SAN ANTONIO — About the worst possible news is the actual news for Villanova’s Justin Moore. The junior guard suffered an Achilles tendon tear in the last minute of Saturday’s South Region final against Houston, will have surgery this week, will not play in the Final Four.

After a scramble for a loose ball, Moore had tried to get up on the court but crumpled to the floor. For Villanova, losing Moore right now is every bit as tough as losing Collin Gillespie was last season. Doesn’t mean Villanova can’t win Saturday night against Kansas (6:06 p.m. Eastern time) at the Superdome in New Orleans. You simply can’t discount this group, all of college basketball knows it. But the degree of difficulty just doubled.

“This is a tough blow for all of us, not just because of the great player Justin is, but because of what he means to us as teammates and coaches,” coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “As one of our captains, Justin has been an integral part of our success. He helps our team in so many ways. Every game, he guards the opponent’s best scorer and is one of the toughest rebounding guards we have had in our time at Villanova.”

Add the loss of key freshman reserve Jordan Longino just before the NCAA Tournament … ‘Nova will show up at this Final Four really limping. The loss of Longino, maybe as fine a future NBA prospect as there is on the team, is significant to Villanova’s perimeter depth. But his minutes could be replaced; in fact, have been replaced. There’s just no replacing Moore.

The way Villanova probably would have tried is by giving Longino some more minutes. You’ll no doubt see Caleb Daniels replace Moore in the starting lineup, but that’s semantics. Daniels already plays starter minutes, always is there at the end, already piling on his own massive contributions. Look for Chris Arcidiacono and Bryan Antoine to get spot minutes. Wright’s trust in Arcidiacono, especially at the defensive end, was shown Saturday, when Arcidiacono went in to spell Gillespie.

But go back to the Big East final, how it was Moore who had the ball at the very end, trusted to make a final clinching play after Gillespie had hit a couple of clutch three-pointers. Factoring in how Moore automatically gets assigned a big-time offensive opponent for his defensive assignment, how he made a crucial block Saturday when Houston had all the momentum … you understand losing him is as big as losing Gillespie was last season. In fact, Gillespie couldn’t help going there right after Saturday’s game, literally. He went straight for Moore when the buzzer sounded.

You saw it, how Villanova’s whole team got over there, how the tears were flowing.

“Just to try and cheer him up,” Gillespie said later. “I’ve been in that position before. I know what it feels like. We don’t know what the injury is yet. He still has to get checked. I don’t ever want to see him by himself. He’s done so much for this team, always guards the best player, is one of our best offensive players, and will do anything for any one of our guys on either end of the floor. A lot of our guys ran right over to him because we’re not in the position that we are without him. So we just wanted to go over to him and just appreciate what he does for us and know that we got his back.”

Moore’s other big contribution was how he sacrificed. This has come up before, how ths Villanova team was going to be Justin Moore’s team. Last month, Wright went back to a conversation with Moore last spring after COVID-19 NCAA rules allowed an extra eligibility. All of a sudden, Gillespie and Samuels were returning for a fifth season.

Wright remembered a brief conversation with Moore, " ‘Yo, you’re good, right?’ He just said, ‘Yeah!’ "

Moore still got his points, scoring at least 15 in 22 games. He averaged 14.8 points and 4.8 rebounds. Final Four-type teams almost always pressure defenses from multiple angles and that’s what Villanova showed this season. That’s what Villanova will have a little less of in New Orleans. Defenses can load up a little more on Gillespie and Daniels. A plan will be put in place. It just can’t be Plan A. Moore is at the center of that.

“Justin’s work ethic and dedication will help bring him through this recovery,” Wright said, “and we look forward to the day where we see him back on the court fully healthy.”