You know those cheesy romantic comedy movies? The ones that everyone actually enjoys but some people pretend to hate? I love those. You know how it goes: couple meets, couple falls in love, couple splits up, then at the end, usually with the help of a dramatic gesture, couple reunites and lives happily ever after. This is like that, but real, and with far more passion than a Gosling-McAdams kiss in the rain.
During my college search as a senior in high school, my mom suggested that we visit Villanova. Since it was my mom’s idea, I was immediately and passionately against it. Of course, moms are always right, and when I visited, it was love at first sight. Couple meets.
My freshman year, the basketball team had its worst season in years. Despite going 13-19, I was bursting with school spirit, and purchased a full wardrobe of Villanova gear from the bookstore. Couple falls in love.
Sophomore year was an absolute roller coaster. In the same season, we lost to Columbia by 18 points at home and beat 3 top-5 teams, Louisville, Syracuse and Georgetown. We made the NCAA tournament, but lost to North Carolina (the bad guys) in the first round. On the whole, it was a solid year for a rebuilding team. Couple dates.
Junior year was a good year. We were a top-15 team for most of the season, and a 2-seed in the tournament. We were poised for a deep run, but then we ran into the Shabazz Napier buzz saw as 7-seeded UConn rolled to a national championship. It hurt, but at least we lost to the eventual champions, and we had a strong team returning for my senior year. I was willing to move past the hurt and put my faith into the one I loved yet again, like so many of our rom-com heroes. Couple’s first fight.
Senior year we had a transcendent season. 33-3, Big East regular season and tournament champions, and a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. This was it, a storybook ending for my college career was imminent. Until it suddenly wasn’t. A loss to 8-seed NC State derailed our dream season. It was a very rough patch in our relationship: tears were shed, and I felt foolish for trusting them again. Couple hurts each other.
Inevitably, as soon as the next season kicked off, I had all been sucked back in by the alluring charm of the Villanova team. We played well and earned a 2-seed in the tournament, and nearly every bracket in my college pool had Villanova winning it all (admittedly with a fair amount of skepticism.) Couple begins to trust again.
What followed was a merciless roll through the South region: utter destruction of UNC Asheville, Iowa and Miami en route to a matchup with Kansas, the number 1 overall seed, for a spot in the Final Four in Houston. In a hard-fought battle, we knocked off the Jayhawk juggernaut around 4 am and I was euphoric. Couple dates again.
One week later, it was time for the Final Four. After calling around, I found that just one pub in the entire city of Dublin would be showing the game. I had two friends from Villanova staying with me that weekend, and we sent out the call to every Villanova fan we could find. We then watched as we demolished Oklahoma — BY 44 POINTS. It was 2 am in Dublin, I was crying tears of joy, and suddenly we were one win away from eternal glory.
Shortly after our smackdown of the Sooners, the University of North Carolina dispatched Syracuse to set up a Mitchell Scholar showdown between Sasha and Tom (aka the villains) and me. The championship game started at 2 am on a Monday night, so I was watching alone in my room. The game was one of the best college basketball games I have ever seen. After Marcus Paige hit that ridiculous double-clutch 3-pointer to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left, the stage was set for dramatic ending. The final seconds will be forever etched into my brain: Jenkins inbounds to Arch, Chef sets the screen near half court, Arch flips the ball to the trailing Jenkins and sets a pseudo-screen to give him just enough space to let fly a 3 at the buzzer. Then, as Coach Jay Wright so eloquently said, “Bang.” Just like that, Villanova had its second National Championship in school history. Couple kiss in the rain.
Villanova’s entire tournament run led to a number of special memories that I will never forget, including the single happiest moment of my Mitchell year—recounting the final seconds of the championship game with Senator Mitchell. Couple lives happily ever after.