April 1, 1985 marks a special day in NCAA college basketball history.
College basketball players, fans, coaches and pundits have claimed that on that memorable day 31 years ago the Villanova Wildcats emerged as the closest a team has ever come to playing a perfect game.
Also, many have cited that April 1, 1985 marked the greatest upset victory in the history of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Games.
The iconic win captivated college basketball fans. At Lexington, Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, Villanova captured its first ever NCAA men’s tournament crown under its likeable chubby coach Rollie Massimino.
Seeded #8, Villanova remains the lowest ranked team to ever win an NCAA title. The Big East team bested #9 seed Dayton Flyers, #7 seed UNC Tar Heels, #5 seed Memphis State Tigers and #2 seed Michigan Wolverines to advance to the Big Dance’s biggest party.
On that special Monday night on April 1, 1985, Villanova played brilliantly against the previous year’s defending champion and dominating #1 overall seed in the field. Led by legendary coach John Thompson II, the Hoyas were odds on favorite to defeat the undersized and undermanned Wildcats.
Surprisingly, Massimino’s club was better and far more prepared than most pundits gave them credit. Villanova played a tenacious defense. Further, the team was battle tested by a very tough schedule in the nation’s best basketball conference that year – the Big East.
With no shot clock in college basketball at the time, the Villanova Wildcats methodically shortened the game by stretching out each valuable possession. They played smart and shot spectacularly in a game that few people gave them a chance to win.
The Wildcats shot an amazing 79% from the field against a Patrick Ewing led Georgetown defense known for thwarting all their opponents’ offensive success. In addition, Villanova was equally as proficient from the free throw line where the team converted on 22 of 28 attempts.
Villanova’s center, “Easy” Ed Pinckney, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Not only did he outscore Patrick Ewing 16 – 14 in the title game, but he out rebounded the Hoyas center 6 -5.
Villanova was led by wing player Dwayne McCain’s 17 points. In addition, invaluable contributions were made by starters Harold Pressley, Gary McLain and Harold Jensen. Villanova’s starting five played most of the title game with little substitution.
Prior to this magical night, the Villanova had enjoyed a storied NCAA college basketball history with Final Four appearances in 1939 and 1971. The Wildcats also boasted Elite Eight appearances in 1978, 1982 and 1983.
However, April 1, 1985 would be the underdog Wildcats team’s night of destiny. Three decades later, the seminal victory still makes the city of Philadelphia and Villanova University alumni gush with pride.
Here’s wishing Nova success as the Philadelphia school returns to the Final Four in Houston this weekend.
“V” for Villanova and “V” for V-I-C-T-O-R-Y as the school fight song goes.