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The Morning Dish – Thursday, April 5, 2018

April 5, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

For Villanova and Jay Wright, things were not always this good. There were some challenging times in the early going and even a little past then, times that would make it seem shocking that the Wildcats are now very much one of the elite programs in the country. They didn’t always look like a blueblood, a team that could just reload every year.

But here they are. It’s been quite a journey, one with some highlights and lowlights along the way. It’s one that has also seen Jay Wright go from a coach known mostly for his suits to a future Hall of Famer, and the program become one we can all appreciate.

Early in Wright’s tenure, there were serious growing pains alongside recruiting victories. His first full recruiting class, aided by relationships formed during his Hofstra days as they were largely New York-area players, set the stage for later recruiting success. The success on the court took time, though, as they went to the NIT in each of his first three seasons. They also had to deal with a phone access code scandal that saw them have to suspend 12 players late in the 2002-03 season.

The Wildcats finally reached the NCAA Tournament in 2005, and were a phantom travel call away from possibly being in the Elite Eight. A year later, they were in the Elite Eight playing routinely with four guards, as Curtis Sumpter missed the season with a torn ACL suffered before the season-ending loss in 2005. That first recruiting class went through a lot both on and off the court.

Villanova reached the Final Four in 2009 on a buzzer-beater by Scottie Reynolds. Just before getting there, Wright said the Final Four was not a personal goal – it was not something he was chasing. He was not going to let whether or not he ever got there define himself or his coaching career. After winning the game to get there, he held court with a number of people in the media until his media relations director had to pull him away for the team bus to leave, and all along, he was thinking about other people enjoying that more than he was.

After that, the Wildcats had some well-chronicled NCAA Tournament struggles as they didn’t recruit the same type of player. But starting with the class that was led by Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, the Wildcats were back to what worked. They were talented players, to be sure, but most importantly, they fit the program. They want to be in college, they want to get better, they want to be coached, and they want to win more than pile up individual stats. If none of that were true, they would not be on The Main Line. The winning has followed.

Wright’s name continues to get mentioned for the NBA, and it might come up if a job like, say, Kentucky opens up. But there’s no reason to think he is going anywhere. He loves where he is, which is a school he grew up loving and that his wife graduated from, where he fits perfectly and where he can win every year. He makes well over $2 million a year, and in time that will probably take a jump. Villanova may not be able to match what an NBA team could throw at him, but Wright does not come off as a chaser. He has The Life right now.

The Wildcats are a program one can appreciate for a lot of reasons. They have high-character young men and play an unselfish brand of basketball. They routinely graduate with a fine education. Wright leads a coaching staff high similarly high in character, as he is genuine in his dealings with everyone from players and fellow assistants to the media and people who meet him casually. His assistants are the same. Their media relations director is as good as they come and another salt-of-the-earth type. All of them are fundamentally the same people they were back when the Wildcats had not made an NCAA Tournament appearance in Wright’s tenure.

If you’re a neutral observer, you can’t help but feel like this is a program you can get behind.

Villanova will have a victory parade through Philadelphia on Thursday. This is starting to become a tradition, and one that shows no signs of stopping.

 

Side Dishes

Arizona head coach Sean Miller may have some language added to his contract related to the FBI investigation, as the Arizona Board of Regents will vote later in the week on that. The board would add an amendment in addition to a current clause in his contract that would require him to return $300,000 and any bonuses if he is found guilty of major or repetitive NCAA violations. The amendment would require him to return $1 million if he is charged with a crime or guilty of major NCAA violations.

Rhode Island elevated David Cox to the head coaching spot to take over for the departed Dan Hurley. Cox just finished his fourth season on the staff and recruited a large part of the team, and after assistant stints at Georgetown and Rutgers as well, he gets his shot at leading a program.

Also filling a head coaching vacancy is South Dakota, who hired Grand Canyon assistant Todd Lee. Lee is an alum of the school, so this is a homecoming for a guy who has also coached in the professional ranks as well as college. You can follow all of the coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Miami was ranked quite high in our first pass at a preseason top 25, but that will take a hit as Lonnie Walker IV has declared for the NBA Draft and will hire an agent. The 6’5″ guard got better as the season went along and was a big reason the Hurricanes tied for third in the ACC this year despite losing Bruce Brown for the last month and a half of the season. He was the first freshman to lead them in scoring since Darius Rice 17 years ago.

Duke will lose Trevon Duval to the NBA Draft, as he plans to sign with an agent after declaring on Wednesday. The 6’2″ point guard came in with a big-time reputation out of high school and won a lot of games, but had an up-and-down season in Durham and didn’t play as much on the ball late in the season. The Blue Devils bring in Tre Jones at the point next season, and while he would not be a guarantee to supplant Duval, we won’t find out if that would happen.

Fans of another ACC program will now be on pins and needles for a while, as Boston College guards Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman declared for the NBA Draft without plans to hire an agent right away. Any hopes the Eagles have of being an NCAA Tournament team next year hinge on the talented tandem being in Chestnut Hill. Robinson was the runner-up in ACC Player of the Year voting after coming in second in the conference in scoring and third in three-point field goal percentage. Bowman ranked in the top ten in scoring and assists and was just outside the top ten in rebounding.

Outside the ACC, Malik Newman will leave Kansas for the NBA Draft and sign with an agent, riding his NCAA Tournament performance. The 6’2″ guard is now thought to be a potential late first round pick, a big jump from before, and his stock might not go higher. His size dictates that he play the point, but he plays more like a shooting guard, so he will need to show some decision-making capabilities among other things.

Also losing a player early to the NBA Draft is Auburn, as they will watch guard Mustapha Heron depart and sign with an agent. While he was their best player, the Tigers tied for the SEC regular season title this season despite not having two players who were ineligible but could play next season, and they otherwise return just about every player of consequence. That means they are in a better place to absorb this defection.

A couple of players announced they will remain in school next year as well. Sun Belt Player of the Year D’Marcus Simonds will return to Georgia State for his junior season, and UCF big man Tacko Fall will return for his senior season.

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
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"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
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Review on Hoopville coming soon!

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