Time after time, game after game, the script has been the same.
Villanova gets off to a sluggish start, some upset-minded team starts to build a little lead over the Wildcats, the lead starts to grow, Jay Wright looks up and down his bench and then sophomore Josh Hart enters the game.
And next time you look up at the scoreboard, Villanova is up 17, and the rout is on.
“Josh just brings that energy,” Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono said. “If we’re not bringing it that day, he just comes in makes shots, hustles, gets on the offensive glass.
“We know he can start, but he brings so much energy off the bench, we really appreciate his role on the team. He’s really accepted that role and it’s been great. Nothing he does surprises me.”
Hart was named Big East 6th Man of the Year earlier this week, and he certainly deserves the honor.
Hart is fifth on the No. 4 team in the nation in scoring (9.7 points per game), third in rebounding (4.4), sixth in assists (1.4) and second in steals (1.1).
Despite coming off the bench, Hart finished ninth in the Big East in shooting percentage (49 percent) and a close second in 3-point shooting (44.2 percent to Sterling Gibbs’ 44.8 percent).
“Obviously, everybody wants to start, but you can only have five starters, so the confidence they have in me being the first guy off the bench is really a testament to them and not to me,” Hart said.
“Eveybody wants to start and play 30 or 40 minutes a game, but realistically that’s not going to happen, so having the confidence this coaching staff gives me every day in practice and every game, I can go out there with a clear mind and play with energy and do everything I can to help the team win.”
And very few teams have won as much as Villanova this year.
The Wildcats take a 29-2 record and No. 4 national ranking (No. 3 in the coaches' poll) into New York for the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Villanova is the top seed in the tourney and opens up at noon Thursday against the winner of a game Wednesday between Marquette and Seton Hall.
Villanova coach Jay Wright originally planned to start Hart this year, but Dylan Ennis had such a strong offseason, Wright’s plans changed.
“I said to Josh, ‘You had a really good summer and fall too, but Dylan was just tremendous and I’ve got to start him,’ and Josh said, ‘I understand,’ and just went to work,” Wright said.
“That’s so unusual for a young kid, a sophomore, and so mature. He turned it into such a positive to really have a great year and win 6th Man. Really impressive. I think it really speaks to his character.”
It’s a sign of how much Wright trusts Hart and how versatile and productive Hart is on both ends of the court that he’s averaging 25½ minutes per game –- only three less than Darrun Hilliard, a Big East Player of the Year candidate.
“Josh gives us everything when he comes in,” Hilliard said. “Toughness, makes shots, rebounds, defenses. He’s just an all-around great player.
“He’s a sponge. He listens to everything you tell him, wants to learn, wants to get better, has a great attitude. Think that’s why he got the sixth man of the year award. Obviously he has great talent, but he has a great attitude and demeanor off the court.
“Some guys would be upset that they’re not starting and go to another big-time program and start, but he’s never been like that. It’s just, ‘What can I do to help us win?’”
Hart stands 6-foot-5, 205 pounds. He can run the floor, he can rebound, he can shoot, he can defend. And because he’s so versatile, he’s always the first man off the bench.
No matter who Wright decides to take out.
“He’s the perfect sixth man because he can come in and play any position except probably point guard,” Wright said.
“He’s tough enough that we could play him at the 5 if we had to. We can play him anywhere, so that’s the beauty of it. We look at it when we’re making that first substitution, what do we need?
“If we need to get bigger, we can take out one of the guards and put him in. If we need to get quicker, we take out one of the forwards, and we can put him in either one of those spots, and he brings energy immediately at whatever spot we put him in.
“He brings an aggressiveness and an intensity and an ability to hit 3’s. That’s the best sixth man. You can’t get much better than that.”