyond hyping up the bench and getting the crowd into the game.

Lowe, Farrell and Rafferty are extensions of Villanova basketball, and although they only play when the ‘Cats are up by a lot, they take their time on the court just as seriously as if they were starters. The three seniors know that their leadership matters just as much as Arcidiacono’s and Ochefu’s do.

“We’re just there to play the same way the guys play for 40 minutes,” Rafferty said. “For us to get in there, we have to play Villanova basketball. And if there’s the opportunity to dive on the floor, you’ve gotta dive. You can’t care if you’re up 30 or down 30—you just have to play the same way the guys play.”

This attitude is reflective of the selfless culture Wright has instilled as a quintessential piece of Villanova Basketball. The Bench Mob knows it is just as much a part of the leadership for the Wildcats as the starters, and they take their time on the court just as seriously. 

“For us, it’s really about carrying the culture of the program around,” Farrell said. “It’s about instilling the culture of playing hard, playing together, playing smart and playing with pride. That’s really what we do on a daily basis—try to hammer it into the younger guys’ brains so the culture lasts forever and it just gets passed on.” 

“We all try to implement the core values that Coach Wright preaches,” Lowe added. “That was really the key to our success—we had to get back to defense, rebounding, playing hard, playing together, playing smart and having way more pride in the Villanova jersey than the other team has in their own.”

As their college basketball careers come to a close, Arcidiacono, Ochefu, Lowe, Farrell and Rafferty will go down in school history as the group to lead the Wildcats to a second National Championship. 

And they did it the only way they knew how—by playing Villanova basketball for 40 minutes, by being selfless and by playing together. 

After Monday’s win, the seniors are living a dream that they’ve all shared since their time at the University began, and they have each other, and their teammates, to thank.

The five began their journey together as teammates. Four years later, they are brothers whose “Attitude” led the Wildcats to their second national championship.