VILLANOVA HAS had great players, going back to Hall of Famer Paul Arizin, who played from 1947-50, through Hubie White, Wali Jones, Howard Porter, Bill Melchionni, John Pinone, Ed Pinckney, Kerry Kittles, Randy Foye and Scottie Reynolds. The Wildcats have had first-team All-Americas and have eight 2,000-point scorers. What 'Nova has never had is a national Player of the Year.

That may be about to change. Senior Josh Hart is having one of the great seasons in school and Big 5 history, putting up numbers that have him atop the kenpom.com Player of the Year ratings by a large margin. While Hart's numbers are a tribute to his incredibly efficient game, it is how he plays that is even more impressive.

I have covered city basketball for 30 years, and Hart is among the very best at combining every basketball skill with an incredible will to win every game. Anybody ever seen him take a play off? Me either.

His numbers going into Tuesday night's game at Marquette were: 19.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 53.3 percent shooting, 38.4 percent from three and 79.3 percent from the foul line. He is a terrific defender who plays fast and smart at the same time, no easy feat. He has 30 steals this season against only 33 turnovers, a sensational number for a player who has the ball as much as Hart.

Hart has always been a very efficient player, so efficient that he was No. 5 in the kenpom Player of the Year ratings last year. What he has done this season is increase his numbers in every category because that's what this team needs to win.

Hart is obviously not about individual awards, but his play deserves to be recognized. He has competition for the P/Y award – Frank Mason (Kansas), Lonzo Ball (UCLA) and Caleb Swanigan (Purdue), among others. Obviously, I am biased, because I see Hart more than I see any of the others, but I just can't imagine anybody having a better season who has played bigger in big moments.

Hart has been on teams that are 116-14, so he played his 131st game Tuesday night. That is the exact number Lionel Simmons played for La Salle and six more than Jameer Nelson played at Saint Joseph's. Simmons and Nelson were the most recent national Players of the Year from the city. They should have company in a few months.

The Gonzaga story

Before St. Joe's went 27-0 during the 2003-04 regular season, no team had an unbeaten regular season since UNLV in 1990-91. Wichita State got all the way to 35-0 in 2013-14 and Kentucky made it to 38-0 in 2014-15. No team, of course, has finished an entire season unbeaten since Indiana in 1975-76.

Gonzaga is 20-0. Coach Mark Few has had really good teams forever in Spokane, Wash. According to the numbers, this may be his very best. The Zags have had five top-10 offenses since 2004, but have never had a top-10 defense. The Bulldogs stand atop the kenpom standings because they are sixth in offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency, the type of combination that challenges for Final Fours and national championships.

Gonzaga shoots 39.1 percent from three and allows teams to shoot just 29.9 percent, an impressive 9.2 percent differential. Even more dazzling is the two-point difference. The Bulldogs shoot 57 percent on twos and allow teams to shoot just 40.9 percent. Those numbers work anywhere anytime.

The Zags have already beaten what I would consider four Top 25-caliber teams in Arizona, Iowa State, Saint Mary's and Florida. San Diego State, Akron and Tennessee are top-100 teams, so the nonconference schedule was good enough.

Gonzaga, as it is wont to do, is rolling through the West Coast Conference schedule. What stands between the Zags and a 30-0 regular season are games at BYU and Saint Mary's. Kenpom gives them a 40 percent chance at the perfect regular season.

If you see them on television, check out stat-sheet stuffer Nigel Williams-Goss and imposing big man Przemek Karnowski.

Gonzaga has been a national team for 20 years now. The only hurdle it has not climbed is the Final Four. This could be the year.

Unbeaten in conference

Not sure what this means, but as we close on the halfway mark of many conference seasons, I don't remember this many teams without a league loss. As the week began, Vermont (America East), Cincinnati (American), Kansas (Big 12) UC Irvine (Big West), UNCW (Colonial), Middle Tennessee (Conference USA), Akron (Middle American), Illinois State (Missouri Valley), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Arizona and Oregon (Pacific 12), Kentucky (Southeastern), Georgia Southern (Sun Belt), Gonzaga (WCC) and New Mexico State (Western Athletic) were all unbeaten in league play. I am not counting the Ivy, which is just getting started.

The Ivy deal

This season is a very different dynamic. It is early, but Princeton, Harvard and Yale may have separated from the pack. The other five teams will be rooting for those three every game except when they play one of them. If the three pull well clear of the pack, it might only take 7-7 or even 6-8 to be fourth. And four teams will be at the Palestra for that tournament to determine the league's NCAA bid.

Devastating injuries

I don't remember a three-week period where so many really good players suffered devastating knee injuries that ended their seasons and, in two cases, their careers.

It started when St. Joe's junior point Shavar Newkirk went out with an ACL tear on the last play of the first half against George Washington. He was averaging 20.3 points and was a Big 5 and Atlantic 10 first-team player. And then, in a second, it was over.

Then, in barely a week's time, two senior point guards, Philly's Maurice Watson, the nation's assists leader at Creighton, and Alec Wintering, averaging 19.5 points for Portland, were gone with ACL tears, and sophomore forward OG Anunoby, the all-purpose NBA-level athlete from Indiana and potential lottery pick, was declared out for the season with an unspecified knee injury.

This and that

Penn grad Tony Hicks, playing at Louisville as a graduate transfer, is getting more run, with point guard Quentin Snider out for a few weeks with a hip injury. He has scored 25 points in the last two games while averaging 24.5 minutes . . . Kansas is in the midst of an eight-day Final Four-like run without the neutral courts. KU was at West Virginia on Tuesday night, plays at Kentucky Saturday and then hosts Baylor next Wednesday . . . Northwestern, trying for the school's first NCAA bid, just won at Ohio State for the first time in 40 years and is 5-2 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1968.

jerardd@phillynews.com

@DickJerardi