Villanova head basketball coach Jay Wright was curious to see how his team would respond to their first game against a ranked opponent this season. They passed the test, beating No. 12 Gonzaga 88-72 on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden. After the convincing win that pushed them to 9-0 on the season, Wright joined the The Jim Rome Show on Friday with his team in a good place.

“Really pleased about that game. Gonzaga has played one of the toughest schedules of anyone in the country at this point. So we got to see them against some really good teams,” Wright said on CBS Sports Radio. “We knew they were playing at a high level and we really hadn’t played the schedule that they had. So coming out of the Garden it gives a really good feel for where we are, how good we could be, and now we can get back to work and get ready for the La Salle Explorers.”

Wright won his first national championship in 2016 after arriving in 2004, so he knows firsthand what he needs to win the ultimate goal in college basketball. Wright hinted at this squad being a special group of young men, too.

“We’re lucky here at Villanova. We get pretty smart guys with good character, and they do let you coach,” Wright said. “This group is just so unique and they have such a high level of intelligence, and it starts with Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Phil Booth. They are our three juniors. We don’t have any seniors, but those three are all going to graduate after their junior year. Really bright guys, come from great families, and they’re just old school, and they just come every day to improve.

“They just kind of look you in the eye as a coach and say alright tell me what you want me to do, what do I have to do to be better, and that’s rare. And the young guys just watch them do that, and that just makes it easy to coach them. So it’s a lot of fun going to practice every day with this group.”

In the offseason, the Villanova community lost Rollie Massimino, who passed away at the age of 82. Massimino coached Villanova to the 1985 national championship, the only other in school history. Wright said he’s still dealing with the loss of a man he loved so dearly.

“I still miss him. I still can’t believe he’s not going to call me after a game and talk about something we did,” Wright said. “It’s amazing to see the impact that one man has had on an entire community and he did it at Cleveland State and Keiser University where he is. And he lived hard, right to the end. Man, to the last day.” ​


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