Could this be Jay Wright’s best coaching job at Villanova?

by Marc Narducci | Mar 28, 2022
Could this be Jay Wright’s best coaching job at Villanova?

Many feel that despite winning the NCAA men’s basketball championship in 2016 and 2018, this might be Jay Wright’s best coaching job at Villanova.

That is saying something because Wright set such a high bar by winning those two titles and he has had so many other outstanding seasons as well.

Yet this year Villanova has returned to the Final Four for the fourth time under Wright and seventh in school history.

The Wildcats (30-7) will meet Kansas (32-6) in Saturday’s 6:09 p.m. semifinal in New Orleans.

Villanova advanced with a knock-down, drag-out 50-44 win over Houston.

Even though Villanova was the No. 2 seed and Houston was the No. 5, the Wildcats were the underdogs in the game.

The reason Wright is receiving kudos for this season is unlike his two former NCAA title teams, this current group doesn’t have a contributor who is considered a sure-fire NBA prospect.

From the 2016 team, Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges have all appeared in the NBA. (Donte DiVincenzo, currently with the Sacramento Kings, was on that team but only played nine games before suffering a season-ending foot injury).

The players who have appeared in the NBA from the 2018 team are Brunson, Bridges, DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall.

This year’s top player is point guard Collin Gillespie, a 6-3 graduate student who is the Big East Player of the Year. Gillespie appears to have the grit, desire, IQ and shooting ability to make the NBA, but he is not a sure shot.

Just because they may not be a team of sure-fire NBA prospects, doesn’t mean that the players aren’t talented. They are good college players.

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More than that, this is such a well-coached team, one that switches adeptly on defense, and runs its offense with precision and patience.

In addition, the Wildcats always play with a veteran composure.
Against Houston, while the three-point shot was off (5 for 21) Villanova made all 15 foul shots. Teams that limit their mistakes and make free throws can go a long way in March. Villanova had just 10 turnovers against a Houston team that was among the best defensive squads in the tournament.

With Houston concentrating so much on stopping Gillespie (15.6 ppg.) and Justin Moore (14.8 ppg.), holding the duo to 3-for-16 shooting, others came through. South Regional MVP Jermaine Samuels, a 6-7 graduate student, stepped up with 16 points while Caleb Daniels, who began his career at Tulane, no recent basketball factory, scored 12 points.

And the Wildcat's defense was relentless, forcing Houston to shoot 1-for-20 from three-point range.

Villanova will be an underdog once again against Kansas, especially with the news that Moore, a 6-4 junior, suffered a tear in his right Achilles tendon in the final minute.

Now a team that usually only played six, will have to get some contributions against Kansas by some players who haven’t had big minutes.

No matter the lack of depth and the fact that this is one of the better Kansas teams in recent seasons, nobody should ever count out a Wright-coached team.

Image Courtesy Villanova Twitter


Author: Marc Narducci

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