By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If being a top seed brings pressure, the Villanova Wildcats appear to be ready for it.
Villanova received one of the four number one seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. After an early exit last season, the Wildcats appeared to have learned from their experience and don’t mind being under the spotlight. Villanova Coach Jay Wright understands being a number one seed means expectations will be high for his squad, but his confident his players will be ready for the challenge.
“There are advantages that come with that,” said Wight. “You get to play close to home. You play a 16 seed, but there’s a lot of pressure, too. Last year, we might not have handled the prsssure as well. This team all year has handled pressure.”
Darrun Hilliard was part of the Villanova squad which lost its second game of the tournament last year to Connecticut. The senior guard believes he and his teammates learned from last year’s defeat, and are confident they can make a deep run in the 2015 tournament.
“We have a lot of experience being a two seed last year,” Hilliard said. “We know that we can be beaten any time and any day. We know that we’ve got to play our best.”
First up for Villanova will be Patriot-League champion Lafayette. The Leopards are coached by Fran O’Hanlon, a Villanova grad with whom Wright is well-acquainted with. Wright sent out a congratulatory text to O’Hanlon after the Leopards won the Patriot League Tournament. Even though Lafayette is a 16 seed, Wright expects a difficult game when the two teams play on Thursday night.
“They’re a very good team,” said Wright. “The closest game we played at home this year was Bucknell. The next closest game we had was Lehigh, and these guys beat both of them. Hopefully, we can learn from those two games.”
This current group of Wildcats have put together a remarkable run of success in recent years, but have also experienced a fair share of heartbreak. In addition to their early exit from the NCAA Tournament last year, the Wildcats were upset in the 2014 Big East Tournament. Wright is convinced his team’s difficult defeats will provide the right mindset for this year’s tournament.
“They have no fear of failure,” Wright said. “They’ve already failed. They know what it is and they’ve been in all of these situations. I think that’s where their confidence comes from.”
The answers to whether this year’s Wildcats are better prepared for the tournament will begin to be answered on Thursday at 6:50pm. Until tip-off time, some will continue to wonder if this year’s Villanova tournament team will be different than the 2014 version. Junior Guard Ryan Arcidiacono is confident he and his teammates will be ready to play and won’t be influenced by the pressure that come with March Madness.
“We’re not afraid to lose,” Arcidiacono said. “We’ve been there before, so I don’t think it’s big to us. If we go down playing the basketball we know how to play, we’ll be happy with that.”