‘Cats take two-seed in South



Rachel Bleier

The Villanova Wildcats have “a lot more winning to do” according to Jay Wright, and he should know that better than anyone. 

Unfortunately, that will not be happening at the Wildcats’ “home away from home,” the Wells Fargo Center. However, the Temple Owls will accompany the Cats in the South Region, setting up a possible Big Five rematch in the Big Dance and providing ‘Nova with a reminder of home.

The Wildcats will face UNC-Ashville, champions of the Big South Conference, in their first round game at the Barclays Center on Friday. 

“I know that the conference is pretty tough, so for them [UNC-Asheville] to win that, they have to be a pretty tough team,” Head Coach Jay Wright said.

Coach Wright and the Wildcats packed the Villanova Room with family, friends, alumni and students to view the Selection Sunday show. 

The Cats were visibly shocked when Oregon was chosen as a one-seed, especially Jalen Brunson, whose jaw nearly hit the floor. The Cats took the news that they would be a two-seed in the South Region stoically, treating it as business as usual. 

Arcidiacono, however, admitted to being surprised that Villanova was not placed in the East bracket. 

“We definitely wanted to play in Philly,” he said. “It’s as close to home as you can be. But they picked it and we’re in the South [Region]. We’re still pretty close in Brooklyn and we’re comfortable in that gym.”

Wright added, “We’d definitely rather be in Philly, but we have done that before and there are a lot of distractions. It’s almost overwhelming.”

With respect to being on the road, Josh Hart and Daniel Ochefu though it could be better for the Cats. 

“It’s you and your brothers against everyone else,” Hart said. “I think we all love being on the road a little more than being at home because we’re all that much more connected.”

Ochefu called the team’s fate in the South Region “a blessing in disguise,” because it could help take some of the pressure off of the team. However, the Wildcats recognize that what they really need for this tournament to be considered a success is to get past the first weekend. 

“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Arcidiacono said. “To have the opportunity to play on Friday and hopefully again on Sunday is great.”

Kris Jenkins echoed Arcidiacono’s sentiment, adding, “It’s a two game tournament from here on out. UNC-Asheville is our next opponent, so that’s our most important game.”

There is also an apparent urgency among the Cats to succeed in this year’s tourney. Both Arcidiacono and Ochefu understand this is their last shot to lead their teammates to a successful showing. 

Ochefu said, “There’s a lot of hunger, knowing it’s our last shot, guys have to seize the moment.”

Equally as important is ‘Nova’s hunger to avenge their tough loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament Championship. 

“We’ll definitely try to get better from that,” Arcidiacono said. “We just have to come out stronger, and set the tone for the game.”

Wright has always looked to his senior leadership to step up in difficult situations, and the NCAA is no different. Brunson credits the senior leadership with preparing him for his first tournament experience. 

“I think the leadership the upperclassmen have [shown] prepared me pretty well, and prepared everyone really well,” Brunson said.

Whether or not the Wildcats can break their streak of early exits from the tournament remains to be seen. However, the South Region bracket looks like one in which the Cats can do well. The senior leadership will be huge, and the younger players are looking forward to helping Arcidiacono and Ochefu end their amazing careers with a special NCAA run.