This college basketball season has been dominated by discussions about the sport's heralded freshman class -- specifically the first-year players at Duke, Kentucky and UCLA ... plus Washington's Markelle Fultz and Kansas' Josh Jackson.
But Saturday offered something different.
Villanova vs. Notre Dame
Veterans vs. Veterans
It was a great game and one that featured the reigning national champions looking more than worthy of their No. 1 ranking while overcoming a halftime deficit and beating No. 23 Notre Dame 74-66 in the opener of the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
Here are five takeaways from Villanova's win:
1. Josh Hart was amazing
Villanova's senior leader took 14 shots, made 10 and finished with a career-high 37 points and 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-5 guard made three of the four 3-pointers he attempted and went 14 of 14 from the free-throw line. And it was a completely balanced performance. Hart got 19 points in the first half, then 18 more in the second. He's among the obvious leading candidates for National Player of the Year.
2. V.J. Beachem was less than amazing
Notre Dame's second-leading scorer missed nine of the 11 shots he took and finished with a season-low four points. It marked the first time Beachem hasn't scored in double-figures this season. He missed all five 3-pointers he attempted and is now 2 of 16 from three in Notre Dame's past two games.
3. This game was closer than the final score suggests
Villanova closed strong, won by eight points and covered the point spread. But the score was actually 68-66 with 57 seconds remaining. So don't be misled by the final margin. This was tight into the final minute.
4. Villanova should enter Big East play undefeated
The Wildcats have now won 16 straight games dating to last season and are 10-0 this season thanks mostly to an offense that ranks second nationally in offensive efficiency. Next up is a home game against Temple that'll be followed by a home game vs. American. So there's no reason to think the Wildcats will be anything other than 12-0 when they open Big East play Dec. 28 against DePaul. Villanova's next big test is New Year's Eve at Creighton. The Wildcats are at Butler four days after that.
5. Yes, the Wildcats have a chance to repeat
Duke has a higher ceiling based on the depth and talent on Mike Krzyzewski's roster. Kentucky probably does, too. But anybody telling you Villanova can't become the first school to win back-to-back national titles since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007 isn't paying attention. Would I bet on it? No. But can I imagine it? Absolutely.