Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

The Wright way pays off

Posted by Eric Fisher On April 4

Larry Brown used to preach about playing the right way.

That mantra need to be updated. Basketball should be played the Wright way.

Jay Wright’s success at Villanova shouldn’t be measured solely by national championships. If it were measured using that criteria, Wright would fare extremely well, as is evident by Thursday’s parade down Market Street to celebrate Villanova’s second national championship in the past three seasons.

But Wright’s success isn’t simply about winning. It’s about the way the Wildcats win.

Wright has embraced the 3-point shot. No team in NCAA history made more 3-pointers in one season than Villanova did this season. But basketball traditionalists can appreciate the old-school way in which the Wildcats create open 3-point shots.

Villanova doesn’t simply fire away at will. The Wildcats work the ball around the perimeter. They work it inside and out. They find open men across the court.

The Wildcats play unselfish basketball. If you’re open, you get to take the shot.

That’s another thing to love about the Wright way. There isn’t a star system.

Four different players led Villanova in scoring during the NCAA Tournament. Jalen Brunson led the Wildcats in scoring in three of their first four games, with Mikal Bridges leading them in scoring in the other game. During the Final Four, Eric Paschall scored 24 points, his highest total since leaving Fordham to come to Villanova, in the semifinals, and Donte DiVincenzo shot his way into Villanova lore with 31 points in the championship game.

The Wildcats also play tenacious defense. That’s how they defeated Texas Tech in the Elite 8. Their defense also shut down Kansas during the first half of the national semifinal, enabling the 3-point shooting to build a huge first-half lead.

Hustle, unselfishness and defense are characteristics of a Wright-led team. No wonder all except the most dedicated haters found themselves rooting for the Wildcats this year.

It’s easy to root for Villanova. Wright recruits student-athletes. He doesn’t recruit the mercurial talent who will be one-and-done after his freshman year and is unlikely to be in class after mid-February. Wright prefers players who will stick around – at least for a few years.

Mikal Bridges was a defensive specialist when Villanova won the national championship two seasons ago. He developed into one of the Wildcats’ top threats on offense. Jalen Brunson stuck around and was transformed into the national player of the year.

Not only was Brunson the national player of the year, but he was the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year and a second-team Academic All-American. That’s another characteristic of Wright’s program. If you don’t do your job in the classroom, you don’t get to do your job on the court.

And your job may change. Phil Booth was a dangerous scorer when Villanova won the national championship two seasons ago. This year Booth played a less prominent role, ceding the spotlight to players such as DiVincenzo, whose 31 points in the 79-62 triumph over Michigan in the national championship game Monday were more points than any player had scored off the bench in NCAA Final Four history.

Basketball is a team game in Wright’s system. No individual star shines brighter than the team.

Villanova plays basketball the Wright way.

And the Wright way is the right way.

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