The first one — Villanova 82, Grambling State 68
Nov. 21, 2001
The Wildcats pulled away from Grambling State in Jay Wright’s first game, and Inquirer Hall of Fame writer Joe Juliano’s first paragraph proved wildly prophetic. He wrote: “To mark Jay Wright’s debut last night as Villanova’s head coach, a group of fans behind the Wildcats’ bench wore sweatshirts that said Villanova Basketball on the front and The Dynasty Begins, 11-21-01 on the back.”
Facing John Chaney — Villanova 70, Temple 66
Dec. 8, 2001
Wright picked up his first Big 5 win — in his first meeting with John Chaney — with a thrilling four-point victory over Temple at the Palestra. The Owls would get a measure of revenge by beating Villanova in the NIT three months later.
Signature win — Villanova 83, Kansas 62
Jan. 22, 2005
A blowout of No. 2 Kansas was the signature win Villanova was looking for under Wright. A week later they would be ranked for the first time in eight years and in six weeks would end a five-year NCAA Tournament drought.
Madness — Villanova 55, New Mexico 47
March 18, 2005
Seeded No. 5 in the Syracuse Region, Villanova beat New Mexico for Wright’s first NCAA tourney win. The Wildcats reached the Sweet 16 before losing to No. 1 seed North Carolina after a highly questionable traveling call on Allan Ray by referee Tom O’Neill.
Final Four! — Villanova 78, Pittsburgh 76
March 28, 2009
Scottie Reynolds’ mad dash through Pittsburgh’s defense sent Villanova to its first Final Four under Wright. “Coach always said we had the talent,” Reynolds explained. “But talent [alone] doesn’t make you successful. We’ve become a great team because guys took it upon themselves. It’s amazing what you can do when you listen to just the one voice [Wright’s].”
‘Nova’ — Villanova 77, North Carolina 74
April 4, 2016
A beautifully designed play, called simply “Nova,” enabled Kris Jenkins to hit a three-pointer at the buzzer and give Villanova its first national championship under Wright. “You dream that this happens, you don’t know what it’s going to feel like, how you’re going to handle it,” Wright said. “It is really surreal.”
Nova legend — Villanova 94, Marquette 70
March 8, 2018
Wright became the winningest coach at Villanova with a Big East tournament first-round victory over Marquette. Wright passed Al Severance, who won 413 games as the Wildcats’ coach from 1936-61.
Champs again — Villanova 79, Michigan 62
April 2, 2018
Led by sophomore Donte DiVincenzo’s 31 points, Villanova blew past Michigan for its second national title in three years. Draped in confetti, DiVincenzo and national player of the year Jalen Brunson cried as they watched a montage of “One Shining Moment” playing overhead in the San Antonio Alamodome. “I blame Jalen,” DiVincenzo said. “I was fine, and he came up to me, and he was bawling his eyes out.”
The last dance — Villanova 50, Houston 44
March 26, 2022
Seeded second in the South Region, Villanova outlasted No. 5 seed Houston in a 50-44 street fight to advance to the Final Four for the fourth and final time under Wright. Seven days later, playing without injured starter Justin Moore, the Wildcats lost to Kansas. In 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, Wright’s Wildcats won the championship twice and were eliminated by the eventual champion seven times. Fascinating.