Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Green: Villanova serves as a bridge between the old and new Big East

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan- USA TODAY Sports

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

Few gave the new Big East conference a chance of long-term success after several football schools left for brighter lights in the ACC and the Big 12 over a ten-year stretch from 2004 to 2013.

Most said the league would never be the same.

Well, those critics were right. The Big East's appeal of being known primarily by its football schools were long gone, but with the league going back to Dave Gavitt's grand vision of being a basketball-only conference reached its apex once more Monday night in the National Championship game.

In an era where the one and done is the fad and teams enduring constant turnover as a result, the Villanova Wildcats proved to be an example of how to keep players for three to four years as they demolished the Michigan Wolverines, 79-62 for their second title in three seasons. The dominance in not only Monday's win, but all six in the NCAA Tournament by double digits served as a rarity that had not been seen the 2004 Connecticut Huskies, who served as a main anchor of the old Big East.

Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges became household names over the course of the last three weeks for the Wildcats as their styles are nothing flashy, but simple. The attention for the majority of the season went to Oklahoma Sooners guard Trae Young because of the flash in the pan, akin to a Kardashian reality show.

The Sooners' sizzle faded as the season progressed, while the Wildcats thrived winning back-to-back Big East tournament titles behind Brunson and Bridges.

Brunson would get the last laugh by winning the Naismith National Player of the Year as Young failed to make the list of finalists.

Regardless of whether Brunson decides to stick around for his senior season or enter the NBA Draft, the junior served as a mighty vessel in a possible dynasty in the making on the campus of Villanova. Coupled with Bridges slated to graduate at the end of the current semester, the Wildcats appear to be in good hands going into the 2018-19 season.

The Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four Donte DiVincenzo highlights a star-studded returning core along with sophomore center Omari Spellman and fifth-year senior Eric Paschall. Wildcats coach Jay Wright also put together a formidable recruiting class for the 2018-19 season highlighted by Jahvon Quinerly, who de-committed from Arizona in February, to go along with four-star power forward and the top player in Rhode Island, Cole Swider.

Vegas oddsmaker Jeff Sherman has Villanova listed with an 8/1 chance to win it all in the 2019 NCAA tournament as Duke is the only other team with better odds at 5/1.

The Wildcats have a shot with a loaded squad to win three titles in four seasons and would put themselves in rare territory as a true dynasty, the likes in which college basketball has not seen since the UCLA Bruins teams of the 1960’s and 70’s.