Well-rounded Villanova still driven by Ryan Arcidiacono


Well-rounded Villanova still driven by Ryan Arcidiacono

VILLANOVA, Pa. — As the fans yelled and the cheerleaders cheered and the band played behind him, Ryan Arcidiacono sat in the front row of Villanova’s NCAA selection show party Sunday with a bleary-eyed look.

The Wildcats had just played three games in three days to win the Big East Tournament championship, returning to campus only a few hours before the team learned it earned a No. 1 seed in the East region of the NCAA Tournament.

And Arcidiacono — the guy who usually bounces around the gym like a yo-yo and is perhaps best known for diving on the floor and over press row — was feeling worn down.

“I’m not even tired from games,” Arcidiacono said Sunday. “But we just had a long day of traveling. We didn’t get back until 2:30 today because we had to do some stuff in New York. I’m very grateful to how we played and how we were able to win, but I’m just a little bit tired right now.”

A good tired though, right?

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said.

As Villanova begins its national title quest with Thursday’s first-round NCAA game against Lafayette at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center (6:50 p.m.), perhaps no player is as important to the team’s success as Arcidiacono.

Sure, it’s the Wildcats’ balance, teamwork and hustle that allowed them ascend to the second overall seed behind only Kentucky. But in many ways, Arcidiacono is the one that embodies all of those traits, which is why he was named the Big East co-Player of the Year even though he’s third on his team in scoring behind Darrun Hilliard and Josh Hart.

“He’s been a great leader for us,” teammate Dylan Ennis said. “Since he got here, he’s been a Villanova guy. He’s got a great attitude about everything. We play behind him. Him being Player of the Year, we’re not surprised by it. But I don’t think he focused on that at all. He’s a big team guy and that’s why we love him.”

Despite Arcidiacono’s value, the Wildcats have shown time and again they can still win even when his shot’s not falling and he’s not scoring. In Villanova’s three Big East Tournament games at Madison Square Garden, the junior point guard had only 14 combined points and made four total shots while his minutes dropped slightly.

But Arcidiacono still played well, committing only one turnover to his eight assists. And despite being tired from the celebration and the travel, he knows he’ll be ready to go once the NCAA Tournament kicks off.

“Winning the Big East was great,” Arcidiacono said. “But we kind of have to calm down a little bit. That’s over and now we have to move on to Lafayette.”

Naturally, his teammates expect Arcidiacono to be the same guy he’s been all season once the stakes are raised and the lights grow brighter later this week. It’s almost too easy to imagine the point guard diving on the floor, getting all bloodied up and appearing on CBS' One Shining Moment highlight segment at the end of the Big Dance.

“That’s what Arch does,” Ennis said. “We know him as The Dive Guy. We just to try to follow that. That will carry us. A lot of teams might start doing different things (in the NCAA Tournament) but we’re going to stick to the same things — diving on loose balls, blocking shots, chasing guys down. And Ryan is one of the guys that does it the best.”

For Arcidiacono, playing that way doesn’t necessarily ensure Villanova will live up to its seeding and advance to the Final Four. But it certainly gives the Wildcats the best chance to win a national title — exactly 30 years after the program’s last one.

“We’re not afraid to lose,” Arcidiacono said. “We’ve been there before. If we go down playing the basketball we know how to play, we’ll be happy with that. We’ll be content.”

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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