PITTSBURGH - As the No. 1 seed in the East Regional of this year's NCAA tournament, Villanova is a fashionable and popular pick to make a Final Four run. And the Wildcats should be. They are 32-2, and they are deep and balanced, and they should have an easy time in their first-round game Thursday, against No. 16 Lafayette. But in a way, the more interesting question about Villanova this year is not whether it will make a Final Four run, but how.
If you've paid attention to Jay Wright's teams over the years, you know that their success, especially in the tournament, has come down to the play of their guards. Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Maalik Wayns, now Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart and even (if you want to think of him as a shooting guard) Darrun Hilliard. Those guards have been tough and talented and have usually carried the Wildcats at this time of year, though it has often been a grueling journey.
Anyone who remembers the 6-foot-4 Foye trying to defend bigger, stronger post players from North Carolina, Boston College, and Florida during the 2005 and 2006 tournaments understands how grueling. Villanova has won tournament games over the last decade on its guards' sheer guts. At times, it's been marvelous to see. At others, particularly when those guards were having poor shooting nights, it's been excruciating to watch.
Which is why this Villanova team is a curious and interesting one. It's perhaps the most diverse of Wright's 13-year tenure. The Wildcats have Arcidiacono and Hilliard, yes, but they have Hart and Dylan Ennis, too, and JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu in the post. They have six players who have averaged more than nine points a game this season. They have options, more than they've had maybe at any time under Wright. They will probably need to use all of them, at one time or another, to get to Indianapolis.