Villanova Sports Juggernaut

Wow, a second non-Cardinal themed post in a week. Must be a slow news period. Novanation

Some people are obsessed with their alma mater to the point of distraction. You know who they are – the guy with ‘Alabama’ flags flying from his car’s rear windows, the gal wearing the Notre Dame sweatshirt at work while drinking coffee from her Fightin Irish cup, the 2010 school calendar hanging on the wall, or the couple naming their son ‘Troy’. I’m a much more casual fan by that standard.

However, even I’ve noticed the Villanova basketball team is in the midst of a historic season. The Wildcats defeated St John’s 81-71 on Saturday at MSG. The team remains the lone unbeaten in the Big East, ranked #3 in this week’s poll. They are 18-1, which is only their best start in 60 years.

It’s an odd place those of us who remember Rollie Massimino and Steve Lappas find ourselves in. I’ve followed the team since their 1985 National Championship, and it seemed every year (including that one) the squad was on the bubble fighting for an NCAA berth. Barring an epic collapse, that won’t be an issue this season. It hasn’t been an issue for several years now. In fact, Villanova stands a good chance of being a 1 seed, for the second time in the last five years. These truly are the salad days for Villanova Men’s Basketball.

Then there’s the football team. Have I not mention the football team? The Villanova football program has produced a couple of players you may have heard of: Howie Long and Brian Westbrook, but other than those two gentlemen it has been unremarkable. Villanova actually eliminated the team in 1981, but alumni pressure/outcry drove the school to restore the program four years later.

The team made the 1-AA playoffs a couple of times while I was a student, but seemed to draw Georgia Southern or Youngstown State in the first round, when those two teams were the class of the division. I remember there was one season – soon after I graduated – they were ranked #3 in 1-AA, but lost in the first round anyway. As a result, I suspect most alumni casually followed their progress, like I did.

This fall, however, the worm turned. While watching part of a BCS college game, the FBS (or whatever they are calling 1-AA these days) playoff bracket scrolled across the screen. Lo and behold, Villanova was still in it – with the tournament in the semi-final round! I checked the results the next day. Villanova had advanced to the finals in Chattanooga. Not only that, but in the finals they outlasted their opponent, winning 14-13.

It is their first National Championship for the program. Coach Andy Talley has been the head man since the program was restored, so from my perspective it is a great thing to see him realize this goal. I imagine being on campus is a lot of fun right now, given the success and visibility of these two teams.

One other thought as I close: there was a lot written a couple of years ago when the Florida men held the BCS football and NCAA basketball championships at the same time. It is possible – most definitely possible – Villanova could duplicate that success this season.

I say that knowing I may have just gummed up the works by jinxing it with this post.

Go Cats.

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