The Atmosphere at Villanova in the Lead-Up to the Final Four

By Matt Crawford

Villanova’s entrance into the Final Four has done much much more around the Villanova campus than only inject some much needed award money into Villanova’s distressed economic situation. Of course, Villanova’s reputation has skyrocketed. The admissions office will likely receive a record number of applicants this year, and some of that is helped by the fact that we are now a Final Four school. Villanova is on every news channel in the area every night. So, for starters, the athletes of the men’s basketball team have not only helped themselves, their team and created an extremely happy and enthusiastic fan base; they have also helped their school in a timely manner as a result of the depressed economy.Ten years from now, could we be seeing a new on-campus arena primarily for basketball? Its a great dream, but definitely made more realistic with Villanova’s entrance into the Final Four for the first time since 1985. Could the suggestions of the Master Plan be acted upon and construction begins on campus sooner than anticipated because of Villanova’s basketball success? Such a vision is very realistic. Twenty years from now when the campus looks rather different, one could definitely say, what if Villanova had not reached the Final Four…or greater? Things might be slightly different, or at least slightly delayed.

However, it is not the finances of the basketball team’s success which is getting this campus excited. No, it is the fact that Villanova is alive to play another day. The fact is, the Wildcats have two winnable games left to play; games against the best teams in the country – UNC and hopefully UConn or Missouri. People would be inclined to label a victory against UNC an upset with their extremely talented athletes Hansborough and Lawson. But really, Pittsburgh, playing in the best conference in the country and most physical conference in the country was defeated by Villanova not once, but twice. Is UNC that much better than Pitt? I doubt it. Of course, they have two very different styles of play and UNC runs a very smooth, quick offense with great passing and perhaps the team that transitions best in the country.

Villanova is the underdog, but really, nothing can be truly considered an upset in the NCAA Tournament. With Jay Wright at the head and consulting his wise assistant coaches, they are definitely able of creating a winning strategy against UNC. They need to create mismatches. Try to get Lawson and Hansborough in some foul trouble and guard the Tar Heel’s hot shooting on the perimeter.

A win would, once again, create chaos and massive partying on Villanova’s campus on Saturday night. Lancaster Avenue will again be shut down for a period of time. I will be staying at Villanova instead of going to Detroit – a decision which I struggled with for days. It will certainly be fun times at Villanova, and I’m sure it will be a good time in the Motor City. My only regret will be I will not be able to say that I saw the 2009 Final Four live. Excitement is building around campus and I don’t want to miss what could be perhaps the greatest college experience I will ever have. I’m an optimist – the odds are against us but the game will be exciting and close.

Shirts, hats, pennants are flying off the shelves at the school stores. The campus has been invaded by perhaps the most news trucks that I have seen anywhere in one spot. The victory Saturday night in Boston, which I was at, and the ensuing celebration seemed very surreal. Here on campus, professors and staff are talking and everyone in the area has become an instant Villanova fan – perhaps even the Radnor citizens who destest us. In 1985, when we won it all, students from St. Joe’s, Drexel, UPenn and elsewhere came down upon the campus to celebrate with Villanovans. Villanova is being talked about in the same sentence as the World Series Champ Phillies and the Eagles as a successful sports team in the Philadelphia area.

It is good times at Villanova. Let’s just support our team, remain optimistic – it will be an exciting, intense game and hopefully it won’t we our last game, and then hopefully not our final victory.

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