On the high holy day of the college basketball calendar, it seems only fitting that we acknowledge that the 2008-09 Wildcats will - in a few short hours - have attained the distinctive honor of being the 30th Main Line squad to be invited to the NCAA tournament. In their 29 previous appearances, they have posted an outstanding record of 44-29.
They also will be the fifth consecutive team to do so, a tribute to the fine coaching of Jay Wright. Wright has reached postseason play in all eight of his seasons on the Main Line, heading to the NIT in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and to the NCAA tournament in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. Wright, while at Villanova, is now 7-4 in the NCAA tournament, with two Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight appearance to his credit.
In fact, today marks four years to the day - March 15, the Ides of March - that Jay Wright and Villanova received their first bid of the 21st century, ending a six-year drought - you can read my recap from March 15, 2005, at Villanova in NCAAs, Faces New Mexico on Friday!!!
Unlike last season, however, there will be no unpleasant suspense. The Wildcats were rewarded with a NCAA bid last season, to the surprise of some observers. For the team, coaching and support staff, and fans, it was nerve-wracking agony to see if a bid would be forthcoming. Fortunately, they vindicated the wisdom of the Selection Committee and made it all the way to the Sweet 16.
This year's bid will further bolster Villanova's standing among the elite, traditional powers nationally. Villanova will no longer be a tie for ninth place with Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish will not receive a bid today...
According to the Villanova media guide, here are the schools with the highest number of NCAA bids, entering this season... (whether the team will receive a bid today is in parentheses)
- Kentucky - 50 (probably not)
- UCLA - 41 (yes)
- North Carolina - 40 (yes)
- Kansas - 37 (yes)
- Indiana - 35 (certainly not)
- Louisville - 34 (yes)
- Duke - 32 (yes)
- Syracuse - 31 (yes)
- (tie) Villanova - 29 (yes), Notre Dame - 29 (no)