Villanova Wildcats

Villanova leaves early for NCAA Tournament repeat bid to avoid snowstorm

Villanova leaves early for NCAA Tournament repeat bid to avoid snowstorm

Printable bracket with game times

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VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Jay Wright's squad is already feeling the madness.
 
Just over 24 hours after returning from Madison Square Garden with the Big East title in hand, Villanova is back on the road, heading to Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament.
 
It's a quick turnaround for a team coming off of three wins in three days. But now, with an impending snowstorm making its way to the area, Villanova scrambled to depart for Buffalo earlier than anticipated for Thursday's game.
 
"It changes a lot because we just got home," Wright said Monday before departing for Buffalo. "We just got home yesterday, and I'm not really looking forward to leaving right away, but it hits you with reality. You're in it. We're going to be in Buffalo tonight and that's where we're playing and it's on.
 
"Even after we won (the Big East championship) Saturday night, our staff was already saying, 'Hey, we're probably going to Buffalo, we're expecting snow,' so we started planning then. Our original plan was to leave at 7 o'clock at night, let the guys go to class all day, and then the NCAA, last night, said because of the weather in Buffalo, they had to get us up there earlier."
 
With barely a day between trips, Wright didn't have time to prep his squad for the upcoming biggest game of the year. No meetings, no talks, just one abbreviated practice.
 
"Honestly, I didn't even give them any message here because we're trying to get out of here real fast," Wright said. "I wanted to make sure that we got a little practice in. We had planned on practicing later, but as you guys know, we had Coaches vs. Cancer this morning, so I had to go back. So we didn't have any meetings today or any talks. We just got on the floor and practiced basketball. And we'll have time up there in Buffalo to talk."
 
As if that were not enough, the Wildcats, the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, don't even know which team they'll be facing in the first round. They await the winner of Tuesday's First Four game between Mount St. Mary's (19-15) and New Orleans (20-11). Villanova will meet the winner Thursday at 7:10 p.m.
 
So, with no down time to scout, prepare or let alone practice, how do you prepare for two teams?
 
"You're a 1-seed playing a 16-seed, so there's nothing to complain about," Wright said. "It is a different challenge. You've got two assistants working on the first game and you still have to prepare possibly for a second game. It's just different."
 
A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed, and with Villanova's experience and skill, the Wildcats should have no problem advancing to the second round. 

But, of course, don't tell them that.
 
"This starts a new season," Wright said. "Whatever our seed is, whatever we did in the regular season doesn't matter. We're one of 68 teams. That's it. And we get beat in the first round, we're done. Let's enjoy the finality of this, the pressure, let's enjoy this, let's embrace it."
 
The chances of Villanova losing in the first round to either team are -- to put it lightly -- a long shot, but Wright doesn't have fond memories of Buffalo.
 
Last time 'Nova played in Buffalo in the Big Dance, the second-seeded Wildcats were stunned by eventual national champion and seventh-seeded UConn in 2014.
 
"Great disappointment," Wright said. "But not just in losing, but we didn't really play Villanova basketball, either."
 
As the head coach of Hofstra in 2000, Wright's team was blasted by Oklahoma State in the first round in Buffalo.
 
"My first NCAA Tournament game ever, when we were at Hofstra, was at Buffalo, same place," Wright said. "And it was St. Paddy's Day and there was a blizzard. I was thinking, 'My whole life, I waited to coach and make the NCAA Tournament and it was miserable.' And we played Oklahoma State ... and got hammered. ... It was a horrible first experience as a coach, and it was in Buffalo."
 
While in Buffalo yet again, this year is different for Wright. His 'Cats ran the table in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, edging out UNC on Kris Jenkins' miraculous game-winner to become national champions.
 
It's a play that stalks Wright and the reigning champs everywhere they go. On TV, on video boards. It's inescapable, endlessly intensifying the pressure with every view for Villanova to match expectations and make a deep run this year.
 
"It's there," Wright said. "It's always a reminder that everybody expects you to do it again. But, that's part of the challenge. When people say it's hard to repeat, that's part of why it's hard to repeat. Because you have to deal with those expectations all the time and constant reminders of last year."
 
Ready or not, Villanova's path to a repeat begins Thursday. The team has two full days of meetings and practice to prepare. In the formidable East Region, with No. 2 Duke and others standing in their way, the Wildcats won't be caught looking ahead (see story).
 
"The teams that scare me the most right now are New Orleans and Mount St. Mary's, definitely," Wright said. "Because none of [the other teams in the bracket] matter. If you don't get past those guys, there's no reason. Why waste being scared if you can't get past the first game? I'm scared enough."

Villanova basketball to hold exhibition doubleheader for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico

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Villanova basketball to hold exhibition doubleheader for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico

As many citizens in Puerto Rico continue to struggle with the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, Villanova basketball has decided to use its platform to raise money for relief.

The Villanova men’s and women’s teams will host an exhibition doubleheader Nov. 1 at the Jake Nevin Field House, with all ticket sales benefiting the organization “Unidos Por Puerto Rico.” Villanova is also encouraging fans to make additional donations at this website

The Wildcats women's team will play East Stroudsburg (Division II) at 6 p.m. The men’s team will follow, with a contest against Drexel at 8:30 p.m.

“The impact of Hurricane Irma on our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico has been tragic,” Villanova athletic director Mark Jackson said. “We are grateful that the NCAA is permitting its members to participate in making donations in this unique way as we get ready for the college basketball season. I hope the Nova Nation will join us in supporting this relief effort.”

The men’s team, ranked No. 6 nationally in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, was upset by Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season after a national championship campaign in 2015-16.

The Villanova women finished last season 20-15 overall, making a run to the semifinals of the WNIT before falling to Michigan, 65-11.

Both teams start the regular season Nov. 10, with the women visiting Hartford and the men taking on Columbia at the Wells Fargo Center.

Villanova picked to win Big East in preseason coaches' poll

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Villanova picked to win Big East in preseason coaches' poll

For the fourth year in a row, Villanova was picked to win the Big East in the league's preseason coaches' poll.

The Wildcats received eight of the 10 possible first-place votes in the poll, which was released on Wednesday and doesn't allow coaches to vote for their own teams. Seton Hall and Xavier received the other two first-place votes.

Villanova finished the 2016-2017 season with a 15-3 record in the Big East, good for first place in the conference, and capped it off with the Big East tournament crown.

The Wildcats finished last season with a 32-4 record overall and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The team returns two starters from last season, including forward Mikal Bridges, who was picked for the All-Big East second team, and point guard Jalen Brunson, who was selected as the 2017-2018 Big East Preseason Player of the Year. Brunson's averages of 14.7 points and 4.1 assists led him to an All-Big East first team selection in 2016-2017.

Sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo, who averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on his way to making the Big East all-freshman team, is another returning player that will play a big factor for 'Nova. The Wildcats also add freshman forward Omari Spellman to the mix after he redshirted last season. Spellman was picked in the coaches' poll as the preseason Freshman of the Year.

Jay Wright's squad tips off the 2017-18 season on Nov. 10 against Columbia.