As Villanova embarked on its magical run to a national championship last year, much was made of the Wildcats’ Final Four “drought.” Yes, Villanova hadn’t made it to the final weekend of college basketball since 2009 – which really isn’t all that long ago – but make no mistake: The Wildcats were still one of the premier programs in America, winning 29 games in 2014 and 33 in 2015.
What has been the key to Villanova’s sustained success, you ask? Well, it’s pretty obvious.
“I think we’ve had really good players,” Wright said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I really believe it. Sometimes I get frustrated that our players don’t get the individual attention that they deserve, but I understand it. We don’t have the flashiest guys, but I think that they are really effective college players and then they’re good professional players, whether they go to the NBA or to Europe. They have good careers. I think we’ve been able to sustain that over a period of time.”
Indeed, they have – albeit with a few highs and lows. Villanova, three years removed from its Final Four run in ’09, finished 13-19 in 2012.
“As you know, it’s fragile,” Wright said. “It can go at any time. We went to the Final Four in 09. We had it going for a little bit. And it just took one year of just not having a senior class, guys leaving early, and we slipped. We had a 13-19 year. So we have slipped, we understand how fragile it is, and I think it keeps us on our toes and it keeps us committed to getting the right guys that are good basketball players and not just hyped guys. I think we’ve done a really good job of that. I think we have really good players.”
Whether Villanova wins back-to-back national titles remains to be seen, but the No. 1 Wildcats (8-0) are sitting pretty through the first month of the season. Josh Hart (17.1 points per game), Kris Jenkins (14.5), Jalen Brunson (11.6) and Mikal Bridges (10.5) are all averaging double figures, while Donte DiVincenzo is shooting 43.8 percent from three-point range.
You might recognize some of those names from last March. Some, you might not. But no one is resting on past laurels.
“It’s a challenge every day because they’re 18 and 22 years old,” Wright said. “It’s a challenge for all of us – even me, at 54. We learned that being No. 1 last year. Whole new challenges come with that, so it’s something we address all the time. That is our enemy as much as the opponent is. It’s the disease of me. We actually use that term, and when it comes up, we address it. It takes the discipline of the assistant coaches addressing it, but it takes the character and the intelligence of the players to accept it, listen to it and respond to it.”
Villanova, which plays La Salle on Tuesday night, plays No. 23 Notre Dame (8-0) this Saturday. Tip-off against the Irish is at 7 p.m. ET.