2015-16 Epilogue: New Perspectives

The 2015-16 season -- for me, anyway -- ended at Furman's Timmons Arena.  (Brian Wilmer/CHD)
Brian Wilmer

98 miles.

That's the distance between the sites of the first game I covered this year (Winthrop Coliseum) and the last (Furman University's Timmons Arena).  It took just over four months -- and a ton of detours along the way -- to make that trek.  I saw a lot of the things I expected along the way, but I also saw a number of things I could never have anticipated.  


Arcidiacono and Wright onto the Sweet 16 as Villanova Tops Iowa

Ryan Arcidiacono Has Played the Most Games in Nova History/usatoday.com 
by Josh Adams

Jay Wright has 350 victories in his tenure as the Villanova WIldcats head coach. Today's victory over Iowa that sent his Wildcats to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009 might have been one of the sweetest. 

Coming off a mild upset loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Championship, Vilanova has laid waste to their first two NCAA Tournament opponents (UNC-Ashville and Iowa) by a combined score of 173-124. This may be Wright's most talented team he's ever had at Villanova and they succeeded today in getting the program back in upper echelon of college basketball. 

Watching the Wildcats this season was at their best, poetry in motion. There are no stars on this team and on any given game, 8 different players could lead the team in scoring. The straw that stirs the drink is senior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Arch has played in more games than any other player in Villanova history but before today's win his name would've had an asterik next to it. He would of been the Don Mattingly of the Wildcats, a great player in an era where a historically successful postseason team went through a dry spell. Throughout his career the trust between Wright and Arch never wavered.  

On his relationship with Coach Wright, Arch commented after the win, "It's a great relationship. Ever since day one, I think we've had trust in each other, and he trusted me as a freshman and throughout my years. But I think it's just, I try to think of myself as him on the floor because he tells me, if he was to play and when he played, that's how he wanted a player to play." That quote should be on the recruiting packet Villanova sends out for the next fifty years. 

While fans might look at the NCAA futility of Jay Wright in the past 7 years, so much of what makes or breaks a team's tournament chances are the matchups they get from the selection committee. While the Wildcats can beat anyone this year, they matched up well with Iowa and the Hawkeyes never had a prayer once the Villanova offense started humming.  They lead by as many as 30 points in the second half. 

What's great about covering college sports is from time to time you see the relationship that a player and a coach come full circle and today the praise was flowing from both ends of the Wright and Arch dynamic.   Wright answered what kind of player he has in Arch with, "We know exactly how we think. His parents grew up where my parents grew up in northeast Philly. It's just we're the same person. It has just been a thrill to have him. I really do want to cherish every second we have him."

Thanks to today, he'll have at least 2,400 more seconds to cherish as the Wildcats face Miami in the Sweet 16 in Louisville. 


Furman's Historic Season Ends In CIT Second-Round Action vs. Louisiana

Brian Wilmer

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Furman basketball already had quite the list of accomplishments entering their second-round College Insider Tournament contest on Saturday.  Having already banked their first postseason win since 1974 with an 11-0 late-game run and buzzer-beating basket in the first round, recording their second-highest win total in the last 25 years -- and even more, the Paladins faced one more challenge:  stopping Sun Belt Player of the Year Shawn Long from Louisiana.

Furman largely did that, holding the senior big man to 10 points and four boards on 3-of-5 shooting.  The Ragin’ Cajuns proved too much for Furman to match on Saturday, however, taking home an 80-72 victory in front of 1,308 fans at Timmons Arena.