Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu bid farewell to Pavilion

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Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono brings up the ball against DePaul Tuesday night in the Wildcats' final home game of the season.

LEGACIES.

It's what makes programs.

Every departing class leaves one, and they're all different. As are the respective journeys.

When guard Ryan Arcidiacono and center Daniel Ochefu arrived at Villanova four years ago, the Wildcats were coming off a season in which they tied a school record by losing 19 times. And the season before that they went from 16-1 to 21-12, losing their last six games.

So, three years removed from a Final Four, more than a few folks wanted to know what had gone wrong.

This is what's happened since then:

The Wildcats won 20 in 2012-13, beating three top five teams along the way. Arcidiacono led the team in minutes played, was named a tri-captain midway through the season and was a unanimous Big East all-rookie choice. Ochefu, serving primarily as an understudy to senior Mouphtaou Yarou, started every conference game. Coach Jay Wright has often cited how just making the NCAA Tournament again was such an important step in turning things around.

As sophomores, they set a school record for regular-season wins with 28. Arch was honorable mention all-conference, while Ochefu shared the Most Improved Award with junior teammate Darrun Hilliard.

Last season the Wildcats set a school record for overall wins with 33. They won the championship for the second time, and first in two decades. Arch was co-Big East Player of the Year. Ochefu got honorable mention and led the conference in field-goal percentage.

This season, they just spent time at No. 1 for the first time ever. They've clinched their third consecutive regular-season title. Arch and Ochefu both score in double figures. Ochefu ranks in the top three in the conference in shooting, boards and blocks. Arch is second in assist-to-turnover ratio, and once again probably first in taking charges, floor burns and leadership.

Tuesday night, they played for the last time at the Pavilion, where they still haven't lost since they were freshmen. Because the students were on break, Wright had already honored them before the Butler game on Feb. 20. On Saturday they'll make their farewell appearance at the Wells Fargo Center against Georgetown. Unless, of course, they happen to be playing there in the East Regional's Sweet 16 in another three weeks, which is about the only thing missing from the résumés. Other than that, their team has won 88 of its last 100.

How do you put a value on that?

Arch, whose father played football on the Main Line, is a legend in Bucks County who sat out his last season at Neshaminy High after undergoing back surgery. He's one of those guys who seem like they've been here forever.

Ochefu came as somewhat of a project. All he's done is keep getting better, even though some, if not many, get too stuck on his flaws instead of what he does do, which is considerable. Especially since he's the primary big man on a team overstocked with quality perimeter players, which means you could make the case that he might be their most indispensable piece.

Neither is a lottery pick. Maybe neither plays at the next level. But in college, their worth has been extraordinary.

And it's hardly over yet, even if they're nearing their finish line.

Arch is in many ways an iconic Villanovan. Ochefu in many respects is largely underappreciated. They'll both be missed. A whole bunch. And not just for what they helped accomplish when they were wearing the uniform. For Wright, the other stuff matters at least as much. It might sound whatever, but it's their way. And it's hard to argue with what it's produced.

Or how they'll be remembered.

"They're the only guys, along with the three walk-ons (Henry Lowe, Patrick Farrell and Kevin Rafferty), who've tasted failure (here)," said Wright, following the 83-62 win over DePaul that improved the record to 26-4, 15-2. "The juniors don't know what it feels like. They were on the team that lost to Columbia by 20 here. They lived that. We had to scramble that year, through a lot of ups and downs. They watched us in high school (go 13-19). I don't think they've ever forgotten that."

And they each agreed it shaped them for the better.

"It definitely made us grow up fast," Arcidiacono said. "We learned how tough it is to get good, and to stay good. We've been able to sustain it. You can't take it for granted."

Neither played a leading role in this one. They didn't have to. But they've never made it about them. Why change now? It's worked.

"Having experienced those lowlights, you know it can go south," said Ochefu. "Part of the journey is how you start. Then you see how far we've come. I'm very proud of that. It does make you appreciate (winning).

"We were able to get (the program) back on track. That's a really good feeling, even though you don't think about it when you're going through it."

Villanova had to replace two four-year starters, one of whom was a fifth-year player. Soon, Wright will have to do the same thing with this pair. He admits it worries him. But he has three juniors who want to leave an imprint of their own: Josh Hart, who could be the Big East Player of the Year; Kris Jenkins, who's averaging 21 points over his last five games; and big man Darryl Reynolds, who's really come on the last month.

It's about passing the right message along.

"What they've done is incredible," Wright said. "And it's the way they've done it. Daniel does all the dirty work, makes the right decisions and yet never wants to bring attention to himself. Arch is the only player I remember who we recruited that grew up as a Villanova fan. He liked us more than the Sixers. He watched the Kyle Lowrys and Scottie Reynolds. They were his favorite players. It's like a kid from Indiana going to Indiana. From day one, he knew everything we did. He set the tone. You don't get many like that."

He would not be wrong.

Is there any better way to be defined?

kernm@phillynews.com

@mikekerndn