After winning the national championship a season ago, Villanova enters the 2017 NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.
So, what happens if Villanova (31-3) doesn’t reach the Final Four? Is the season a disappointment?
“It’d be interesting,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think probably around Sweet 16, (Elite) 8 – to the fans and media, anything less than that would definitely be a failure. Somewhere around there, I try to think of about what fans think and a lot of it comes down to what the media thinks.”
But forget about the fans and media. What would Wright think?
“That’s what we’d have to listen to – and that’s fine,” Wright said. “We tell our players that all the time. The media and the fans have an opinion, and you have to respect that – because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be playing our home games in front of 20,000 at the Wells Fargo Center. So they have a right, but that’s not how we evaluate ourselves. We really evaluate ourselves on what we do in the regular season. Yeah, it’s disappointing (when we lost early in the tournament) and we understand we got to take the hit for it, but we were winning Big East regular-season championships, and that’s how we evaluate ourselves.
“This tournament is fun,” Wright continued. “This tournament is a reward. We love it. We want to win it bad, and we are crushed if we lose in it. But we really evaluate our program and our players based on what we do during the length of a regular season.”
If Nova faces chalk in the East region, it will have to beat Wisconsin, Florida and Duke to get to Phoenix. Of course, when you have Josh Hart, anything is possible. The senior guard is averaging 18.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Wright was asked what he would have said if someone told him years ago that Hart would become a national champion, a national player of the year candidate and the consummate representation of what Villanova basketball is all about.
“I would have said you’re crazy,” Wright said. “I never thought that. We always look at, when we recruit a guy, what do we think he can become? And we’re usually very positive about it. I thought he would have a chance to be a great competitor, defensive player, offensive rebounder, slasher and be an NBA player because of that. But he has become such a complete, intelligent basketball player and really humble leader. It just separates him. He’s done everything to win a game for us – everything. Block a shot, tap-in, rebound, hit a free throw, steal, hit a three, block a three – everything. And he takes great pride in that, and he remains humble. We just had practice today, and he’s still open to teaching and getting better. You said it. He is the consummate Villanova basketball player, and I’m very proud to have him represent that culture.”