The N. Tournament, which begins next week, it is easy to forget that Villanova is the reigning champion and will remain so until — and only if — it is dethroned. This has been a season of transition at Villanova, but in many ways it has been a lot like the last few that came before it.
Despite having lost four players to the N. Two Wildcats — guard Phil Booth and forward Eric Paschall — were unanimous selections to the all-Big East team this week, and a third starter — forward Saddiq Bey — made the all-freshman squad.
Yet when experts list the top contenders to lift the N. Those lists rarely run deep enough to include Villanova.
But after the Wildcats beat Michigan in the final, two underclassmen — forward Omari Spellman and guard Donte DiVincenzo — decided to turn professional as well.
Had Spellman and DiVincenzo returned, Villanova probably would have been favored to repeat as national champion.
Even if only one had come back, Villanova would have been among the favorites. Instead, all four players were selected in the first 33 picks of the draft.
That changed the calculus for Wright. But the departures of four key players in one off-season forced Wright to adapt on the fly.
To compensate for a sudden lack of depth, Wright did something he rarely does: He added a graduate transfer, the former Albany guard Joe Cremo, who offered experience and scoring in the backcourt. And then he told Booth and Eric Paschall, two redshirt seniors, that he would expect more from them.
The rebuilt Wildcats have struggled at times. Villanova has lost nine games this season after losing only four all of last year.
It opened the season with a point home loss to Michigan in a game that was billed as a national championship rematch, and it later endured two sets of back-to-back losses and a recent three-game losing streak.
Not just leading them but being patient with them and teaching them.
Whether this Villanova team can match the success of its recent predecessors before those players arrive remains to be seen.
So Wright and his team might be posing with a trophy while they await their N. What they do from there could have everyone talking about the N.