You probably don't realize Villanova's 2016 is one of the best calendar years in history
The Wildcats are an incredible 37-3 since Jan. 1
Villanova opened 2016 with an 85-74 win at Creighton. Coincidentally, the Wildcats can close 2016 the same way because the Big East's schedule-maker has them in Omaha again Saturday. And do you realize Jay Wright's program is on the verge of completing one of the greatest calendar years in college basketball history?
It's also remarkable.
Villanova enters its final game of 2016 on a 19-game winning streak and with a 37-3 record in this calendar year. That's already more victories than any national champion has ever won in a calendar year. And if the Wildcats close 2016 with a victory at Creighton, they'll be the first program not named Duke to win a national championship, finish that same calendar year with three-or-fewer losses and enter the subsequent calendar year ranked No. 1 in the AP poll since UNLV won the 1990 national championship, finished that same calendar year with a 35-3 record and entered the subsequent calendar year ranked No. 1 in the AP poll.
Again, here's the criteria:
- Win a national title
- Lose three-or-fewer games in that same calendar year
- Enter the subsequent calendar year ranked No. 1 in the AP poll
Duke did it in 1992 and 2001.
Nobody else has done it in the past 27 years.
But Villanova has a chance to join the club New Year's Eve.
It won't be easy, though, because Creighton is 13-0, ranked 10th in the AP poll and running one of the nation's best offenses led by Player of the Year candidate Maurice Watson, who is leading the nation in assists per game (9.1). The Bluejays rank first in 3-point percentage (44.6) and fourth in 2-point percentage (58.9). And their effective field goal percentage of 61.7 ranks second nationally, behind only UCLA's of 63.2.
In other words, Creighton presents a real challenge.
"This is what you dream of -- playing the No. 1 team at your house in front of your fans," Watson told reporters following Wednesday's 89-75 victory over Seton Hall.
Needless to say, CenturyLink Center is soldout.
Tip is at 1 p.m. ET.
And, yes, whatever happens will quickly be overshadowed by the College Football Playoff doubleheader that'll be getting underway right around the same time Villanova-Creighton goes final, which is fine and understandable. But you should know that Villanova, with a win, will finish the calendar year with an incredible 38-3 record highlighted, of course, by a victory over North Carolina in what can reasonably be called the best national championship game in history thanks to one of the most memorable shots in NCAA Tournament history.
Watch it again, if you want ...
What the Wildcats will do in 2017 is guess-work at best. They could win a fourth straight Big East regular-season title and become the first team since Florida to take back-to-back national titles. Or they could fall well short.
As always, we'll see.
But what Villanova has done in 2016 is already historic.
The Wildcats, in this calendar year, won their school's 10th regular-season league title and second national title. They beat big brands like Kansas and North Carolina. They extended their Big 5 winning streak to 18 games and their winning streak inside the Pavilion to 45. They haven't lost to anybody anywhere in more than nine months. And they've been led by Josh Hart, who has been so good so far this season that he's on track to become Villanova's first National Player of the Year.
Great stuff, all of it.
Bottom line, no, none of this will be remembered by sports fans in general as much as the 2016 the Chicago Cubs enjoyed or the 2016 LeBron James delivered to Cleveland. But there's no denying Villanova's 2016 -- from January through December -- has been one of the greatest calendar years any college basketball team has ever produced. And it should be remembered as such.
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