FIVE COLLEGE basketball programs have won 21 or more games each of the last 10 seasons - Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Gonzaga and Akron, the team that went to Arkansas Wednesday, put up 88 points and won wire-to-wire, the same team that was flowing nicely deep into the first half Sunday at the Pavilion - until Villanova took them so far out of their comfort zone that the Zips went 16 possessions overlapping halftime with just a single point.
You don't do that and survive against these Wildcats, not any time, but definitely not in a game when Josh Hart had his career-high 27 points with 13 minutes left and maestro/point guard Ryan Arcidiacono was brilliant with 15 points, eight assists and no turnovers, giving him an outrageous 22 assists against one turnover in four games, all comfortable wins, this one 75-56.
"That is a good team," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of the Zips. "We didn't start slow . . . They know how they want to play."
So does Villanova.
Ryan "Arch" has a fan in his coach and the coach on the other bench, Keith Dambrot, the man who was LeBron James' first coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio.
"He's a tough guy now," Dambrot said. "I had LeBron and he's going to make four times as many turnovers as that. Now, he's going to get the assists, but to make that many plays for your teammates and not make any mistakes, there's not many guards in the country that can do that. Is he pro? I don't know about that, but I do know he's one of the best guards in college basketball."
Wright gave the ball to Arch when he showed up on campus. Still, this start to his senior season has even him amazed.
"It's really incredible numbers." Wright said. "I don't want to jinx him. He's always played great offensively, but I just think he's playing the best offensively he's played since he's been here. Maybe, the numbers aren't as high, but the efficiency is off the charts."
Hart was the best matchup for the Wildcats against the tall and skilled Zips (3-1). And once he got going with his inside/out game, Akron had no answers.
"There are certain teams that have size and length that don't have to extend defensively that Josh is going to be very important for us because they force you to take them one-on-one and the only way you can do that is if they are afraid of your three," Wright said. "Josh hit some threes and pulled them out."
And when they came out, Hart blew by with a variety of hard drives to the rim. In addition to the 27 points, he also had a game-high nine rebounds.
"We were able to get downhill, kind of get to the rim," Hart said, an absolute blur once he got rolling.
The Wildcats outscored the Zips in the lane, 36-12, and continued their defense-to-offense assault, with 17 more points off turnovers, giving them an absurd 94 to 35 edge so far.
Wright said Zips point guard Antino Jackson getting two fouls in the opening minutes was a key. The fouls and the 'Nova pressure eventually took a toll. He did whatever he wanted against Arkansas, but had eight turnovers against the 'Cats.
It is very early, but Villanova is playing brilliantly at both ends, top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency, a hard to team to play, a harder team to beat.
"They're gritty and they're skilled," Dambrot said admiringly. "When you don't turn the ball over and you can shoot the ball, you become difficult. They play really well together. They remind me of Golden State in the sense that they know each other well. I thought they were grittier defensively that you could tell on tape."
The Wildcats have won 30 straight on campus and it will be a major surprise if anybody beats them there this season. Akron actually seemed to have some control of this game shooting 10-for-17 early to just 7-for-21 for 'Nova. Only the Zips six turnovers to zero for the 'Cats kept them from having a bigger lead. Then, the 'Cats defense ramped up, the run spanning the halves, 18-1. It took a while for the explosion against the Zips, but it was there.
"We settled in and got a feel for them," Wright said. "And then we locked it down defensively pretty well."
And, the 'Cats did what they do, trying to "just wear them out with our defense," Arcidiacono said.
They did that. And their defense led to great offense, best exemplified by the 19 assists, nine steals and just seven turnovers, numbers that will win against just about anybody, including one of America's most consistent programs.