Egregious officiating stole the final minute of regulation.
James Bell’s 3-point surge stole overtime.
Ryan Arcidiacono stole the night.
The freshman point guard made just 3 of his 12 shot attempts from the floor and missed a would-be game-winning floater as time expired in regulation. He committed seven turnovers and had moments wherein he was trying to do too much. But above all, Arcidiacono flashed leadership at the point that’s been missing at Villanova since Scottie Reynolds departed.
His Twitter-compatible player profile can be crafted after just three games. Arcidiacono, it would read, “is one of those born leaders so hard to come by in college basketball. A consummate winner. Period.” That’s all it takes to sufficiently portray No. 15, a future four-year cornerstone at Nova who someday could find himself mentioned with the likes of Reynolds, Lowry and Foye, on down the line.
Arcidiacono possesses the intangibles, the leadership and understanding of his position that Maalik Wayns didn’t have—or at least didn’t show—and Corey Fisher refused to embrace. He’s not a me-first, must-score player—a combo guard masquerading as a floor general as both Wayns and Fisher were.
Arcidiacono is a true point guard. A gamer. One who, despite his inexperience, won’t shy away from the big moment.
Case in point his performance in crunch time against Purdue in Villanova’s contentious (that flagrant foul was bogus and inexplicable) 89-81 overtime win. Though he narrowly misfired on a potential game-winning tear-drop in the lane at the end of regulation, that Arcidiacono even had the gall to attempt that shot speaks volumes of his confidence and leadership on the court.
Arcidiacono did his talking at the free throw line—the biggest pressure cooker in the sport. On the surface, he hit 9 of 10 free throws. That’s nice. Looks sweet in the box score. But a quick peak at the bare numbers doesn’t begin to do justice to the enormity of those shots.
The freshman stepped to the line with 44-seconds remaining in the second half, his team down two, and calmly swished a pair of free throws to tie the game. In overtime he was back at it, back at the free throw line with a chance, this time, to ice the game instead. With the Wildcats leading by four, and any hopes of a Boilermakers comeback clinging to a miss at the charity stripe, Arcidiacono sunk both free throws with just over a minute to play to put away Purdue.
After the Boilermakers stretched out to an eight point lead with less than two minutes to go, the Wildcats took over from there. Villanova outscored Purdue 25-9 over the final six minutes of the game, including overtime, parroting the poise of their precocious freshman point guard.
As Purdue’s D.J. Byrd demonstrated tonight, effectiveness does not require flashiness. Young Ryan Arcidiacono is taking that principle to heart.
He’s not the crowd-wooing, must-see attraction that Wayns and Fisher were. He’s just a workmanlike performer, quietly going about his business and making all the simple, unspectacular, but no less important plays as he’s asked.
Villanova’s newest point guard doesn’t own Wayns’ quickness or Fisher’s dagger jumper. And he’ll almost certainly never play this sport professionally, at least not in the United States. But Arcidiacono is a better fit for Villanova than either of his two predecessors. With Arci at the helm, the Cats can actually function like a real college basketball team—not a street ball sideshow—for the first time in three years.