162-21. That is Villanova’s record under Jay Wright since the start of the 2013-14 season. An 88.4 winning percentage, that includes five straight Big East titles, and was capped off with a national championship in 2015-16. This unprecedented run of success has all transpired in the midst of the “one-and-done” era in college basketball.
Since the inception of the one-and-done rule in 2006, perennial powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas have had 21, 10, and 8 freshmen jump straight to the NBA. Villanova, zero. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas have had 38, 40, and 36 losses. Villanova, 21. While Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas historically have top 5 or 10 recruiting classes, Villanova is on the verge of just their second top 20 class since 2007.
A system, and development of players into that system, are what lead to sustained success in college basketball. After a 2009 Final Four appearance, Coach Wright signed his only other top 20 class. It was headlined by a trio of 5-star prospects. The ensuing years between 2009 and 2013 resulted in a 2nd round exit from the NCAA Tournament, two 1st round exits, and a season in which they finished with a losing record. Following that stretch of inconsistency and lack of success, Coach Wright shifted back to recruiting athletes who fit his system, coaching style, and display an immense amount fo grit. The 2015-16 national championship team was led by seniors Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Ryan Arcidiacono. All were top 100 recruits, but none were ranked in the top 50.
The best NBA prospect, and future lottery pick, still playing in the NCAA tournament is Villanova’s Mikal Bridges. He is a redshirt junior. Redshirting is unheard of in this day and age in college basketball, yet the best team in the country has six. SIX! Star point guard and likely first-round draft pick, Jalen Brunson, is a junior. Bridges was not a highly sought after recruit coming out of high school, but Brunson was a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American. Players with Brunson’s hype are typically looking for a 7-month pit stop before heading to the NBA draft. Not 3+ years of college basketball. The fact that they both chose to return to college, after being key pieces to the 2015-16 national championship team, speaks volumes to the culture that Jay Wright has cultivated at Villanova.
The run that Villanova is currently on is phenomenal. The numbers do not lie. They have been the most successful program the last 4 years and it does not show signs of slowing down anytime soon. He recruits athletes who fit into his style and system, and who buy into the culture he is created. As evidenced by this year’s NCAA Tournament, continuity means more than talent. If I were a betting man, my money would be on them to come out of this Final Four and win the whole thing.