clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Villanova has failed to get past the first weekend of March Madness 7 times in 8 years

When Villanova doesn’t win it all, it goes out quickly.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Wisconsin vs Villanova Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova won the national title last year on one of the most memorable basketball plays of this or any other century: a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the title game.

For the sake of Nova’s fans, that’s a really good thing. Because the two seasons sandwiching Kris Jenkins’ Final Four brilliance have ended in virtually identical and completely devastating fashion. It’s eerie.

In 2015, Villanova:

  • Was the No. 1 seed in the East region
  • Won its first game against a No. 16
  • Played No. 8 NC State in its second game
  • Lost to the No. 8 seed by three points

Now, in 2017, Villanova:

  • Was the No. 1 seed in the East region
  • Won its first game against a No. 16
  • Played No. 8 Wisconsin in its second game
  • Lost to the No. 8 seed by three points

And those are just the basics. Look back longer, and this is Villanova’s sixth opening-weekend loss in the last eight years (or seven tournaments, in Nova’s case).

Some other early losses:

  • 2014: as a No. 2 seed to No. 7 UConn, by 12 points
  • 2013: as a No. 9 seed to No. 8 North Carolina, by seven points
  • 2011: as a No. 9 seed, to No. 8 George Mason, by four points
  • 2010: as a No. 2 seed to No. 10 Saint Mary’s, by seven points

Villanova’s loss to Wisconsin on Saturday was the upset of the tournament. So was its loss to NC State two years ago, because that’s how it goes when a No. 1 seed doesn’t make it out of the opening weekend. But the similarities are stunning.

In the NC State loss, Villanova shot a brutal 31 percent from the field, a decimal point off its worst showing of the season. On Saturday, it shot 41 percent -- better, but still Nova’s third-worst field goal percentage of the season.

The NC State loss was, simply, the byproduct of shots not falling.

Time and time again, Villanova found open looks with a chance to dent NC State's edge. Those opportunities were usually squandered, with none more painful than guard Dylan Ennis's go-ahead three-point try with 15 seconds left. The Wolfpack had just thrown the ball out of bounds, and the Wildcats trailed by just two. Ennis came off a screen and found an open patch of hardwood 22 feet from the basket. He's a perfectly fine 36 percent shooter from deep, and this shot was open after two defenders lost him on a pick.

"I thought it was good when it left my hands," Ennis said. And, clank.

A few minutes before that, Ryan Arcidiacono had swooped into the paint untouched and rose for a wholly uncontested floater. His form looked sturdy, and he's a pretty good shooter, too. Not a great one, but he nonetheless scored 54 two-point baskets this season. Few could have been more open than this chance. And, clank.

"If we make two or three more shots, we win this game, but that's just how it falls," Arcidiacono said. "We just didn't make any shots."

And in short, that was the problem against Wisconsin. Villanova doesn’t have 40 percent shooting nights often. It had one at the worst possible time.

If there’s one Villanova silver lining here, it’s this.

After a brutal shooting night robbed Villanova of a March run two years ago, something great happened the next year. Maybe that can happen again.