Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Villanova Wins 4th Straight Outright Big East Title as Jay Wright Says New Big East Just as Tough as the Old One
A week ago, Josh Hart said winning a share of his fourth straight Big East regular-season championship wasn’t good enough.
He and his Villanova teammates wanted to win the crown outright.
“We have the tie now and hopefully we can get out of that position,” Hart told FanRagSports.com after Villanova’s win over Seton Hall on Feb. 18.
Now they have it.
With No. 2 Villanova’s 79-63 victory over No. 23 Creighton on Saturday, the Wildcats (27-3, 14-3 Big East) ensured their fourth straight outright league championship.
It marked the last home game for the seniors Hart and Kris Jenkins (15 points). Fellow senior Darryl Reynolds (ribs) missed the game but is expected back for the Big East Tournament.
Villanova’s four titles in a row isn’t quite Kansas’ 13 in a row under Bill Self, but four in a row is impressive by any standard.
“It’s really unfathomable for me right now,” Villanova coach Jay Wright recently said of his club winning four straight league titles. “I think it’s one of those things that years from now we’re going to have to look back on and say, ‘Wow, what a run.’
“But we’re all enjoying this process of just trying to get better every day so much that we really don’t think about it.”
Since the new-look Big East launched for the 2013-14 season, Villanova has dominated the league. Last season, of course, they went all the way and won the NCAA championship.
Of course, 2013-14 was the year that the football schools, including Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and UConn, departed the Big East. Those first four schools now reside in the ACC for basketball, while UConn is relegated to the American Athletic Conference (although there has been talk about the Huskies potentially returning to the Big East.)
The Wildcats went 16-2 in each of the past three seasons in the Big East — a combined 48-6 — and are 62-9 in almost four seasons in league play.
“I was crushed when [the old Big East] broke up because I grew up with it,” Wright said. “But to see what it’s become. To come in our arenas and have college crowds like this and play in these environments and see the success that Big East teams have had outside of conference, I’m so proud of it, I really am. I’m so excited about what we’ve built here.
“It’s just kind of like that old Big East feeling. It’ll never be the same. It’ll never be the same. But college basketball’s not the same.”
But does he think Villanova’s dominance of the league since 2014 has anything to do with the football schools leaving?
“No, because it’s different,” he said. “You replace it with Creighton, Butler, Xavier. It’s a different kind of game. Going to play at Butler is as difficult as playing at Syracuse. Going to play at Xavier, it’s as difficult as going to play at UConn. It’s definitely different, but it’s not easier, I’m telling you.”
The Big East could have as many as five or six teams in the Big Dance, and once again Villanova is the cream of the crop. And the Wildcats seem poised for yet another deep run.
Photo: Villanova Basketball
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.