Ryan Arcidiacono's flying act captivating Villanova basketball


Ryan Arcidiacono's flying act captivating Villanova basketball

NEW YORK -- Before Villanova tipped off Friday night against Providence, college hoops play-by-play man Gus Johnson was chatting with Wildcats senior Ryan Arcidiacono about his habit of diving into the crowd for loose balls.

“I told Gus Johnson I was going for him,” Arcidiacono said jokingly.

Arcidiacono didn’t dive into Johnson, but in the second half of the Big East Tournament semifinal Friday at Madison Square Garden, he did go airborne once again, soaring over a press table and three rows into the stands to bat the ball away from Providence guard Kris Dunn on a potential breakaway.

This has become Arcidiacono’s trademark move.


Into the stands.

“I’ve done it my whole life,” Arcidiacono said after Villanova advanced to Saturday’s Big East championship game against Seton Hall.

“That’s the way I’ve played my whole life, and that’s what we do at Villanova, so it was a perfect fit for me to come here, and I just think overall, offensively, defensively, I’m just a good fit here.

“And all the dives and the charges and stuff, that’s just a product of playing Villanova basketball.”

It seems to happen once or twice a game.

Loose ball or an errant pass, and there’s Arch flying over the sideline table, scattering notebooks and laptops, and landing in the stands.

The arena grows quiet for a moment, then a roar goes up as Arcidiacono emerges unscathed from this sea of humanity, climbs back over the table onto the court and assures his teammates he’s fine.

“If that was any other of my teammates, they would do the same thing,” Arcidiacono said.

“I just think I seemed to find the opportunities to do it. But I love it. I saw Kris Dunn back there by himself. I had to make a play on the ball."

No. 3 Villanova, 29-4, faces 24-8 Seton Hall in the Big East title game Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Arcidiacono is playing well in his final Big East tournament. He has 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two turnovers in the Wildcats’ wins over Georgetown and Providence, and he’s made seven of 10 threes.

But the enduring memory of both games at the Garden so far is Arch flying into the stands.

“The leader he is … he gives his body up,” said Josh Hart, Villanova’s leading scorer. “That could have been a nasty fall. He could have really got hurt and he did not care at all. He’s all in to this team. You’ve got to love him.”

Hart has seen Arcidiacono do this for three years now, and he said Friday’s launch into the air to knock the ball away from Dunn at a key moment may have been Arch’s best acrobatic act yet.

“Today was big,” Hart said. “Today might have taken the cake. I’ve seen him jump over many stands, many tables, but today might have taken the cake.

“He does whatever he has to do to win. If he didn’t get that steal, that might have been a layup for Kris. That was a huge play. He didn’t hit a three or have a crazy move or an assist to somebody, but that play was huge.

“I think we had a turnover and they were going to have a for-sure two points, but luckily he was able to make that play.”

Arcidiacono, who grew up in Bucks County watching Villanova and learning what it meant to play Villanova basketball — an unselfish, team-first brand of ball — said he’s never gotten hurt launching himself into the stands.

“No, I thank my parents, I have a hard head,” he said. “I've done worse when I was younger.

“I enjoy it. I like it and I embrace it. Anything I can do to affect the game on the defensive end and make the plays and get our team on top.”

Arcidiacono on Friday became the first Villanova player ever with 1,500 points and 500 assists and only the second Big East player to reach those milestones since 2010. DePaul’s Brandon Young also did it.

But the post-game conversation centered on his high-flying dives.

“That's what he grew up watching,” coach Jay Wright said. “That's all he knows. He grew up in Philly watching Villanova basketball and watching Allan Ray and Randy Foye. It's like a kid growing up in Indiana watching Indiana basketball.

“So I really don't think anything of it. He does it in practice every day. He did it in high school. He did it before he came to Villanova. I love it.”

Arcidiacono did miss his senior year at Neshaminy High School after undergoing back surgery, but he said he’s never gotten hurt playing basketball.

“Actually, no,” he said. “Strong bones? I’ve had worse growing up. Never really had an injury that would keep me out. There were games I had to get stitches, but nothing that kept me out.

"I fractured my shoulder once … fractured my shoulder when I was in seventh grade during football. There was a kid, we were running a drill and this kid hit me pretty good. It was like two cars going right at each other.

“I came back the next year but I was very soft on the football field because I didn’t want to get hurt for basketball.”

So apparently Arcidiacono isn’t just smart and tough and talented.

He’s also indestructable.

“We don’t even worry about him,” Hart said. “We don’t even think about it. Just go make the play and put it in God’s hands.”

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to episode on Oregon football's uniform revolution

NBC Sports

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to episode on Oregon football's uniform revolution

Forget about Chip Kelly for a second: When you think of the University of Oregon, you probably think of their uniforms.

Each season, the Ducks push jersey and helmet designs to new heights, and their trailblazing influence has trickled down throughout college athletics. It all started in the 1990s, when Oregon decided to get crazy - and it worked.

In the second episode of NBC Sports' "Sports Uncovered" podcast series, NBC Sports Northwest takes a deep dive into how Oregon sparked a fashion transformation across college football with a mascot change, and with unique Nike uniforms that helped push the program into the national college football coversation.

The episode features in-depth interviews with former Oregon football head coach Mike Bellotti, former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington, and more.

The episode releases Thursday, June 11. You can listen to this episode and the entire "Sports Uncovered" series by subscribing for free wherever you listen to podcasts.

To catch every episode, be sure to subscribe to "Sports Uncovered" and have every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: Apple, Google Podcast, iHeart, Stitcher, Spotify, and TuneIn

Listen and subscribe to the "Sports Uncovered" podcast:

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

USA Today Images

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

It's been 12 days since Villanova's season ended abruptly due to the coronavirus crisis. Jay Wright held a video conference on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics. 

Here are the major takeaways from Wright's session with the media.  

This March is different

Villanova missed out on opportunities to win a fourth straight Big East Tournament and participate in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in the last 16 years. The Wildcats won eight of their final nine games to clinch a share of the Big East regular season title. Not having a chance to shine in the postseason stings. 

"Missing the NCAA Tournament is obviously tough for our guys," Wright said. "We felt like we were playing great basketball, coming on strong. I always say we want to play our best basketball at the end of the year, and I think we were doing that. It is what it is, our guys get it. 

"It's a great example of our mantra 'attitude'. We try to teach our guys that you don't have control over what happens in life. What you do have control of is your response to what happens to you. 

"I don't know if there's even been a March where I wasn't either in (the NCAA Tournament), watching it or recruiting during it. I'm testing myself on what else is there in me? Being a better father, being a better husband. Spending more time with the kids, watching more movies, reading more, trying to be more worldly. I'm not very good at it but I'm trying."

Will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA? 

Arguably the biggest question concerning Wright's team heading into the offseason is will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA or will he return for his junior season at Villanova? Wright mentioned that Bey was especially disappointed when this season was cut short. He realizes that he has a big decision to make on his future. Wright discussed Bey's future plans as well as freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is also considered an NBA prospect. 

"The NBA is still on hold," Wright said. "They don't have a plan yet for what they're going to do with the pre-draft process or the draft yet. Saddiq and Jeremiah probably both will go through that process when we find out what it is. They're waiting on us for information, should they start working out? We're trying to get them as much information as possible. 

"If we were in a normal timeline, they would both go through the process. As we learn what the NBA is going to do there are so many possibilities. Just to take it to an extreme, there's a possibility they might not have a pre-draft process and just have the draft with no workouts, using the evaluations they had during the season. 

"We're communicating with both of them daily. Saddiq is having a tough time trying to find a place to work out in [his hometown] Washington D.C. He just got a gym to get into so he can shoot, he can't find a gym to get into to lift. Jeremiah is trying to find a place around here to get into to shoot."

2020 Summer Olympics postponed

Wright was supposed to spend a portion of his summer as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team in Tokyo. But with this week's announcement that the Olympics are postponed, his plans have changed. 

"It's the right decision," Wright said. "I feel bad for all of those athletes that it's once in a lifetime experience. I really feel bad for them. For basketball guys it's not as difficult. I talked with [U.S. head coach Greg Popovich] yesterday. It's postponed, obviously not cancelled, postponed until some time next spring or summer. There's a lot of questions there. They could do it late spring, when you might not have NBA players. If they did it in the summer maybe you do have NBA players. We have to wait for the IOC to make those decisions. 

"For us personally (at Villanova), it's kind of crazy because we thought we came up with this great plan. I was going to have to leave our offseason program for the Olympics. We had a plan to work around that, and now it doesn't matter. We'll be here in June and July. Now we don't even know if the players will be here. We worked so hard to put this plan in place for me being away and now it doesn't even matter."

Phillies season on hold

A Bucks County native, Wright is a huge Philadelphia sports fan. He had Phillies season tickets as a kid and is a regular at Citizens Bank Park during the summer months. Like all Phillies fans, he's disappointed the baseball season isn't starting this week.

"The end of the basketball season was always sobering," Wright said. "But what always saved us was the start of the Phillies. Opening Day and the start of baseball season in our family is a big deal. 

"We watch the spring training games, we'll even joke, 'Who do the Phillies play tonight?' It's really surreal. Spring time without baseball, especially the Phillies, is bizarre. It's really the way myself and my family get ourselves out of basketball mode. We go to Opening Day, we go to the Phillies games, we love 'Bark in the Park', we always bring the dogs. We're really going to miss it."

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