When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, the city of Philadelphia rejoiced at its first championship in 28 years. While it was indeed the first major professional championship for the city, there was a college basketball championship that was won in between the Sixers 1983 NBA title and the Phillies’ 2008 World Series title.
In 1985, the Villanova Wildcats capped off a magical NCAA Tournament run with a 66-64 upset over the heavily favored Georgetown Hoyas. Leading the Wildcats to their first championship was 41-year-old Rollie Massimino. Under Massimino, who was in his twelfth season at Villanova, had never made it past the Sweet 16 up to that point. That all changed in the 1985 NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats exceeded more and more expectations with each game they played. After upsetting #9 Dayton to get into the tournament, Villanova then proceeded to knock off #1 Michigan, #4 Maryland, #2 North Carolina, and finally #2 Memphis State to reach the National Championship. In the National Championship, Villanova sent shockwaves across the College Basketball world when they stunned Georgetown to win their first National Championship in school history.
Massimino’s Wildcats walked alone as the only national champions in the history of Villanova basketball.
That was until April 4, 2016.
31 years after Villanova’s first National Championship, the Wildcats entered the NCAA Tournament with a vengeance. Led by head coach, and Philadelphia area-native, Jay Wright, Villanova had a very different mentality heading into the 2016 tournament.
For many of Wright’s years at Villanova, they were known for having a very strong regular season that would end with an underwhelming, and often early, defeat in the NCAA Tournament. Seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu were ready to lead this team on the court and prove that this team is a legit power and that they are beyond disappointing tournament exits.
After routing #15 UNC Asheville in the first round, the Wildcats faced #7 Iowa. Not to be intimidated, Villanova eased past the Hawkeyes to finally exercise their demons of the first ans second rounds of the tournament. The win was followed by wins over #3 Miami, #1 overall seed Kansas, a historical rout of #2 Oklahoma, and a buzzer beating win over #1 North Carolina.
While many rallied behind the 1985 team, the support for this year’s team was felt perhaps even more.
Rollie Massimino and the 1985 team have remained close with the school and with the current team through the years, and now they will be linked together until the end of time with Jay Wright and the 2016 Villanova Wildcats.
Legendary Philadelphia Flyers coach Fred Shero once said “Win today, and we walk together forever”. The 1985 Villanova Wildcats won, and they continue to walk together forever. Now joining Massimino and the 1985 team hand in hand is Jay Wright and the 2016 team.