‘Cats close out historic regular season



Eugene Rapay


With the Wildcats losing only James Bell from the starting lineup, they were primed for a big season. Not only was the core group of the team intact, but it worked hard during the offseason to come back better than ever. 

Villanova was the unanimous pick to win the Big East. Nova Nation looked forward to the season opener with great anticipation. 

However, it wasn’t the prettiest of beginnings. Villanova battled its way to victory over Lehigh and Bucknell, teams it was supposed to easily run over. Although they won, they were far from Big East championship form. 

The Villanova faithful released a great sigh of relief, but they weren’t in the clear just yet. A feeling of uneasiness permeated the air, as the Legends Classic tournament featured much tougher opposition.

The Wildcats quelled those doubts by dismantling VCU’s trademark “Havoc” defense. Villanova put on an outstanding display of both offense and defense, winning in a lopsided manner. 

In the Legends Classic final, they faced the Michigan Wolverines for the first time since the 1985 NCAA Tournament. It was fitting, as the atmosphere was reminiscent of March Madness. 

The game went down to the wire, with an exciting ending. Senior JayVaughn Pinkston played the hero, rejecting Michigan’s Zak Irvin of a last-second dunk that would have cost Villanova the game and the Legends Classic title. The block was a great way to cap off the senior’s homecoming.

Villanova continued its winning ways, putting up five straight double-digit victories until a Wells Fargo meeting with its old rival Syracuse. 

The Orange entered the game unranked but gave Villanova a fight every step of the way. Syracuse seemed to have the game in the bag until Villanova quickly scored five points in the closing seconds of regulation to take it into overtime. JayVaughn Pinkston’s heroics were on display yet again, as he had another game-saving block to preserve the lead for the win.

The Wildcats started off Big East play on the right foot, with a win over Butler on New Year’s Eve. However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. The toll of missed free throws piled onto Villanova as they faced Seton Hall at the Prudential Center. 

The Pirates took the Wildcats into overtime, where they sunk Villanova’s ship. Seton Hall rode the momentum en route to the big upset. Villanova would rebound, winning four straight after its first loss of the season.  

Villanova capped the four-game winning streak with another sweep of the Big Five. The Wildcats beat Penn, 62-47 and  captured the crown for the second consecutive year. Villanova did it in convincing fashion, winning all Big Five games by at least 15 points or more. 

The undisputed kings of Philadelphia then met with the Georgetown Hoyas in the Verizon Center, where their rivals handed them an embarrassing 20-point loss. 

Georgetown outplayed Villanova on both ends of the court, sending shockwaves throughout the conference. The loss was humbling, but there was no time to lick their wounds. The Wildcats had to focus on the Creighton Bluejays, a team that they had not beaten since Creighton’s arrival to the Big East. 

Creighton received a taste of its own medicine, getting burned from long range. Villanova poured it in from beyond the arc, overwhelming the Bluejays. Once again the Wildcats bounced back after receiving a loss, but most importantly, they have not lost since. The Wildcats have won their last 12 games to close out the season.

Along the way, they got their revenge on both Georgetown and Seton Hall. They also received a tough test from the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Wildcats beat the Hoyas in a convincing fashion in front of a sold-out Wells Fargo Center.  

Soon after, they silenced the Butler faithful with a career game for Darrun Hilliard. Hilliard topped it off with a game-winning three pointer to put the Wildcats on top. Then, they returned home to hand Seton Hall a 36-point beatdown, but not without controversy from the Pirates’ Sterling Gibbs. 

Once again, the Wildcats captured the Big East regular season title. They successfully defended their crown after winning it last year. The trophy was presented to them after the season finale game against St. John’s. 

Villanova placed the finishing touches on another decorated campaign. The Wildcats put up 105 points in a dominant victory over the Red Storm. It was their 29th win of the season, a new program best for wins in the regular season.

Villanova has been praised for its team-first style of play. While it may not be the flashiest type of basketball, the Wildcats have the results to prove its effectiveness. 

Four different Wildcats received all-Big East honors. Hilliard, Villanova’s leading scorer, and star point guard Ryan Arcidiacono were named First Team All-Big East. 

The Wildcats bruising one-two punch of Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu got honorable mentions. It goes to show that any player in a Villanova uniform has the potential of going off on any given night. 

The Wildcats have given each opponent a hard time with their depth. Anyone can be the leading man, the hero, or the one that opposing defenses are most worried about. Each player is capable of having a big game. 

For this reason, Villanova is a force to be reckoned with and will look to make a lot of noise in this weekend’s conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament later in March.