DETROIT (Reuters) - Villanova will not carry the ghost of 1985 into its Final Four game against North Carolina on Saturday, coach Jay Wright said.
The last time Villanova reached the Final Four 24 years ago, the Wildcats shot nearly 79 percent from the field and won the championship against heavily favored Georgetown 66-64.
Although Villanova (30-7) is once again an underdog, Wright does not think his team will need another miracle to advance to Monday’s final of the 64-team NCAA Tournament.
“They have a belief in what we do,” Wright said of his team. “It’s the most enjoyable, probably easiest coaching job we’ve ever had.
“I wouldn’t want to make something up for you and tell them I have this great inspirational speech for them, because I don’t. I haven’t throughout this tournament.
“They bring it every day. That’s what makes this group special.”
Villanova was seeded third in the East and while the Wildcats are underdogs against North Carolina (32-4), Wright said it did not compare to Rollie Massimino’s outmanned 1985 team that hit nine of 10 shots in the second half.
“They were an eight seed,” recalled Wright. “That year, Georgetown was just incredible, intimidating.
“Coach Mass was great at creating that atmosphere. He loved being the underdog. He could convince you in the beginning of the week there’s no way in the world you can win this game.
“By the end of the week, you believed there’s no way you’re losing this game. He was the master at that.
“I can’t do that. I’m not as good at that. Our players believe they can win. We use a term, we don’t have to play perfect, we just have to play together.”
Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds, who hit a last-second shot in the regional final to stun top-seeded Pittsburgh 78-76, was not even born in 1985 but knows the game well.
“I haven’t watched like the whole game, but the highlights,” he said. “Growing up in Virginia, not too far away from D.C., I know about the Georgetown teams, especially when Villanova upset them.
“People talk about them playing the perfect game. I don’t think we have to play a perfect game. We don’t have to shoot 70-something percent.
“We just have to go out there, be more together, play hard, play with more pride than the other team.”
Editing by Sonia Oxley; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org