Villanova Men's Basketball
Pride of Philadelphia
Big East Regular Season Co-Champions
Evoking memories of the 1985 NCAA National Champions, Villanova’s 2005-2006 men’s basketball team set a record with 28 wins and captured the first #1 NCAA tournament seed in the school’s history. Villanova also shared the Big East Conference regular season title with the University of Connecticut, won Philadelphia’s Big Five championship, and had the best conference winning percentage (.875) in school history. Villanova’s achievements seemed all the more remarkable because they lost the valuable Curtis Sumpter to a torn ACL. Head coach Jay Wright replaced Sumpter with sophomore guard Kyle Lowry, giving Villanova an usual starting line-up with four guards. Lowry and his fellow starters—Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Mike Nardi, and Will Sheridan—showed grit and determination and kept Villanova ranked in the top ten all season.
The highlights of Villanova’s regular season included an 11-game winning streak, a victory over #17 Georgetown at the Pavilion, a victory over #1 Connecticut at the Wachovia Center, and a victory over Syracuse before 33,000 fans at the raucous Carrier Dome. During the conference tournament, the Big East honored Randy Foye as the player of the year and Jay Wright as the coach of the year. Randy Foye ranked second in the Big East in scoring (20.5 pts/game) and tenth in free throw percentage (.791); he also led the conference in steals (2.33/game). Allan Ray ranked second in the Big East in free throw percentage (.889), while Mike Nardi ranked sixth in 3-point percentage (.401).
Villanova’s Big East season ended in disappointment. The Wildcats lost in the semifinals of the Big East Conference tournament, due in large part to Randy Foye’s serious eye injury. The #1 seeded Wildcats opened the NCAA tournament at “home” in the Wachovia Center with victories over Monmouth and Arizona. In the regional semifinals in Minneapolis, they would face former Big East rival Boston College. The Wildcats fell behind early to the Eagles but fought back to force overtime. With BC leading 59-58, an inbounds play from the Wildcats found Will Sheridan free and the officials ruled his attempt good after it was goaltended. Villanova was in the Regional Finals for the first time since 1988. However, that physically draining win would prove costly in their next game. The Wildcats never found their shooting legs and lost to eventual NCAA Champion Florida 75-62.
Despite that disappointing conclusion to an amazing season, Villanova’s 2005-2006 men’s basketball team symbolized the school’s return to national college basketball prominence. This was also evident in the honors bestowed on the team upon the end of the season. Seniors Allan Ray and Randy Foye were named to the 1st Team All-Big East team while Kyle Lowry made 2nd Team All-Big East. Foye was named Big East Player of the Year. The Wildcats were well represented nationally as well. Ray was a Naismith Award finalist, named 2nd Team All-American by the NABC and The Sporting News, and named 3rd Team All-American by the AP. Meanwhile, Foye was a consensus 1st Team All-American (AP, NABC, USBWA, The Sporting News, and John R. Wooden) and a finalist for the Wodden Award as national player of the year. Not to be outdone, Coach Wright received national coach of the year honors from CBS/Chevrolet, the NABC, and the Naismith Awards. He was also named Big East coach of the year and won the Harry Litwack Award as Easter College coach of the year.
In the end, it was one of the most successful seasons in Villanova basketball history. In the face of a heart-breaking injury, Villanova’s players were resilient and remained determined to compete for a national championship. Villanova’s men’s basketball provided thrilling entertainment and raised the hopes of fans longing for another championship. For their achievements, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame was pleased to honor Villanova’s 2005-2006 men’s basketball team with a Pride of Philadelphia award.