Big East favorite Villanova has championship hopes
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Harold Pressley hoisted the 1985 national championship trophy high over his head as he walked down the bleachers in the student section and onto the court.
For the Villanova faithful, the prize proudly held by the former forward was a reminder of what most college hoops junkies consider the greatest upset in March Madness history: The underdog Wildcats' stunning victory over big, bad Georgetown on April 1, 1985.
But the trophy meant something different for coach Jay Wright and his No. 12 Wildcats as they honored the title team during a preseason game last week - a tantalizing taste of what could come this season.
This year's Villanova team wants a national championship of its own to finally give that `85 squad some company.
Wright has won just about every big game there is to win in his 13 seasons on the bench. Last season was no exception. The Wildcats went 29-5 and won the Big East title for only the second time since 1998. The 29 wins were the most since the 2008-09 Wildcats won 30 games and reached the Final Four.
About the only blemish on Wright's resume are regular deep runs in the tournament. All those big wins against blueblood teams in November paradise tournaments and conference contenders in the heart of winter have all come in seasons that ended without the two that matter most, the ones in the Final Four.
The Wildcats were runaway winners in the preseason poll to win the Big East and come loaded with veteran talent needed to perhaps, this time, sustain their success all the way to Indianapolis.
Here are some things to watch with Villanova this season when it opens the season Friday against Lehigh:
MEMORIES AMONG YOUTH: Thirty years after ''The Perfect Game,'' the memories of that run are alive at the Pavilion this season, the kind that could put an added burden on a program to duplicate the feat. Wright embraced the nostalgia and loved having the players and former coach Rollie Massimino back during the preseason.
''It was so magical and so special, that no one here looks at it like, `That's easy to do. We should just do that again,''' Wright said. ''People look at it as such a defining moment of what's the best of Villanova. I'm lucky the fans and administration never puts that pressure on me.''
Wright preaches the ''Villanova Family'' and made sure his team was around to meet the `85 Wildcats at a recent function, then present them with framed jerseys in a pregame ceremony.
But for players born a decade or so after that national championship, the `85 team is really just an old black-and-white mural on the Pavilion wall.
''I went on a rant about five years ago, a rant to the team about the tradition of Villanova,'' Wright said. ''It might have been Scottie Reynolds. `Where were you in `85? Where were you?' And he looked at me and he said, `I wasn't even born.' That's the first time it hit me.
''Everyone in our era, if you were into basketball, that was a big part of you,'' he said. ''To these kids, it's not the same.''
LOADED CATS: The Wildcats are the only Big East team ranked and their starting five is the key reason. JayVaughn Pinkson was a first-team All-Big East selection. Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard made the second team. Throw in Daniel Ochefu, Josh Hart and Dylan Ennis and no team can boast VU's depth.