So Many Parallels Between Villanova and 2017 Eagles

They're unfailingly unselfish. They have a different star every night. Their coach preaches team goals at the expense of individual accomplishments, and every single guy on the roster buys in.

It was impossible watching Villanova without seeing a whole lot of Eagles along the way.

Different sport, yes. But the exact same philosophy.

Build a team based on that rare mixture of talent and unselfishness. Identify players who genuinely don't care about stats or accolades. Coach them at an elite level. And win.

Twice in three months, we've watched a Philly team win a championship in that exact fashion.

Talent made the Eagles a good team, but their togetherness, chemistry and unselfishness made them great. The same is clearly true of Villanova.

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The Eagles had a different hero every week, and their balance made them extremely tough to defend.

Slow down Alshon, Nelson Agholor beats you. Double-team him and Torrey Smith makes a play. Stop Jay Ajayi and there's LeGarrette Blount busting open a big play. Stop Blount and there's Corey Clement racing down the field for a big gain. Lose Carson Wentz for the year? We all know what Nick Foles did.


The Wildcats entered the Final Four riding Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, two remarkable juniors headed for the pros. And who carried them to the national title? In the semifinals, it was unheralded Fordham transfer Eric Paschall, who scored 24 points. And in the final, it was sophomore sub Donte DiVincenzo, who scored 31.

When you have a team that isn't built around superstars, you can win a lot of different ways.

We all saw the Eagles win despite losing six really good players to season-ending injuries. But as talented as Carson Wentz and the other guys are, the strength of the Eagles wasn't one guy, it was 53. You can stop a superstar. You can't stop 53 really good players who believe in each other and believe in their coach.

And here comes Villanova into the Final Four, playing at the highest level and on the biggest stage, and their National Player of the Year, Brunson, shot just 11-for-27 against Kansas and Michigan. Their lottery pick, Bridges, was quiet for most of the two games as well. And the guy who began the weekend as the most accurate three-point shooter in NCAA Tournament history, Phil Booth, never got going.

And none of it mattered. Because teams built around balance, unselfishness, intelligence and teamwork find ways to win.

Sometimes they are unconventional ways. Like the backup tight end throwing a touchdown on fourth down to the backup quarterback. Or a sophomore coming off the bench and scoring a career-high in the biggest game of his life (for the second time in three years).

And don't look now but there's another team in Philly that's winning the exact same way.

The 76ers keep winning, with or without Joel Embiid, and they're doing it because they too have that rare mix of talent and unselfishness.

Over the last two months, the Sixers are 21-5, best in the East, third-best in the NBA during that span.

Have they been the best shooting team or rebounding team? Nope. But they are averaging an incredible 29.2 assists per game during that 26-game stretch, best in the NBA since Feb. 5.

Does it mean they're going to win an NBA title this year?

Nope. But they're clearly on the right track.

These teams are impossible to root against, teams built around all those old-fashioned fundamental principles that we as Philadelphians have been raised on.

Hard work. Togetherness. Work ethic. Pride. Unselfishness.

It's not the most conventional route to a championship in a modern sports landscape dominated by out-of-control egos, self-absorbed superstars and look-at-me culture.

But for us? It's working just fine. See ya at the parade.

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