March 12, 2014
NEW YORK, N.Y. - With one of the most impressive regular seasons in the books, Villanova coach Jay Wright and his team paused briefly after their arrival in Manhattan for this week's BIG EAST Tournament to reflect on what has occurred.
There is, of course, much to take pride in. The Wildcats enter the next stage of their campaign with a 28-3 record. The 28 regular season wins are three more than the previous high (reached most recently in 2008-09). The 16 BIG EAST wins are two better than the program's previous high-water mark (also achieved most recently in '08-09).
Villanova entered the Associated Press Top 25 on Dec. 2 and remained there for the duration of the regular season, peaking at No. 3 this week. They also are ranked No. 3 in the final USA Today Coaches poll of the regular season.
Thanks to its worksheet, Villanova claimed its first outright BIG EAST regular season title since 1982. It earned the No. 1 overall seed in the BIG EAST Tournament presented by New York Life, which officially begins with a doubleheader Wednesday night.
"We took a couple of minutes to look back on everything last night," Wright stated. "Now, we turn the page. It's next game for us."
The Wildcats' next contest comes Thursday afternoon against No. 8 seed Seton Hall, a 51-50 winner over Butler in the opening game of the tournament Wednesday night. Villanova swept both teams in the regular season.
"This tournament has always been one of my favorite times of the year," Wright said. "We're really looking forward to it."
Wright was a part of the Wildcats coaching staff from 1987-92 under coach Rollie Massimino and that period helped build his sentiment for the event.
"For people in the northeastern part of the country, it's just a really special event," he stated. "This is a tradition for all of us and it's a great one."
With his team, Wright emphasizes a straightforward approach.
"I think a lot of coaches have different philosophies on conference tournaments," stated Wright of this week's event at Madison Square Garden, where it has been held since 1983. "For us, we don't look at anything that comes after this. We look at it that we have a chance to play in the Big East Tournament.
"We just want to focus on playing the game and what we have to do basketball wise."
The Wildcats bring a six-game winning streak with them to Manhattan. Villanova fell at Creighton on Feb. 16 101-80 and then bounced back with an 82-79 double overtime win at Providence two nights later that began a charge that netted the program the regular season crown.
The winner of Thursday's quarterfinal clash advances to the semifinal game on Friday night at 7 p.m. The championship game will take place Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. at the Garden. All BIG EAST Tournament games will be aired on Fox Sports 1 and all Villanova games can be heard on CBS Sports Radio 610 with Ryan Fannon and Whitey Rigsby handling the calls.
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