Jay Wright did more than just ascend a ladder to cut down the nets at the Alamodome Monday night. By leading his Villanova Wildcats to their second national title in three years, Wright ascended to the top of the college basketball coaching ranks. The 56-year-old is the best in the college game and things have been headed in this direction for years.
Wright’s Villanova team absolutely dismantled Michigan to win a 79-62 championship game that wasn’t as close as that score would indicate. It was the same story that has played out over the last few weeks, as the Wildcats absolutely dominated the entire 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Villanova won its six tournament games this year by an average of 17.7 points. That’s simply staggering. The Cats covered the spread in each game as well, exceeding expectations in every game. But Wright being the best coach in college basketball isn’t about this year, or winning titles in two of the last three years. It’s everything he does and how his teams play.
Since taking the Villanova job in 2001, the Pennsylvania native has posted a ridiculous record of 420-165 (.718). But while his overall record is impressive, that’s not even close to what makes him such an incredible coach.
While guys like Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Bill Self and Roy Williams win with loads of talent, Wright builds teams. I’m sure he’d take legions of five-star guys if they’d go to Nova, but that’s not the kind of guy who makes up his typical recruiting classes.
Instead, Wright packs his roster with solid, smart players who are often overlooked. Yes, Jalen Brunson and Omari Spellman were five-star guys, but that’s not typical of Wright’s recruits. He takes players who will buy in to his system and guys who play well with others.
Since 2010, Wright has never had a recruiting class finish inside the top 20 in 247Sports’ rankings. In 2013 his class finished 36th, in 2014 it was 48th, in 2015 it was 29th, in 2016 it was 45th and in 2017 it was 28th. With those classes, from 2013 through this season, Villanova has a record of 165-21 (.887). The Wildcats have won four Big East regular season titles, three Big East Tournament titles, three Final Four appearances and two national titles.
Talk about doing more with less.
Wright consistently finds smart, versatile, disciplined players. Guys like Ryan Arcidiacono, Kris Jenkins, Josh Hart, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo were all undervalued nationally. They’ve been key cogs on national championship teams for Wright.
Wright’s teams play smart, solid basketball and rarely fail to show up. His teams answer the bell far more often than not, and even if they don’t have their best, they fight, scratch and claw to find ways to win. His teams always display an uncanny knack for winning in different ways and are committed at both ends of the floor. The fact that he can do that with less talent against top-tier teams show how great he truly is.
For a while there’s been a national discussion about the next wave of great coaches. Well, Jay Wright is already here. And on Monday night he cemented his status as the best college basketball has to offer.