PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Villanova Wildcats had very little time off thanks to Mother Nature.
The snowstorm arriving in the northeast forced the Cats to change plans and head to Buffalo one day earlier for the NCAA Tournament. Villanova had to get out of Philadelphia and into Buffalo before the snow arrived in both cities. Coach Jay Wright and his team left campus just one day after arriving home from New York after playing in the Big East Tournament.
“The NCAA said they need us to get up their earlier,” said Wright. “It changes a lot because we just got home yesterday. It hits you with the reality that you’re in it. We’re going to be in Buffalo and it’s on.”
The Wildcats arrived in Western New York late Monday afternoon. They will get a chance to settle into their hotels and get to work a day early. Villanova will also keep an eye on Tuesday’s play-in game in Dayton between Mt. St. Mary’s and New Orleans. The winner will play the Wildcats on Thursday night, and Wright understands waiting on a play-in winner means extra work for his staff.
“You’re a one seed playing a 16 seed,” Wright said. “There’s nothing to complain about, but it is a different challenge. There are two assistants working on the first game and you still have to prepare possibly for a second game, so it’s just different.”
Nothing has been different about Villanova’s approach to the game as the Wildcats prepare for the defense of their NCAA title. The players have savored each moment, but have kept a business like approach to the season and the conference tournament. It is an attitude which is usually found in a team that has already been part of a championship run.
“I was a little surprised at the end of the Big East championship game,” said Wright. “They were happy, but they were very business like. A lot of them said that we’re not done yet. They took great pride in winning the Big East, but I think they have their eyes on this tournament. I like the way they handled it.”
Now, the Wildcats get a chance to do what no team has done since Florida in 2007. The Gators were the last team to repeat as back-to-back champions, but Villanova has a strong chance of winning its second straight title. There will be plenty of obstacles along the way, including a potential regional final showdown with Duke. However, Wright belies his players understand the pressure of the tournament after making their run last year and believes his team may even have a fresh perspective after the grind of the regular season.
“I’m proud of how we handled the pressure all season,” Wright said. “That’s over. This is a completely different tournament with a different vibe and a different kind of pressure, but the regular season is over and I’m very proud with how they handled that.”