Villanova University is a private university located in Radnor Township, a suburb northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States. Founded in 1842 by the Augustinian monastic order, the university can trace its roots back to old Saint Augustine's Church in Philadelphia, which the Augustinians founded in 1796, and to its parish school, Saint Augustine's Academy, which was established in 1811. Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Villanova is a member of the NCAA's Division I and the Big East Conference. The school's current mascot is the Wildcat, although previous school mascots included the "Day Hops" and the "Pelicans". The Wildcats are also part of the Philadelphia Big 5, the traditional Philadelphia-area basketball rivalry.
Situated on the Main Line, Villanova is the only member of the Big Five located outside of Philadelphia's city limits. As of the conclusion of the 2007 college basketball season, however, they remain the last Philadelphia-based sports team to win a major championship of any kind. Villanova's rivalry with the Saint Joseph's Hawks is sometimes referred to as "the Holy War," since they are the largest Catholic universities in the area.
Villanova University has fielded a men's basketball team since the 1920-21 season. Nicknamed the "Wildcats," Villanova is a member of the Big East Conference and the Philadelphia Big Five. The Villanova Wildcats have appeared the NCAA Division I Men's Tournament 28 times. They made Final Four in 1939, 1971, and 1985, and were National Champions in 1985. Villanova has appeared in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) 17 times, winning in 1994, and won the Big East Tournament in 1995.
Villanova began its varsity basketball program in 1920. Michael Saxe coached for six seasons, from 1920-1926, compiling a 64-30 record (.681). John Cashman coached three seasons, from 1926-1929, compiling a 21-21 record (.447). George Jacobs coached seven seasons, from 1929-1936, and had a 62-56 record (.525).
The team played its first game in 1920 in Alumni Hall on Villanova's campus, beating Catholic University 43-40. In the early years, Villanova's home courts were Alumni Hall and West Catholic High School. The Wildcats moved into the Villanova Field House (now known as the Jake Nevin Field House) in 1932. Villanova also played many home games at the Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania beginning in 1929. The Wildcats played home games in both the Villanova Field House and the Palestra until 1986.
Al Severance Era
Alexander Severance coached Villanova for 25 seasons, from 1936 to 1961. It was under the leadership of Coach Severance that Villanova's basketball program rose to prominence. Severance compiled a 413-201 record (.673).
The 1939 team won the first ever NCAA Tournament game, which put them in the first Final Four. Severance led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament again in 1949, 1951, and 1955. Villanova earned NIT bids in 1959 and 1960.
The most storied player in Villanova history, Paul Arizin, played during this era. Severance discovered Arizin, already a Villanova student, playing basketball in the Villanova Fieldhouse. Arizin holds the Villanova record for most points in a game (85), and is credited with inventing the jump shot.
1939 Final Four
The inaugural NCAA Tournament featured eight teams from throughout the country. Villanova, representing the Middle Atlantic States, beat Brown, representative of the New England States, 43-40 before a crowd of 3,500 at the Palestra. The following night, the Wildcats lost to Ohio State 53-36 in the Eastern Division Championship.
Jack Kraft era
Jack Kraft coached Villanova for 12 years, from 1961 through 1973. He compiled a 238-95 record (.715). Kraft led Villanova to the NCAA Tournament six times, and five times to the NIT. Only once did Kraft's teams fail to earn a post-season bid, in his final season. The 1971 team, led by Howard Porter, reached the NCAA Championship game, and lost to UCLA at the height of the UCLA dynasty.
1971 NCAA Finalist: Cheers and Tears
On March 27, 1971, Villanova made its first appearance in an NCAA basketball tournament championship game. The unheralded Wildcats took on the legendary John Wooden and his mighty UCLA Bruins. The 28-1 UCLA squad featured Sydney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Henry Bibby, and Steve Patterson. Going into the title game, the Bruins had won six of the previous seven NCAA championships, including the previous four.
Jack Craft's Villanova squad, nicknamed the "Iron Men," was made up of just nine players. Led by Howard Porter, Clarence Smith, Hank Siemiontkowski, Chris Ford, and Tom Ingelsby, Villanova amassed a 27-6 record, including a shocking 90-47 victory over a powerhouse Penn squad.
Villanova fought from behind for most of the game, twice cutting the lead to three in the final minutes. Villanova lost by six, 68-62. The six-point loss was the narrowest spread of UCLA's seven title-clinching victories.
Despite the loss, Villanova's Howard Porter was named the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Porter and Siemiontkowski were named to the All-tournament team. Porter was later disqualified because he had signed a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pipers of the American Basketball Association before the season ended. Consequently, the awards won by Porter and Siemiontkowski and Villanova's achievements have been deleted by the NCAA.
Rollie Massimino era
During Rollie Massimino's tenure, the Villanova Wildcats abandoned their traditional independent status by joining the newly-formed Eastern Eight Conference in 1975. In 1980, the 'Cats moved into the new Big East Conference. Villanova was a power in the Big East during the early years, along with Georgetown, St. John's, and Syracuse. The 1980's were the golden age of the Big East, highlighted by the 1985 NCAA Tournament, when Villanova, Georgetown, and St. John's reached the Final Four.
Massimino's teams had tremendous success in the NCAA Tournament, usually in an underdog role. Coach Massimino led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament eleven times, winning in 1985. His teams reached the Final Eight five times in an eleven-year span: 1978, 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1988. Coach Massimino's teams were well-prepared for the Tournament, always playing a difficult schedule, and playing tenacious defense. Massimino lost the opening game in the tournament only one time.
Massimino coached for 19 seasons at Villanova, compiling a record of 357-241 (.541). In the NCAA Tournament, Massimino had a 20-10 record (.667).
In 1976, the Wildcats played their first game in the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Because of the greater seating capacity, the 'Cats generally played a few home games each year at the Spectrum until the opening of the Wachovia Center. Villanova christened its current home court, the Pavilion (Villanova), with a 64-62 victory over Maryland on February 1, 1986.
1985 National Champions
In 1985, under the direction of coach Rollie Massimino, the men's basketball team completed one of the most surprising runs in NCAA tournament history by winning the national championship in the first year of the 64-team field. The eighth-seeded Wildcats beat Dayton, then upset top-seeded Michigan, Maryland and second-seeded North Carolina to win the South regional en route to the Final Four in Lexington, Kentucky. After defeating 2-seed Memphis State in the national semifinals, Villanova met defending champion and ten-point-favorite Georgetown, led by Patrick Ewing, in the title game.
Top-seeded Georgetown had beaten conference rival Villanova twice during the regular season, and had reached the title game with tenacious defense, which gave up less than 40% of their opponents' shots from the field in both the regular season and the postseason. But in perhaps the greatest shooting performance in NCAA history, the Wildcats went 22-of-28 from the field to convert a blistering 78.6% of their shots, including a second half where they missed only one basket. The Hoyas hung tough, converting 55% of their 53 attempts, but were unable to overcome the astounding shooting performance as Villanova won 66-64 to claim the NCAA championship. The Wildcat squad remains the only eight-seed and the lowest overall seed in tournament history to win the championship, and their overall team shooting percentage remains an NCAA tournament record for a single game. The game is often cited among the greatest upsets in college basketball history. Ed Pinckney, who shot 5-of-7 and had 16 points in the game, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
Steve Lappas era
The Steve Lappas era was marked by extraordinary strong teams, including teams that won Villanova's only NIT and Big East Tournament Championships. However, Lappas' teams are also remembered for their underachieving performances in NCAA Tournaments.
Lappas compiled a respectible record of 174-110 (.613) during his years at Villanova. The 1994 and 1995 teams, led by Kerry Kittles, Jason Lawson, and Jonathan Haynes, won the NIT and Big East Tournaments, respectively. However, one week after their victory in the Big East Championship, the 1995 Wildcats lost a triple-overtime thriller to underdog Old Dominion, in a game that many Villanova fans consider the most painful game in Villanova history.
Under Coach Lappas, Villanova reached the NCAA Tournament in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1999, compiling a 2-4 record.
Villanova began playing a few major home games at the Wachovia Center beginning in 1998. Wachovia Center was known as the CoreStates Center and the First Union Center before it adopted the Wachovia Center name.
1994 NIT Champions
On March 30, 1994, Villanova became the 15th school to win both NCAA and NIT Championships when the Wildcats defeated Vanderbilt 80-73 to win the NIT title. The Wildcats were led by Jonathan Haynes, who scored 19 points, and Kerry Kittles, who posted 18. Eric Eberz added 16 points and seven rebounds. Haynes and Kittles earned spots on the All-Tournament team for their efforts.
Jay Wright Era
Jay Wright was named Villanova's coach in 2001. As a former Rollie Massimino assistant, Wright was well-acquainted with Villanova. Prior to his appointment at Villanova, Wright was head coach at Hofstra.
Villanova has earned a post-season tournament berth in each of Wright's six seasons as Villanova head coach. The Wildcats played in the NIT in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and in the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2006, and 2007.
Under coach Jay Wright, Villanova's men's basketball team reached the 2005 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, losing to #1 seed and eventual champion North Carolina by one point on a disputed call. The gritty Wildcats nearly beat North Carolina despite the loss of star forward Curtis Sumpter to a season-ending knee injury.
Led by senior guards Randy Foye and Allan Ray, the Villanova men's basketball team began the 2005-2006 year ranked #4 in the major polls from USA Today and the Associated Press. Having lost only three regular season games, the Wildcats enjoyed a #1 seed in the 2006 tournament -- their first. The Wildcats' wins over Monmouth, Arizona, and Boston College brought them to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1988. Villanova's 75-62 loss in Minneapolis to eventual champion Florida ended the team's run for a second NCAA championship in the Regional Final.
Wright's 2006-2007 team is composed mainly of freshmen and sophomores who, at times, have struggled to mesh. The Wildcats improved throughout the season, due in large part to the emergence of freshman Scottie Reynolds. Villanova finished the 2006-07 regular season and Big East Conference Tournament with a record of 22-10. The Wildcats earned an at-large bid to the 2007 NCAA Tournament, where they are seeded ninth in the West Region.
The Wildcats have a highly-touted class of incoming freshmen for the 2007-08 campaign, including McDonald's All-America Corey Stokes, a 6' 5" guard/forward from St. Benedict Prep in Newark, New Jersey, 5' 11" guard Corey Fisher, of St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and 6' 1" guard Malcolm Grant from Brooklyn, New York.
NCAA Tournament History
Villanova has appeared in 28 NCAA Tournaments, beginning with the first in 1939.
2006, Final 8.
2005, Final 16.
1999, First round loss.
1997, Second round loss.
1996, Second round loss.
1995, First round loss.
1991, Second round loss.
1990, First round loss.
1988, Final 8.
1986, Second round loss.
1984, Second round loss.
1983, Final 8.
1982, Final 8.
1981, Second round loss.
1980, Second round loss.
1978, Final 8.
1972, Final 16.
1970, Final 8.
1969, First round loss.
1964, Final 16.
1962, Final 8.
1955, Final 16.
1951, Final 16.
1949, Final 8.
1939, Final 4.
NIT Tournament History
Villanova has appeared in 17 NIT's.
2004, Final 8.
2003, Lost first round.
2002, Final 8.
2001, Lost first round.
2000, Lost second round.
1992, Lost first round.
1989, Final 8.
1987, Lost first round.
1977, Third place.
1968, Final 8.
1967, Lost first round.
1966, Third place.
1963, Fourth place.
1960, Final 8.
1959, Lost first round.