Villanova rides hot streak into ‘Holy War’ showdown with St. Joe’s

Jay Wright Jay Wright has his Wildcats playing at a high level to start the season.
Credit: Getty Images

The surge began last season when Villanova made a surprising run to the NCAA Tournament.

Even though the Wildcats were knocked out in the opening round by North Carolina, they were back in the Big Dance just one season removed from a frustrating 13-win season.

The 2013-14 season is just eight games old, but Villanova appears to be on track for another visit to the tournament.

Looming Saturday is one of its biggest games of the season – a trip to Hagan Arena to battle archrival Saint Joseph’s in the annual game known as the “Holy War.”

The Wildcats are 8-0, ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and clearly playing at a very high level.

“Being ranked doesn’t validate anything for the players,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I think it’s great for our school. It’s great for the fans. It’s great for our conference, but we really don’t evaluate ourselves that way and I have to make sure we don’t evaluate ourselves that way. We still have a lot of work to do.”

Yet the Wildcats have already defeated No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa en route to winning the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. They ousted Big 5 rival Penn, 77-54, on Wednesday. Getting past the Hawks will be a tough task. It always is in this matchup.

“The only guys I worry about in Big 5 games are the freshmen,” Wright said. “No matter how much you tell them, you don’t know what it is until you play in it. I do count on all the other guys to tell them and we always talk about it, but once you’ve played in a Big 5 game, no matter where you’re from, you know what it is.”

Villanova is off to its best start since winning nine straight to open the 2009-10 season.

Saint Joseph’s fell to 4-3 following a 77-69 loss at Temple on Wednesday. The Hawks will be hosting the “Holy War,” which will give them an emotional boost.

“Everyone in Philadelphia understands that you come back from Kansas and Iowa and you’re playing Penn [and St. Joe’s], it’s a Big 5 game, it’s the same game,” Wright said. “We all understand that in Philadelphia. People outside of Philadelphia don’t, but this is where we live so that’s all we worry about.”

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