Villanova Wildcats

Villanova ready for pressure of trying to repeat in NCAA Tournament

Villanova ready for pressure of trying to repeat in NCAA Tournament

Printable bracket with game times

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The challenge has changed for the Villanova Wildcats.
 
No longer is the pressure of the NCAA Tournament focused on getting through opening weekend.
 
Now, as the No. 1 overall seed, it's on defending their championship -- something that hasn't been done since the Florida Gators in 2006-07.
 
"There was a big monkey on our back with the first weekend thing," senior guard Josh Hart said Wednesday before the Wildcats practiced inside KeyBank Center. "It was kind of weird this year not having to answer that question that I answered the last three years. But, you know, it is what it is. Both of them are challenging. We just know we've got to be focused and ready to play come tomorrow."
 
The quest to repeat begins in heavily-favored fashion against 16th-seeded Mount St. Mary's, the Northeast Conference champions, which defeated New Orleans on Tuesday in a First Four game.
 
As the No. 1 overall seed, anything less than a romp by Villanova would be a surprise. Of course, with that comes another form of, you guessed it, pressure.
 
"You're a 1-seed, and so you're supposed to win it if you're the 1-seed, right?" Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It's all about how you handle that, and I think having that pressure last year and having pressure this year, I think makes it a little bit easier to handle."
 
Wright's aim has been to get his team to embrace that -- "allow it to make you better" -- he said Wednesday.
 
Should the unimaginable start to look possible Thursday and the Mountaineers start to threaten, Wright knows an entire arena full of basketball fans will become the biggest Mount St. Mary's supporters on the planet. Having never happened before, the 16-over-1 upset is eagerly anticipated.
 
"We played Monmouth in the Wells Fargo Center where we play our home games. They were a 16-seed and they made a run on us and the whole building turned on us. It was like a Monmouth home game in our arena," Wright recalled from 2006. "I was shocked. I had never experienced that. We were a No. 1 seed and everyone was going for the underdog. That's a crazy kind of pressure, especially when you're on your home court. You know those teams, they can get it going and they put game pressure on you when you're a 1-seed. You've got to be ready for it and got to overcome that, too."
 
Assuming they do, a matchup with either Wisconsin or Virginia Tech awaits in the second round Saturday. Win that, and the hype will only continue to build.
 
"That will be something surrounding us [that] will be a distraction, and we've just got to focus on each other," Hart said. "We've just got to focus on playing basketball for 40 minutes. If we do that, we'll take the outcome."
 
That strategy has worked to near perfection this season. A 31-3 record, Big East championship and No. 1 overall seed are the results.
 
"The blessing about Coach and this program is nothing ever really changes," Hart said. "I think that's the biggest thing. No matter if you're coming off a national championship year or we were coming off of that 13-19 year, nothing in this program ever changes. The core values are still the same. The commitment to our core values is still the same."
 
Hart gets plenty of credit for instilling those values in his younger teammates, as do fellow seniors Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds. Those three were asked Wednesday if they have been able to fully enjoy the run they've been on.
 
"I think it was harder last year to embrace it, just with … everything that came around with the first-round exit or the first-weekend exit, the last couple of years, so that was kind of hard to embrace," Hart said. "Because we knew, no matter how we played, that first game, we knew we were going to have to -- if we won that one, we knew we were going to have to answer that question and we knew that was going to be the big story and everything the next couple of days.
 
"And now, it's hard to do it now because we have questions about repeating. So, you know, you can't really embrace it too much. Obviously, it's a blessing being able to be here. … But that's why we've got to just rely on each other and focus on each other and don't focus on anything else. We have to embrace the time we have together at the end."
 
"Just take it one day at a time, one game at a time," Jenkins added. "We really enjoy being around each other, and we're looking forward to tomorrow."
 
"You can't look too far behind or too far forward because you end up tripping on what you're doing right now," Reynolds said. "Coach is trying to drive that home, just focusing on the present, focusing on the next game. We can think about repeating and completely overlook the next game, and you lose, and you don't even have a chance to make it to that point to be able to repeat. So it's just something we've been doing the last couple years, just making sure we're focused on the next game, focused on what we can control at the moment."

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.