The Kansas Jayhawks came into March Madness as the No. 1 overall seed and Vegas picked them to capture this year’s national championship. But a funny thing happened on the way to inevitability: They met the Villanova Wildcats, a team that took one look at the odds and said, “So what?” Clearly, Jay Wright’s club had plans of its own.
Following their 64-59 victory in the South Regional final, the No. 2-seeded Wildcats are officially heading back to the Final Four for the first time since 2009. And while this program — in recent seasons — has been known to come up short this time of year, there seems to be something different about this particular group. If we listen to Villanova forward Kris Jenkins speak, perhaps that “something” can best be summed up in one word: hunger.
“Every guy on this team is willing to do whatever it takes to win, man,” said Jenkins. “Everybody on this team sacrifices. But we’re not satisfied. We’re looking forward to our next game in Houston. This definitely is a special feeling, but like I said before, we’re not satisfied.” In honor of Nova’s unlikely run to the Final Four, we decided to delve into the program’s history and put together what we believe to be the all-time Wildcats team. While opinions may vary, for us, these are the five players we feel would start on this superstar squad.
1. Ed Pinckney
A four-year starter from 1981-82 to 1984-85, Ed Pinckney put together quite a career for himself, averaging 14.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists per game. While he remains seventh on ‘Nova’s all-time scoring list (1,865 points) and fourth in school history in total rebounds (1,107 rebounds), Pinckney will always be remembered for the incredible defensive work he did against Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing during the 1985 national championship game; a feat that earned him the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and helped the Wildcats pull off one of the greatest Cinderella stories in college basketball history.
2. John Pinone
Power forward John Pinone played 126 games for the Wildcats during a four-year career that spanned from 1979-80 to 1982-83. In that time, he averaged 16.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest while shooting 55.7% from the field. As it stands, Pinone is sixth on the program’s all-time scoring list with 2,024 points and eighth in total rebounds (837).
3. Howard Porter
Despite the tragic turn his life took, forward Howard Porter, who suited up for the Wildcats from 1968 to 1971, had one of the most stellar careers in Villanova history. A three-time All-American, Porter averaged 22.8 points and 14.8 rebounds per game, including pulling down a school record 503 rebounds during the 1971 season. His 1,317 career rebounds still tops the school’s all-time rebounding list.
4. Kerry Kittles
Kerry Kittles graced the Villanova faithful with his presence from 1992-93 to 1995-95. During that span, the 6-foot-5 guard averaged 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game and became the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,243 points. He earned Second-Team All-American honors in 1995 and First-Team honors in 1996, and he was named the Big East’s Player of the Year during the 1994-95 season.
5. Paul Arizin
For the basketball fans who love the jump shot, you can thank former Villanova All-American Paul Arizin for that. After all, he discovered it. With this new weapon in his arsenal, Arizin averaged 20 points per game in three seasons (1947-48 to 1949-50) with the Wildcats, during which he also famously dropped 85 points in a single contest against Philadelphia Naval Air Material Center (NAMC) on February 12, 1949. That’s right, 85 points. Eat your heart out, Kobe Bryant.