The march and the madness are about to begin and Rollie Massimino plans to be by Villanova's side every step of the way. If the bracket he filled out is correct, the final step will be followed by a net-cutting celebration April 6 on the court at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
"I got them winning it all," Massimino said by telephone from his South Florida home Tuesday.
He claims to be pretty good at filling out the brackets, too. Massimino, 80, said that in his younger days he was able to name 63 of the 65 teams before the selection committee announced them. He said he is too busy with his NAIA Division II Northwood team these days to still do that, but he does fill out a bracket after the teams are released and this year has Villanova winning the national championship.
Thirty years ago they would have called Massimino crazy if he had Villanova winning it all as the NCAA basketball tournament opened. But that, of course, is what the Wildcats did.
History would not be repeating itself if this year's Villanova team wins the school's second national championship. That team three decades ago had two chances to win the title - slim and none. Somehow, slim crossed the finish line first in what remains the most unlikely championship run in the tournament's history.
Massimino's 1984-85 Wildcats had lost four of their last seven games in the regular season, including a 23-point Big East beat-down by Pittsburgh on the final day. After avenging that loss in the opening round of the Big East tournament, the Wildcats were again soundly beaten, this time by St. John's at Madison Square Garden. Villanova was no better than the third-best team in its own conference and it was a distant third to St. John's and defending national champion Georgetown. The Big East was only six years old at the time and it was all about basketball then as it is again now.
Villanova was 19-10 and an eighth seed entering the tournament. The Wildcats had to beat two No. 1 seeds - Michigan and Georgetown - and two No. 2 seeds - North Carolina and Memphis State - to win the title. Massimino's team was a nine-point underdog against mighty Georgetown in the title game.
Things are much different for coach Jay Wright and his 2014-15 Villanova team. Massimino's former assistant begins his quest for a national title as the No. 1 seed in the East region and the No. 2 seed in the entire tournament.
"What I like most about this team is the unselfishness that Jay has created among his players," Massimino said. "You watch their highlights and you can see that his players are willing to give whatever is best for the team."
You can see that on the court and you can see it on the stat sheet, too. Six Villanova players are averaging 9.2 points per game or more. Only one - Darrun Hilliard - is averaging more than 10 per game. Hilliard averages 14. Kentucky is the only other team with that much scoring balance and depth among the tournament's top seeds.
It could be argued that this year's Villanova team is the best in school history even if it does not win the title. The 32 wins are a school record and Wright's team is the first at Villanova to win the regular-season and Big East tournament titles in the same year. Granted, the Big East is not the goliath it had become the year Massimino's team won it all, but it did send six teams to the tournament.
So is this the most talented Villanova team ever?
"No, I don't think it is the most talented," Massimino said. "It's tough to define the most talented team. It's like picking the top five players in school history. You can't do it. It is one of the most talented teams because of all the intangibles. Jay has created the atmosphere of a family.
"I know he loves all his players. I watch every game I can and I talk to him once or twice a week throughout the season. He has done a marvelous job of putting this team together. For Jay, it's all about unselfishness, being creative and playing great defense. He has got them going."
There are some interesting similarities in Villanova's attempt to win it all again 30 years later. This tournament started in Dayton, Ohio, which is where Massimino's team started its title run. The Wildcats had to beat Dayton on its home floor and did so by only two points. Massimino's team won it all on the Kentucky Wildcats' home court in Lexington 30 years ago, and most experts believe this year's champion will have to go through top-ranked and unbeaten Kentucky in a different sort of the way.
Massimino, however, has Jay Wright's Wildcats winning it all, and he is pretty good at this bracket stuff even if he does say so himself.