PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Last year, Villanova was the top seed in the Big East Tournament, but was upset by Seton Hall in the quarterfinals. It is a loss which likely remains on the minds of the Wildcats as they head into this year’s tourney.
For the second year in a row, Villanova will head to Madison Square Garden with the number one seed. Jay Wright’s squad has done well focusing on the present instead of the past, but Wright acknowledged last year’s loss is likely still lingering in the thoughts of his players.
“I’m sure it’s in the back of their minds,” said Wright. “People bring it up all the time and rightfully so. We’ve just got to make sure that it’s not something that clouds their minds. We’ve just got to make sure that it’s just a memory.”
The Wildcats will play their first game of the tournament on Thursday. The could see Seton Hall in the quarterfinals again. The Pirates will take on Marquette in Wednesday’s first round with the winner advancing to face Villanova. Players such as Darrun Hilliard are clearly not overconfident after what happened last March.
“It could happen again,” Hilliard said. “All we can control is what we can control. That’s playing Villanova Basketball and doing what we’ve been doing the rest of the year.”
While the Wildcats have put together several successful regular seasons in recent years, they have struggled in March at Madison Square Garden. Villanova has not won the tournament since 1995 and last reached the Big East Finals in 1997. Guard Ryan Arcidiacono is trying to put the team’s recent tournament past in the rear-view mirror.
“We can’t really think about that,” said Arcidiacono. “This year’s team is a completely different team. Marquette’s different than last year. Seton Hall’s different than last year, but we’re a different team. I think we’re more experienced this year. We just have to go out there with the mindset of just playing hard.”
A Big East championship will all but guarantee a top seed for Villanova in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Winning the Big East crown will also mean winning three games in three days, but Wright believes there won’t be a fatigue factor for his squad.
“I think the players are so tired of practicing,” said Wright. “They look forward to this. Even the coaches do. They would love to play three games in a row.”