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H.V.S. Classics | Villanova vs. North Carolina '85

Posted on July 17 2019

Southest Regional Final | March 24, 1985

Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, Birmingham, Alabama 

Announcers:  Brent Musburger and Billy Packer

#8 Villanova - 56

Starters: Dwight Wilbur | Gary McClain | Harold Pressley | Dwayne McClain | Ed Pinckney

#2 North Carolina -  44

Starters: Kenny Smith | Buzz Peterson | Dave Popson | Joe Wolf| Brad Daughetry


Everyone remembers the upset that came a week later against Georgetown but that obviously never happens if Nova doesn't get past 2nd seeded North Carolina with Kenny Smith, Brad Daugherty and the legend Dean Smith.  I always like to take a look back at games that setup "THE GAME" that everyone remembers.  Looking back nearly 35 years later I find it very fun to listen to the broadcast knowing what is about to happen while the people living it have no idea.  It's that "Back to the Future" effect.  Take a trip down memory lane to a time when no shot clock or 3pt line existed and Cinderella punched a ticket to the Final Four. - JB

This game seemed like the end of the era. Re-watching these games it seems like real classics happen as the style of game play or rules changes are about to upend traditions. Something to watch for in the future as I watch games. This year the change in the three point line could lead to something. In this moment this tournament represented the first year of the full, 64-team bracket and the last year in which the tournament was played without a shot clock.  - AM


Best Retro Style - The shorts, of course.  Both classics.  

 Best Play - 3:27 Jensen hustles after a loose ball gets in and goes in for a driving layup. You see the cheerleaders hugging at this point with the way the game was played they were starting to believe. 

Very Solid Play of the Game - Just before the buzzer sounds for halftime with Nova down 8 UNC turns the ball over then Villanova puts up an errant shot that gets tipped in And-1 by Dwayne McClain. He completed the 3-point play with one of the ugliest freethrow forms I've ever seen, and the Wildcats, who had been completely outplayed, enter the locker room down only 5.

Coaching Moment - Roland Vincent Massimino - At halftime Villanova trails 22-17. Massimino pulls a chair into the center of the room. “I don’t need this,” he shouts. “You know what I’d like right now? A big bowl of spags, with clam sauce.” He was laughing madly as he said it, spreading his hands as if to illustrate a massive vat of pasta.

The players softly chuckle, until the tension was sucked out of the room. Then Massimino took a deep breath. “Hey, guys,” he said. “Just go out and play.” As Massimino left the locker room, the Reverend John Stack, a Catholic priest and Villanova dean of students, who was in the locker room, grabbed Massimino’s arm. “Best f&$*%$ halftime speech I’ve ever heard,” Stack said.

“The spaghetti speech,” says McClain. “Classic.”

Best Announcer Commentary - Anything Massimino but I loved this one, "Rollie Massimino is going to come down with another case of diverticulitis if he's not careful." 

 Would this game be better with Bill Walton as the color commentator - I think he might have been fun to listen to during a slow down game. Massimino is such a colorful character he would've surely had stories about him had he been the age of the commentators. Have I said that I can't get enough about Massimino. He'd also have intersting takes on some of the styles of play. 

Would these teams be good today - These teams seem perfect for today's game. I would love to watch either of these teams. 

Who gets the game ball - Harlold Jensen - Again from Half-time. Massimino makes a change benching the 6-foot-1 Dwight Wilbur for 6-5 Harold Jensen. This was an amazing choice since he hadn't scored since the Dayton game. He ended up scoring all 10 of his points in the second half. After time ran out there was this from the oral history, "My dad, who was down there in Birmingham, wanted to get down to the floor and the security guards were saying, 'Hey, you can’t go down there.' But my dad was a tough guy, a carpenter, and a huge fan, and he loved Villanova and was so excited about what was happening that he said, 'No, this is the only game I’m going to see like this in my life, so I’m going to go hug my son,' and we had a great embrace. My dad passed away a couple years ago, and it was one of the best memories that I’ll have of him."

Half-Assed Internet Research - There is just too much but I wanted to share some here and encourage any fan of this team or any fan of Villanova basketball who may not know a lot about this team to go on an interent deep dive. 

Marbach: It sounds crazy, but the Carolina game was probably more emotional than even winning the entire thing, because we had knocked on the door so many times. The desire to go to the Final Four, it’s every player’s and every coach’s dream. 

"We got this small little locker room, and Dean Smith got the big locker room," Massimino laughingly told "I kind of kidded him about it, God rest his soul. He was a wonderful, wonderful man." 

Jake Nevin, who, suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, was confined to a wheelchair and had become the team’s emotional touchstone. He was the original Sister Jean. 

Pinckney. “During our run, there wasn’t a lot of talking on the court. Guys just suddenly knew what other guys were going to do before they did it." I love moments like this.  I was listening to songwriters The Love Junkies describe how they could sing one anothers lyrics even before the words had ever been written down because they were so in sync. Moments like this represent real magic in this world. It showed in how these guys still feel about each other. 

It remains a tight group. At the 30-year anniversary celebration all but two players and every coach and manager were present. Massimino calls it “one of the most memorable experiences my wife and I will ever have.” This seems perfect for a coach that emphasized family as the foundation for his teams. Harold Pressley, a starting forward on the championship team, says, “From the time I got off the plane until the time I got back on, it was nonstop laughs. It was like we were in 1985 all over again. “Just talking about it, right now, the hair is standing up on the back of my neck,” says Wyatt Maker, a reserve sophomore." I hope I get to cheer for a team like this again in my lifetime.  


Josh Barnett

H.V.S. | 19NINE

Aaron Meyer

"The Suit" | H.V.S.

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