The joy that Jay Wright and his Villanova basketball team felt Sunday when the Wildcats were awarded a No. 1 seed in the East Regional of the NCAA tournament was followed by a long "ooohhhh" when the name of their initial opponent was revealed.
That opponent was Lafayette, champion of the Patriot League, seeded No. 16 and coached by Fran O'Hanlon, the former Wildcats guard (1967-70) and "a very, very loyal Villanova guy," Wright said.
"He really stays in close touch with us," Wright said. "As a matter of fact, in the summer, we have an alumni game and he comes back and coaches our players. We can't be involved in it [because of NCAA rules]. He knows all of our guys. He follows every game."
Junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono smiled when asked about O'Hanlon.
"He knows everything about us, inside and out," he said. "He's a great coach and we'll expect nothing but the best from him."
The Wildcats (32-2) set a program record for most wins in a season. They ended all speculation over whether they would be seeded on the top line in the East on Saturday night when they knocked off Xavier, 69-52, to win their first Big East tournament title since 1995. It's 'Nova's first No. 1 seed in the NCAAs since 2006.
The Leopards (20-12) were seeded fourth heading into the Patriot League tournament but defeated Boston University and Bucknell before capturing their first championship since 2000 with a 65-63 win over American.
"We're happy to be playing," O'Hanlon said Sunday during a viewing party at Kirby Field House in Easton, Pa. "It's an awesome moment. We're going to be playing a great team, but we're an excellent team ourselves. We'll be looking forward to it."
The game will be like playing a hometown team for Wildcats senior Darrun Hilliard, a native of Bethlehem who was recruited by the Leopards during his sophomore season of high school.
"We played them last season," Hilliard said, referring to his team's 75-59 win at the Pavilion in the 2013-14 season opener. "They're a great team. I know they've got a good point guard and it's going to be a tough matchup.
"I hope the [Lehigh Valley] fans vote for 'Nova Nation. I hope they don't vote for Lafayette, but it's all love."
Leopards sophomore point guard Nick Lindner, who starred at Germantown Academy, scored 25 points in the win over American and averaged 23.7 points in the three tournament games. For the season, he averages 12.8 points and 5.4 assists.
If the Wildcats advance past Thursday's opener, they will take on the winner of No. 8 seed North Carolina State vs. No. 9 Louisiana State on Saturday. Other teams in their bracket include No. 2 seed Virginia, No. 3 Oklahoma, and No. 4 Louisville.