Villanova makes March Madness trip to Boston once again, but Jay Wright says this squad is different

Villanova guard/forward Mikal Bridges celebrates Villanova’s second-round NCAA men’s basketball tournament win over Alabama with fans on Saturday, March 17, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH – It was one of the seminal plays in Villanova basketball history.

Point guard Scottie Reynolds drove to the basket and scored with .05 seconds left as the Wildcats beat Big East rival Pitt in Elite Eight and advanced to the 2009 Final Four – the first under coach Jay Wright.

It happened in Boston. In the same arena – although it now called  TD Garden – where No.1 seeded Villanova will play the 2018 East Regional after beating Alabama, 81-58, on Saturday.

Hey, Mikal Bridges, does it give any good karma that your Wildcats are going to a place from where an earlier ‘Nova team advanced to a Final Four?

Bueller? …  Bueller? … Bueller?

“No, I didn’t even know that,” said Bridges, who scored 23 in the 81-58 win over Alabama. “But we haven’t. We always — whoever our next opponent is, that’s who we look at, we locate and get locked in.

“I didn’t even know we play in Boston until like 20 minutes ago. We don’t think about that stuff. We go out and play whoever we play and play wherever.”

Camera icon YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Villanova forward Omari Spellman yells after Villanova beat Alabama in the second-round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Saturday, March 17, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

Bridges was a 12-year-old living in Malvern in 2009, so he certainly remembers “Reynolds’ Run,” but Wright said there is a good chance that Bridges doesn’t realize it happened in Boston. He’d wouldn’t be surprised if none of his current players do.

“They don’t know ’09, they barely know ’16,” Wright joked.

For the record “’16” was a reference to the 2016 NCAA Championship team of which Bridges and Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall, and Tim Delaney were all members of.

It’s not about not knowing history — the Wildcats do. It’s just that Wildcat team gets laser-focused on the task at hand – which is only the next game.

It’s how the ‘Cats pulled off a fourth consecutive 32-win season and moved to the Sweet 16 for a matchup with the winner of the game between West Virginia and Marshall on Sunday.

The successes of the 2009 and 2016 teams weren’t going to have anything to do with what happens with this current team.

“My good vibes are coming from how this team’s playing, how unselfishly they play,” Wright said. “How Jalen Brunson will attempt to take a charge when he got a foul on him when he got a second foul taking the charge.

“When you see your leaders doing those things, Mikal has a bad first half. He doesn’t get into himself, he just comes out and concentrates on defense in the second half. Phil Booth, great leader, that gives me good vibes. Honestly, we don’t care where we play. Boston is a great town, old Big East town like Pittsburgh. We stir up old Big East feelings. We like that.”

Wright said he understands the desire to compare the last team that went a Regional Final in Boston to this one, but he said it doesn’t fit.

“This is a really different team,” he said. “There’s a youthful exuberance with this team that is exciting me. We have no seniors.

“That ’09 team was a veteran team. This is a unique squad. It really is. It’s fun. That’s why I think we’re getting better every day because they still have a lot of room to grow.”