If you forgot how March Madness ended last year, Villanova is back in the tournament to remind you. The Wildcats hit a buzzer-beater in the National Championship to defeat North Carolina last year, and Jay Wright has his team ready for a third title in school history.
Repeating as national champions has never been easy. Only seven schools have accomplished the feat, with UCLA repeating twice. But Villanova has an experienced roster and an elite coach, and they’ve been one of the top teams in the nation this year. Villanova finished the regular season with a record of 31-3, and a 14-point win over Creighton in the Big East tournament final solidified their status as a top seed heading into March Madness.
Villanova is going for a third title in school history, but there is a specific reason this run is different. If the Wildcats make it Phoenix for the Final Four, they will do so as the favorite. That differs from their first two titles, when they shocked the basketball worlds as underdogs.
Villanova was the top seed entering last year’s tournament, but didn’t catch any breaks on their way to the top. They defeated top seeds left and right, and drew a tough UNC team in the national championship. Even with Nova’s impressive resume, a dominant UNC team was favored heading into the final game of 2016. After Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit a late three-pointer with five seconds to play, it looked like the Wildcats would be headed to overtime. But Kris Jenkins stepped up and hit the biggest shot in school history, winning the game and the title for Villanova.
Despite all the drama that was last year’s title game, it is the school’s first title that holds a special place in history. In 1985, the Wildcats pulled an improbable upset over a heavily favored Georgetown team. Villanova needed to play a perfect game and they did, hitting 78.6 percent of their shots en route to a 66-64 victory.