Little of that came into the equation when 6-foot-11 Omar Samhan took the floor for the Gaels, and the Villanova frontcourt defenders, either undersize or underexperienced, couldn't do much with him. The result was a 75-68 loss and, from the outside, a quicker than expected exit from the NCAA tournament.
Really, though, there was nothing unexpected. When a team - even a team that reached the Final Four - loses its three frontcourt starters and attempts a transitional triage with either smaller players or with freshmen, the physics of basketball will exert its force eventually. As long as the goal is 10 feet from the ground, tall is a good thing to be.
Samhan is better than most, and St. Mary's is smart enough to feed the big dog, but nevertheless this game was coming. If Villanova had been luckier yesterday, it might not have arrived until the regional round or beyond, but it still was coming.
That isn't how Jay Wright looks at it, although he recognized his team's shortcomings as well as anyone. If it had just been able to slip past St. Mary's (after slipping past 15th-seeded Robert Morris), then maybe another week of practice could have hardened the youngsters enough to make a serious run something more than a fond hope.
"We almost got there. We just didn't get good enough. We just ran out of time," Wright said. "We were finally at this point where I thought we had great concentration, great preparation, great commitment. I thought we competed hard and this might have been the first time this year that everybody got it. It was a successful season because we got there and the young guys learned what it's all about."
That's a tough sell to at least a large segment of 'Nova Nation, which has become used to better at this time of year and figured that the presence of Scottie Reynolds could paper over a few deficiencies.
The script didn't play out that way, and Reynolds suffered through a difficult end to a sensational college career. He was benched in the opener for what was described as a minor infraction, and shot a combined 4 for 26 in the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Reynolds had company in being unable to fill the doughnut hole yesterday. Villanova shot just 36 percent from the floor, and that failing, as much as Samhan's presence, is what decided the game.
"If you make a run in the tournament, you have to have a game like this when you don't score but you get it done defensively," Wright said, deflecting the blame from Reynolds.
Still, this isn't the way Reynolds deserved to go out, and there are those who will pick at the scab of the benching or look at the late-season fade and wonder whether the senior cocaptain had been worked into the ground by the end.
"He might have been," Wright said when asked whether Reynolds was physically and mentally spent. "It could have been both. This year has been great challenges for us, but no complaints, no excuses. Every team has to go through something."
In the end, it is difficult to properly explain a team that went 20-1 to start the season and 5-7 to end it. It is particularly difficult when the coach insists the Wildcats were playing much better in that last section of the season than during most of the first stretch.
"We're going to have to take some heat right now, and we deserve it, but we almost got there. We almost did," Wright said. "We probably had the talent to be a Final Four team, and we didn't get there."
They could have survived to get that shot but for a little bad luck in the end. Mickey McConnell of St. Mary's banked in a three-point prayer to break a tie with a little more than a minute to play. That didn't have to happen, but Villanova did have the option of answering the basket, which it failed to do.
The team that deserved to win yesterday was the team that won. It happened to be St. Mary's, but this game was on Villanova's tournament schedule all along. The only question was when it would be played.
Contact columnist Bob Ford
at 215-854-5842 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read
his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.