The Villanova Wildcats arrived home Tuesday evening to celebrate their third national title with fans, who rejoiced as head coach Jay Wright thanked them.
"We appreciate your love, and we feel it everywhere we go," Wright told a crowd that gathered at Jake Nevin Field House to honor the team. It was difficult to go to the tournament for the first time as a favorite, Wright said, but "we had incredible leaders this year."
"It's so nice to be back in our Villanova community," he added. "I can actually say what I want to say."
The team's flight from San Antonio, Texas, arrived at Philadelphia International Airport just before 5 p.m., and firefighters welcomed the players with a water salute.
Fans lined up outside the field house well before the start of the ceremony. Matthew Palucci, a 1976 alumnus, and his wife, Doreen, drove up from New Castle, Del.
"We met Jay Wright recently at Ralph's restaurant in South Philly," Matthew Palucci said as he stood in line. "He acted like we were old friends, even though it was the first time we even met."
Samantha Palazzolo, 20, a sophomore, wasn't yet a student when Villanova won its second national title two years ago.
"Last night was a dream come true," she said.
Classes at Villanova were canceled after Monday's late-night, 79-62 win over the Michigan Wolverines. The day after the post-game revelry, the Main Line campus was quiet, aside from a couple of admissions tours and a few students and fans venturing to the bookstore to pick up some new national championship attire.
Juniors Aimee King and Katie Bogan woke up early to grab their shirts — and some much-needed iced coffee — at the Connelly Center.
"It's crazy," said King, 21, of Ardmore.
"It still doesn't feel real," said Bogan, 20, of Sicklerville.
The roommates said they got perhaps four hours of sleep after celebrating with the masses at Lancaster and Ithan Avenues. They, like many, were grateful classes had been canceled Tuesday.
"Everybody's pretty dead," King said. "I don't know how I'm functioning right now."