Reflecting on an Incredible Decade of Villanova Basketball
As we continue our slog through the summer doldrums, now is as good a time as any to pause and remember we are approaching the end of the decade. And what a decade it has been, has it has ushered in a golden era of Villanova basketball with the Wildcats twice claiming the college basketball throne and cementing their place of national relevance. So, as the decade that has proven so glorious for the program winds down and we anxiously await a return to the hardwood, let’s take advantage of the downtime to reflect on what was truly a remarkable time in Villanova basketball history.
Since January 1, 2010, the Cats have compiled a 259-83 record, good for a winning percentage of .757. It’s not inconceivable to think they could reach 270 wins before the calendar flips to 2020.
From the 2010-11 season through the 2018-19 campaign, Villanova has averaged 24.5 wins per season and just 7.6 losses.
The decade produced nine NCAA Tournament berths, with the lost season of 2011-12 as the only blemish. ‘Nova has gone 17-7 in the NCAA Tournament en route to those two national championships.
Conference dominance was a hallmark for the Wildcats during the decade as they nabbed five regular-season conference crowns and four Big East Tournament titles.
While the Cats experienced modest success through the early part of the decade, the 2011-12 debacle notwithstanding, it was the middle and latter part of the decade where they reached heights not seen in 30 years and dominated in a mind-blowing way. And in my opinion, that ascendance can be traced to a single night in November of 2013.
It was November 29, 2013, to be exact. On that night, Villanova defeated second-ranked Kansas 63-59 in dramatic fashion. After building a seven-point lead at the half, ‘Nova pushed the lead as high as 11 with just over seven minutes to go, only to see the entire margin evaporate with ‘Nova actually falling behind 59-58 with about 30 seconds left. Sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono knocked down a clutch three with 10 seconds left to give the Cats the lead before James Bell iced the game at the free-throw line, giving the Cats a signature win and sending a message to the college basketball world, and to themselves.
Villanova would finish that 2013-14 season 29-5 and would win at least 32 games in each of the next four seasons. Over that stretch the Cats went and absurd 165-21 (.887). During the four 30-win seasons from 2014-15 to 2017-18, ‘Nova would go 136-16 (.894).
10 players that wore the Villanova uniform at some point during the decade have played in the NBA, including seven currently. We saw consensus All-Americans and some individual hardware being won by Villanova players for the first time in program history.
Meanwhile, Jay Wright went from the dapper coach who couldn’t win the big games to a future Hall of Famer, returning the program to national prominence and making it one of the standards of the college basketball world. The word “blueblood” has been tossed around, but at the very least the program is squarely among the list of the “new elite” that has emerged since the turn of the century.
It’s been truly remarkable to watch as Wright has built a powerhouse outside of the structure and traditional blueprint for doing so. Lacking is the big money from a football program like at the big state schools, and so too are the one-and-dones that dominate the headlines. Instead, he’s built one of the best cultures in the country, recruited players willing to embrace that culture, and done a masterful job developing his players.
The 2010’s produced a golden era of Villanova basketball, and with Wright at the helm and the national profile of his program, hopes are high that the 2020’s will be a continuation of the good times.
We’ll continue our review of the incredible decade later this week with a look at the best players of the decade.