Twelve months later, last season finally and convincingly ended for Villanova Thursday. The team erased the bad memory of a first-round loss in the 2014 Big East Tournament and gave itself a fresh start, mostly on the shoulders of someone who isn't even a starter.
Josh Hart came off the bench and scored 11 consecutive points in the first half, sending a two-point game toward an 84-49 pounding of Marquette in a Big East quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden. The sophomore made five three-pointers in seven attempts, finished with 20 points and helped the top-seeded Wildcats' pursuit of a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Villanova had no such momentum last year, losing its first Big East Tournament game to Seton Hall at the buzzer and getting bounced early from the Big Dance.
"We just try not to think about it," said Hart, a sophomore who actually had played well in the loss here last year, scoring 18 points. "Obviously, that happened. We let the past be past."
They had no trouble getting past Marquette, at least not after it was 18-16 with 11:26 left before intermission. At that point, Villanova coach Jay Wright called timeout and put Hart in, for a second time. By the time Hart left for a sub again 2:54 later, it was 29-16. That was the ballgame. The sixth man's marksmanship helped Villanova tie a tournament record with 17 three-pointers.
"It's just the mentality that these guys have -- total confidence in me,'' Hart said. "That gives me a lot of confidence just to go in and do whatever we need: if it's scoring, if it's rebounding, defensive intensity, anything like that. I just don't want to let them down."
It says something about the depth of Villanova (30-2) that the skilled 6-5 guard is not in the starting five. "Coach has trust in me and that's really all that matters," he said.
It also says something that Wright yanked him so quickly. "He gets tired sometimes," the coach said, a twinkle in his eye.
Villanova has many options, such as senior Darrun Hilliard, who had 13 points and eight assists. It can get by without a massive game from junior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, the conference's co-player of the year, who had only five points. "It says a lot about our team in that we don't have to give the ball to one person to go and make a play," Arcidiacono said, having held Matt Carlino of Marquette (13-19) to 2-for-11 shooting.
Carlino's eight three-pointers against Seton Hall Wednesday seemed like Thursday's news, as did Villanova's loss to Seton Hall last March. "We can't control what happened in the past. We can only control what happens now," Hilliard said.
Hart, Thursday's shooting star, said, "It's subject to change tomorrow. Everyone here can score."