In the days leading up to NCAA Tournament last week, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun inferred that the George Mason team that stunned his Huskies in the Regional Final a few seasons ago was in over its head the following week at the Final Four.
“George Mason had no chance, in my opinion. They played a great four games and went to the Final Four and weren’t going to win the national championship.”
He may have just been talking about one team, but the statement applies every March to the teams that go on magical runs and this year is certainly no different. But if a double-digit seed is ever going to win the tournament, it’s going to happen this year. But not with Davidson and Western Kentucky, who certainly have at least a “puncher’s chance” to advance through the weekend, but almost no shot at winning the whole thing.
I’m talking about Villanova, the forgotten Cinderella.
The 12th seeded Wildcats, who have the third smallest undergraduate enrollment of the 16 schools still dancing, are a fantastic story. This is a team doesn’t have an NBA prospect, much less a Lottery Pick, on its roster, yet they still managed to tread water in the Big East, a conference loaded with future pros. Head Coach Jay Wright has figured out that recruiting players who are just going to leave the first chance they get isn’t the way to build a consistent winner. Instead, he seems to target undersized guards who handle the ball well and shoot the lights out.
For any team to win the title, a little bit of luck has to be on its side, which could be just the case with Villanova. Last week, after upsetting Clemson in the first round, their draw became considerably easier thanks to Siena’s victory over Vanderbilt. If the team was able to shock Kansas on Friday night, they would have the chance to face an upstart Davidson team or Wisconsin, two teams that would no better than average in the Big East.
With their grueling Big East schedule, excellent guard play and a little bit of luck, there is no question the Wildcats have shot to advance to San Antonio. And if they do, you can rest assure they won’t be in over their heads like that George Mason team.
And they’ll certainly have more than a “puncher’s chance” to win it all.