Now about twelve hours removed from Villanova’s second national championship in three years, it is clear this victory is bigger than this season. Of course, the Wildcats absolutely waltzed to this championship, winning every game by at least 11 points, but the impact of this team is bigger than that.
Looking in the short historical lens, this Wildcats squad is the best individual team of the 21st century. Before the game yesterday, I was asked, “Could this squad beat the 2016 national championship team?” I answered this question faster than I would answer in a hypothetical situation where Scarlett Johansson asks me on a date with a resounding, “Yes.” In terms of offense, the 2017-2018 team has the highest offensive efficiency in the kenpom era (since 2002) outside of the 2015 Wisconsin team, which had a 129, besting Nova’s 127.8.
As far as other teams go since the turn of the century that have been fantastic, there is a legitimate argument to be made for this Villanova team as the best. The 2010 Duke team was fantastic, but a college basketball anomaly. Their best player was a back to the basket, poor defensive center in the form of Jahlil Okafor. The trio behind him of Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook was very impressive also, but not nearly as dynamic as Villanova’s top four. Nova had four players this season with a PER over 20, which is one of the more obscene team statistics I have ever seen at any level of basketball.
Outside of that, there is the 2014-2015 Kentucky team that won their first 38 games using the absurd platoon system, but they didn’t win. They lost to Wisconsin in the Final Four. The one team I will hear as a legitimate argument is the 2006-2007 Florida team, which completed a back to back title run with four guys that are bona fide pros on the roster in the form of Joakim Noah, Mo Speights, Corey Brewer and All-Star Al Horford.
Bigger than this century, what Jay Wright has done at Villanova is comparable only to that of what Coach K has managed to do at Duke. This program is 1 of only 4 to win two titles in three years since the title expanded to 64 teams in the 1985 season. One of those? Duke in 1991-1992. Both Duke and Nova were relatively unimportant before the best coach in their history arrived. Before Coach K arrived at Duke in 1980, Duke made the tournament only seven times, with four of them resulting in a Final Four appearance and no championships. Similarly, there are 3 non Jay Wright Final Fours in Nova history, with one resulting in a National Championship.
In Coach K’s first 3 seasons, he was 38-47, with two seasons below .500. Jay Wright has logged a similar, but better, 52-46, with only one season below .500. Coach K reached his first Final four in his eighth season, he followed that up with his first title in his eleventh season. He followed that up with another the very next season as the first coach to win multiple titles in a three-year span since the tournament expansion. Although Wright’s title took a 15 year wait, his first Final Four appearance was also in his eighth season. Now, he has two coming out of his 17th year. Through 17 seasons, coach K also had,,, two NCAA titles.
That’s a lot of numbers and a lot of projecting on my part, sure, but the point is, Jay Wright has built something bigger than the 2018 title at Villanova. At a program with a decent history, and one that isn’t a blue blood program, Jay Wright has created a dynasty. He has worked his own way to be talked about as the best coach in the game.
He has created a system and a culture that is rivaled only by some of the most respected names in coaching, such as Nick Saban, Bill Belichick and Gregg Popovich. What it has resulted in is a very obvious path to being one of the greatest, and maybe the greatest, coaches in the history of college basketball. Five titles sounds like cake now that he has his choice of exactly the recruits he wants, next year replacing the perfect Nova player Jalen Brunson with five star point guard, Jahvon Quinerly. 1,000 wins sounds doable with a stable environment and an obviously successful and perfectly worked out system in place. He has cemented himself as the best coach in the modern game and put himself on the fast track to being a top five coach of all time.
Nova is a dynasty and it isn’t going anywhere. So get used to watching pure class on the podium in the nicest suits in coaching. Get used to watching upperclassmen dominate the game. Get used to three point shooting and pure team ball paving the way to championships.