In October, the Big East introduced its new makeup to the college basketball world during an elegant media day at Chelsea Piers in New York City. The event had all the accoutrements expected from a league that wanted to be taken seriously from the moment of its inception.
There were cooks and servers dressed in neat uniforms as they tended to athletes, coaches and journalists. There were great views of the city and impressive images of ships meandering along the Hudson River.
Inside, the media converged upon the tables that hosted Buzz Williams, Doug McDermott, John Thompson III and Steve Lavin.
Meanwhile, Jay Wright sat across the room, answering a series of questions from a smattering of reporters. At times, his players took out their smartphones to deal with their boredom.
Few seemed anxious to talk to them.
Villanova was not the story at Big East media day. It wasn’t even the sidebar.
But now, the Wildcats are the fairy tale.
In one weekend at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, everything changed for Wright’s program.
Villanova was David when it beat No. 2 Kansas 63-59 on Friday night. By the end of its 88-83 come-from-behind overtime victory over Iowa on Saturday, it looked like the Goliath of the Big East.
Ryan Arcidiacono played cold-blooded basketball in back-to-back nights. The sophomore point guard hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Villanova’s win over Kansas on Friday, and he made a pair of critical buckets in the final minutes of regulation against the Hawkeyes the following day.
They roared back from a 15-point deficit against the Hawkeyes. They held the Jayhawks to a season-low 59 points.
Villanova is ranked sixth in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. The Wildcats are ranked 22nd in defensive turnover percentage.
In a 24-hour stretch over the weekend, the Wildcats proved that they can rumble in a shootout or apply the vice to one of America’s most efficient offenses when necessary.
Most of the Big East can’t say the same right now.
Georgetown is on a three-game winning streak, which includes an upset of VCU.
But Butler suffered back-to-back heartbreaking losses to Oklahoma State and LSU in the Old Spice Classic. Meanwhile, Greg McDermott needs to call John Calipari and orchestrate a trade for Willie Cauley-Stein after post players for San Diego State and George Washington helped their respective squads toss Creighton out of the Top 25 with a pair of upsets in the Wooden Legacy. Marquette couldn’t topple the Aztecs in the same tourney on Sunday night, either.
Providence won’t see many teams that rival the Kentucky squad that defeated it by 14 points on Sunday, but the Friars’ offense (114th in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom.com) should be a concern.
Villanova, however, is undefeated. Unblemished.
The Wildcats were feisty as they grabbed an NCAA tournament bid a year ago. But their dominance in the Battle 4 Atlantis illuminated the idea that they might be capable of much more this season, including a Big East title.
A lot changed for Villanova and the Big East over the weekend.
I hope Wright is ready for the interview requests that will pour into his office this week.
It’s a fitting change since the Wildcats are the Big East’s headliner now.