Kyle Neptune began his head coaching journey last year, when he was named the candidate to resurrect Fordham's program. Before accepting that role, the 37-year-old Brooklyn native spent a decade-plus at Villanova, serving first as a video coordinator and then as a longtime assistant for Jay Wright. While there, Neptune reached three Final Fours, and captured two national titles.
The Wildcats haven't skipped a beat since Neptune's departure. They finished the regular season with 23 wins, won their fifth Big East tournament title since 2015, and punched yet another ticket to the Final Four. Under the stewardship of Wright, Villanova has been a perennial powerhouse, and Neptune is hoping to build a similar winning culture on his own in the Bronx.
"I don't think anyone who knows [Wright] well could say they've been around a better person. He's someone who really cares about the people working for him and really cares about his players," Neptune explained to The DA Show on Wednesday. "Wright [is the secret sauce] -- Wright and the program he's built. He's such a unique person. And Villanova is also such a unique place. There's so many people there who're very supportive.
"I think the school is so invested in the success... Coach Wright has been so unbelievable. He's just so good at so many different things. And I really, really attribute a lot of the success to him, and to the players that've come through there during that run... He's built one of the best cultures in America, year in and year out. Those guys really buy-in, share the thought process. So, I think they're going to play it like any other game. And they play every game hard."
Villanova, slated to battle top-seed Kansas on Saturday night in New Orleans, will be forced to play without one of its top scorers. All-Big East guard Justin Moore suffered a torn Achilles in the team's Elite Eight win over Houston, and Wright revealed that he underwent season-ending surgery. Moore's absence means that Wildcats sixth-man Caleb Daniels is now a starter, and their depth will certainly be put to the test on the brightest stage.
Perhaps the Wildcats can find solace in the fact that they still have a healthy playmaking guard in Collin Gillespie, who's led the team in points and assists. Villanova and Kansas are scheduled to tip-off at 6:09 p.m. ET on Saturday at Caesars Superdome. According to FiveThirtyEight's projections, the Wildcats currently have a 31-percent chance to advance to the national championship. The winner will take on either Duke or North Carolina.