In 1985, eighth-seeded Villanova beat top-seeded Georgetown, 66-64, in the national championship. It remains one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history.
“I don’t remember us really feeling like we were underdogs ever,” former Villanova coach Steve Lappas said on The DA Show. “We played in the toughest league in the country. We played Georgetown [close in the regular season] that year. These guys, before I had gotten there, they had beaten Patrick Ewing and Georgetown. When you play in a league like the Big East – where every day you’re playing against basically a top-20 team – you’re not going into any of these games feeing like you can’t win.”
Ewing had led Georgetown to its third national title appearance in four years. Had the Hoyas won, they would have been considered one of the greatest teams in college basketball history.
“That’s what they were doing historically at that time with Patrick,” said Lappas, who served as a Villanova assistant coach from 1984 to 1988 before coaching the program from 1992 to 2001. “When you play against guys like that all the time [in your league], you’re not afraid of anybody.”
Villanova played Georgetown tough during the regular season, ultimately losing 52-50 at home and 57-50 on the road. Those regular-season meetings, though, gave Villanova what they needed for the national championship.
“Having played them [helped],” Lappas said. “If Georgetown had played somebody different, they’d have definitely won the whole thing. If they would have played somebody from outside the league, there’s no doubt that the intimidation factor would have been huge. That was gone with us. . . . These guys, they weren’t intimidated, and the lack of intimidation against Georgetown really hurt Georgetown.”
Villanova attempted just 10 shots in the second half – and made nine of them. Dwayne McClain and Ed Pinckney led Villanova with 17 and 16 points, respectively, while Harold Jensen chipped in with 14 off the bench. The Wildcats shot 22-of-28 (.786) from the field.
“We were thankful that we played Georgetown instead of St. John’s,” Lappas said. “Coach [Rollie] Massimino was a matchup-zone guy. Georgetown, if they had a weakness, they were not a great perimeter-shooting team. That played to us. St. John’s had Chris Mullin. He was a lot more than just a great shooter, but he was so hard to match up with in a matchup zone. He just torched us three times. We were much better off playing Georgetown. Coach Massimino knew we could pack this thing in and challenge from the perimeter and rebound the ball, play slow. It had worked before, and it worked that night.”