Villanova, which went six years without a Sweet 16 appearance, capped one of the most impressive runs to a national championship Monday, overcoming North Carolina 77-74 on a buzzer-beating three by Kris Jenkins.
With two nail-biters and four blowouts in the tourney, Nova beat No. 3 Miami, No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 1 North Carolina, among others, to give Jay Wright his first national title.
“I think the world of a lot of coaches and I don’t root for teams, but I had a feeling about Villanova all year,” FOX Sports college basketball announcer Tim Brando said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I had Jay’s last game (of the regular season). I’ve known Jay since he was really the gopher guy for Rollie (Massimino) when he was hired in ’87 as his assistant. He was running out to get the linguini for (Bill) Raftery and (Dick) Vitale. I’ve known Jay since the beginning. He learned and he has embraced, and he’s just the classic good guy. He really deserves this.”
Wright, who became head coach at Villanova in 2001, led the Wildcats to the Final Four in 2009 but had been mostly quiet since then, at least in the tournament. Even last year, Nova went 33-3 before losing in the Round of 32.
Monday, however, was vindication for a blue-blood coach at a blue-blood program.
“I don’t root for teams, but I do root for people,” Brando said. “Jay Wright, the first thing he did when he became head coach after having been there for such a long time, he brought back Rollie and he brought back all of Rollie’s players. And at the end – people forget this, but a lot of Philadelphia folks know where I’m coming from – the breakup at the end for Rollie was’t all that pretty when he left Philadelphia. He had some issues with some writers, and it’s tough in Philly. I mean, it is. But immediately, Jay just embraced the past, brought Rollie back, and made him feel special. Rollie would always come back. Rollie’s always a part of the program now and all of his players are – from every generation, going all the way back to Jack Kraft’s days as coach at Villanova.
“Jay gets it,” Brando continued. “You’re not going get where you want to go if you don’t remember where you’ve been. He’s a true south Philly guy. A lot of people have had him heading for the NBA. I don’t think he’ll ever do that. He loves Villanova too much. These young men that play for him embody that. They have a basketball IQ that’s through the roof and I think they’re all extensions of who Jay is. They’re going to be around for a long, long time.”
Villanova’s win is a huge boost for the Big East, which, two years ago, had Doug McDermott and not much else. Now with Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall and others, the league could become one of the best in America.
“There are a lot of teams that I think are on the come,” Brando said. “Once Georgetown and St. John’s get their act together – and I believe that they will – with Villanova’s sort of setting of the pace and setting of the bar, the new Big East is going to look a lot more like the original Big East. So there are winners all around here on the basis of this victory.”