The Villanova Wildcats have one of the longest and most successful histories in the NCAA Tournament of any team in college basketball. The Wildcats made an appearance in the first ever NCAA Tournament in 1939, and posted a 42-30 victory over Brown. The win put the Wildcats in the first ever Final Four, and opened the door for what would be over 70 years of success in the Big Dance. Villanova would not return to the NCAA Tournament for a decade, making their 2nd appearance in 1949. The Wildcats would continue to be a consistent presence in the Tournament in the 1950’s and 1960’s, reaching the Big Dance in 1951, 1955, 1962, 1964, and 1969.
In the early 1970’s Villanova returned to the pinnacle of college basketball, reaching their 2nd Final Four in 1971. Led by legendary Wildcats coach Jack Kraft, Villanova would post wins over St. Joseph’s, Fordham, and Penn on their way to the Final Four. Once in the Final Four, the Wildcats played one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history to that point, defeating the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 92-89 in a double overtime thriller to send Villanova to the National Championship. Although Villanova would come up short in the NCAA Tournament Final, the 1971 NCAA Tournament marked the longest run in the postseason in Villanova’s history. Head coach Jack Kraft would retire only a couple seasons after taking the team to the National Championship and the school would hire Rollie Massimino, who would lead the Wildcats to their most successful stretch in the NCAA Tournament.
Behind coach Massimino, Villanova reached the NCAA Tournament in 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. The Wildcats were incredibly successful in this era, reaching back to back Elite 8’s in 1982 and 1983. But it was two years later in 1985 that the school would make its most memorable season ever. The Wildcats entered the 1985 NCAA Tournament as a #8 seed, but Villanova quickly proved themselves to be one of the tournaments top teams, knocking off #1 seed Michigan in the tournaments 2nd round. Villanova would continue their run taking down Maryland and North Carolina in-route to a 3rd Final Four appearance. The Wildcats would reach the NCAA Tournament finals and win a 66-64 thriller over Patrick Ewing and the defending national champion Georgetown Hoyas. The win in the NCAA Tournament Final remains the most exciting moment in Villanova basketball history and marks one of the few times a team has beaten 2 number 1 seeds on the way to a National Championship.