Love for basketball permeates ’Nova culture

Meaghan Bedigian

It’s no secret that Villanova basketball has one of the best fan sections in the nation, especially this season when the Wildcats are ranked seventh in the nation.

Despite all the local and national attention, junior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono doesn’t feel as though being a member of the basketball team is much different than being a regular student at Villanova.

“I don’t really think of myself as ‘Ryan the basketball player.’ I just consider myself ‘Ryan, the kid who goes to Villanova,’” Arcidiacono said. “But it’s cool when people say, ‘Great game the other day’ and stuff like that it makes you feel good about yourself and feel good about the team.”

Arcidiacono’s favorite contribution from the student section during games is when the opposing team is on the free throw line and the crowd start singing nursery rhymes.

“The band starts it, and then everyone goes along with it,” Arcidiacono said. “I get a good little chuckle after that.”

He’s also a big fan of the signs and fatheads that students hold up in the stands.

 “I always like the cardboard cutout where Daniel [Ochefu]’s wearing the chef hat. That gives me a laugh,” Arcidiacono said. “The one sign I distinctly remember from last year was the 10 commandments of Villanova basketball.”

Using former Villanova point guard Tony Chennault’s last name as a play on words for “shall not,” some notable commandments of Villanova basketball include: “You Chennault dress better than Jay Wright,” “You Chennault use Arch’s name in vain” and “I am the Wildcat your mascot, you Chennault have any mascot before me.” 

At the heart of the student section lies the Villanova pep band which, along with the cheerleaders, lead their fellow nationers in a variety of cheers and chants. The band consists of some of Villanova’s most dedicated basketball fans, as they travel with both the men and women’s basketball teams for Big East and NCAA games and for men’s Philadelphia Big Five games. If band members can’t make the games over semester breaks, alumni will even come back and fill in for them, which is a testament to the band’s overwhelming ‘Nova pride, according to junior percussionist Sean Quinn.

Quinn, who is widely known for his wild dance moves and passionate cymbal playing at games, loves being a part of the band, because he is able to use music as a way to pump up the fans and show everyone how much he enjoys being a member of the Villanova community.

One of Quinn’s favorite cheers is the drumroll after the opposing team gets a foul, especially when he’s the one on drum set. He likes how it is a dual effort between the band and the student section with their input of “You suck” after the drumroll.

“The cheer used to be ‘Foul’s on you,’ but I guess some people got creative,” Quinn said.

Quinn’s favorite game this season was the Syracuse game over winter break, which was played at the Wells Fargo Center.

“Usually, I really don’t like going to the Wells Fargo Center because as students we’re split up between the two student sections, but this time they had us all in one section,” Quinn said. “It was awesome because everyone was just going crazy, made even better by the fact that we had been there two years ago and had done essentially the same thing.”

According to Quinn, the Villanova versus Syracuse matchup is one of the best in college basketball.

“The game always draws a crowd, and it’s a constant back and forth between the fans of both teams and all this bad blood comes out of everywhere,” Quinn said. “It’s just that old Big East rivalry, everyone’s always so hyped up for it.” Until 2013, Syracuse was a member of the Big East Conference but has since then transferred to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Arcidiacono favors playing at the Pavilion over the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, because the Pavilion has a stronger student atmosphere.

“It’s right on campus so people can walk right to the gym, and it’s a very energetic environment when we get everything going,” Arcidiacono said. “It’s a little more fun than playing at Wells Fargo, but the Wells Fargo has treated us well in my time here and it’s always a lot of fun playing on that court.”

Quinn has a similar opinion on the two venues.

“Being at the Wells Fargo Center must be pretty cool for the athletes, but when you’re a fan there, everyone’s so spread out and it’s so huge that I don’t think you get the same sense of community that you do at the Pavilion where it’s literally a wall of a thousand students,” Quinn said. “It’s much more intimate there because everyone is so much physically closer together.”

The game against St. Joseph’s at the Pavilion this season was a highlight for Arcidiacono because of the overwhelming support from the student section.

“Everyone considers St. Joe’s a big rivalry game, and everything just went our way that day,” Arcidiacono said. “I think that was one of the loudest times I’ve heard the Pavilion in the last couple of years.”

The St. Joe’s games are always favorites of Quinn’s due to the crosstown rivalry, also known as the Holy War. There’s a lot of hilarious back and forth action between the Hawks and the Wildcats, according to Quinn. 

“Whenever St. Joe’s comes to the Pavilion, it’s a dogfight,” Quinn said. “That is their game of the year so they’re always trying their hardest.”

One of Quinn’s fondest Villanova basketball memories is the St. Joe’s game of 2012, an uncomfortably close 65-61 victory.

“As a team we had been coming out of this hole,” Quinn said. “We didn’t even make the NCAA tournament the previous year, and so no one really expected anything huge. To have our team pull the win out at the very end was just incredible.”

Quinn is proud to say that a member of the St. Joe’s basketball team in 2012 made a obscene gesture toward the student section.

“I guess we were being pretty vicious because after he drove down the court and hit a three, he flipped us off,” Quinn said. “I can’t even describe how loud it was after that. It’s always the local rivalry that really turns the crowd up a notch.”

The best part about Villanova basketball fans, according to Arcidiacono, is that win or lose, they’ll always be there.

“My freshman year we had some struggles,” Arcidiacono said. “We lost to Columbia and some other teams we should have beaten, but the fans stuck with us and now we’re doing pretty well with ourselves. I think they have great loyalty, and that’s what I appreciate about them.”

The Seton Hall game this season was a heartbreaker for Quinn and many others who were in attendance or at home on their winter break watching it on television.

“I donned up in every single piece of Villanova gear I own and even brought my parents to that game,” Quinn said. “Although it was tough, I think the team kind of needed a loss because up until that point they were undefeated. Sometimes when you’re that good, you need a kick in the [head].”

Freshmen John Puszcz and Will Byrne are not only student council co-class representatives, but they are also a tag team of Villanova basketball super-fans. Having attended every home game at the Pavilion this season as well as the Seton Hall game in New Jersey, these two underclassmen are the definition of nationers. 

“I have always bled blue and white,” Puszcz said.

Villanova was the only school Byrne applied to, and Puszcz supported Villanova basketball before it was even time for him to apply for college. 

“I wear Villanova apparel every single day,” Byrne said.

The two are so committed to their tag-team efforts that over winter break Byrne drove from his home in D.C. up to Puszcz’s house in New Jersey so they could watch the Syracuse game on TV together.

“I normally can’t sit down when I watch the game on TV,” Puszcz said. “So I’m hovering around the screen from start to finish with a glass of water in hand to keep my mouth quenched from constantly screaming at the TV.”

Alternatively, when Quinn watches Villanova games on television, he makes sure to do so with a ton of friends dressed in blue and white glued to the screen.

“During games I like to get my friends pumped up, but I also like to focus and really dial into the games so I understand what’s going on and understand why [Head] Coach [Jay] Wright is doing a certain thing,” Puszcz said. “Jay Wright is a wizard of the game of basketball. He is the renaissance man.”

Puszcz and Byrne are so well-known in the student section, that they can roll into the Pavilion at tip-off and there will be a seat saved for them in the front row, usually by the Villanova dance team. At the St. Joe’s game this season, Puszcz was even rewarded a t-shirt for his school spirit that reads, “I love the Villanova dance team.” He now wears this shirt during every game for good luck.

“We do it for everyone who came before us,” Byrne said. “Those who wore blue and white before we knew what blue and white was,” Puszcz adds.

It is a popular trend on campus for students to channel their love of the game by playing on an intramural basketball team.

“I know it’s super cheesy, but my absolute favorite part about playing intramural basketball is getting to play in the Pavilion because you’re playing on the exact same floor that these guys who are ranked seventh in the nation are playing on,” Puszcz said.

On the other hand, Byrne and Puszcz do not partake in intramural basketball.

“We can only focus on one basketball team at a time,” Byrne said.

Quinn, Puszcz and Byrne are among the connection of Villanova students who will be placing Villanova in the number one spot on their NCAA tournament brackets.

“There’s no other way to do it,” Quinn said.

And Puszcz agrees.

“We’re going to win it all,” Puszcz said. “I’m not just blindly putting them down at number one. We are number one.”

It is a general consensus on Villanova’s campus that there’s only room for one Wildcat in the NCAA, so Kentucky better watch its back, because ’Nova nation’s gaining on them.

Arcidiacono’s message to fans as March Madness swiftly approaches is to keep doing what they do best: showing love for the Villanova basketball team.

“We are so grateful for all the support at games and all the times that the student section has filled,” Arcidiacono said. “All we need is for the fans to keep being loud and make our home court one of the toughest places to play in the country.”