Senior Darrun Hillard plays a big role in the Wildcats’ drive to the Final Four.
By Harry Allison
If you want to get a sense of how good Villanova is in the eyes of basketball coaches, here it is:
The Wildcats finished the regular season as the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, behind top-ranked Kentucky.
Kentucky, the overall top seed in the NCAA tournament, is the first team in 23 years to be No. 1 in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll from the preseason rankings to the final Top 25.
The Wildcats (34-0) are looking to become the first undefeated men’s national champion since Indiana in 1976. They were a unanimous No. 1 Monday for the seventh straight week and 11th overall this season. Kentucky received all 65 first-place votes from the national media panel to match Duke in 1992 as the last team to run the table at the top.
The AP poll began with the 1948-49 season. Since the poll expanded to 25 teams in 1989-90, only four teams ranked No. 1 in the final poll went on to win the national championship: Duke (1992), UCLA (1995), Duke (2001) and Kentucky (2012).
Villanova and Wisconsin, two of the other No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, were second and third in the poll. The Wildcats moved up two places, the Badgers three. Duke, the fourth No. 1 seed, dropped two spots to No. 4. Arizona stayed at No. 5.
Virginia, which dropped from third, was sixth, followed in the top 10 by Gonzaga, Notre Dame,Iowa State and Kansas.
The Cyclones and Jayhawks — both from the Big 12 — led all teams with nine wins against ranked teams this season. Baylor, Duke and Oklahoma were next with seven.
The Big 12 set the record for highest percentage of teams from a conference in one season. Nine of the league’s 10 schools made the Top 25 — Texas Tech was the one that didn’t make it — a 90 percent mark that shattered the previous record of 78 percent set by the Big East in 1991 when seven of its nine teams were ranked.
The Big East had seven of its 10 teams ranked this season.
The Atlantic Coast Conference had eight teams ranked this season, followed by the Big Ten and Big East with seven each, the Pac-12 and Mountain West with four each and the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic 10 with three each.
The top seven teams in the final regular-season poll might have shuffled around a bit, but they held on to those first seven spots for the final nine weeks of the season.
Michigan State, at No. 23, and VCU, at No. 25, moved into the rankings this week, replacing Davidson and Butler.
Twelve teams were ranked for just one week this season. Harvard, which was tied for 25th, was the only one from the preseason poll to make the quick appearance. As a comparison, only two teams made a brief one-week appearance during the 2013-14 season.
In all, 53 schools were ranked at some point this season — matching the record set during the 2009-10 season.