Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Reynolds' 40-point Explosion at Storrs Echoes Kittles' 37-Point Masterpiece at Storrs, A Dozen Years Earlier

On a rare occasion, a college basketball player can carve out a niche for himself, within the annals of the school which he attends, and the program in which he participates. The seasons are short enough, and the rosters small enough, that one game is perhaps all that is needed to do so...

On Tuesday, February 28, 2007, in Storrs, Connecticut, Scottie Reynolds carved out that niche for himself, even by the storied standards of Villanova basketball. Villanova has one of the nation's most illustrious histories, and earning a spot in its pantheon is no small accomplishment. But Reynolds has done so. And in one of the richest ironies, he did it at Gampel Pavilion on the campus of the University of Connecticut - as opposed to the Hartford Civic Center, where Villanova arrives far more often to play the hated Huskies. In contrast, Gampel is a far more formidable venue for a visiting team. Reynolds' 40 points are the highest total than any opposing player has ever hung on the Huskies in Gampel (although in fairness, since they play most of their Big East games in Hartford, that skews the record a little bit). Ironically, it is the same hostile, archrival, enemy building that one of Villanova's greatest players, Kerry Kittles, once declared as his own personal realm - for one magical night, a dozen years (and ten days) earlier.

The Villanova media guide has a illuminating section known simply as " 'Cats of Distinction". Given the nature of 1990s and 21st-century NCAA basketball, it is possible to be included, even if the player was only on the Main Line for a single season: Tim Thomas (1996-97) and Michael Bradley (2000-01) are both included. And Reynolds will be there in a future Villanova media guide, even if he opts to test the waters of the NBA draft after his freshman season, as Thomas did (ultimately becoming a NBA lottery pick).

The performance which has vaulted Reynolds into an instant 'Cat of Distinction, was his astounding 40 points in Villanova's hard-fought 74-70 victory over the hated Huskies in Storrs. It was only the 14th time in Villanova's 86-plus seasons of intercollegiate competition, that any Wildcat had scored 40 or more points in a game - and Villanova has played well over 2,200 games, during its eight-plus decades of basketball. As with all majestic feats, context is everything. The victory absolutely secured a third consecutive NCAA at-large bid for Villanova: the Wildcats can now finish no worse than 8-8 in Big East play, and there is simply no way that the Selection Committee is going to leave out a Big East team with:

a) a strength-of-schedule in the top 10 nationally;
b) a RPI in the top 25;
c) its worst loss being at home to a good Drexel team;
d) a strong road/neutral record;
e) wins vs. Texas, @ Georgetown, and @ Louisville, among others-

even if the Wildcats lose to Syracuse and in the first round in New York City. Villanova unequivocally captured its NCAA bid with this victory.

And the fact that it happened against mighty-UConn, owners of two national championships in the last eight years, a #1 NCAA tournament seed a year ago, in their own building - that makes it all the sweeter.

The parallels with Kittles' feat are remarkable, if for no other reason that Villanova rarely travels to Gampel. They played there last season, but that was their first trip there in quite a while. Since Kittles' explosion in 1995, the Wildcats have seen Gampel only three times - the following season (a loss), and then did not return for a full decade, until the 2005-06 season, when they fell in a Big East showdown.

Before I begin, it should be noted that there are two vital distinctions between the 1995 and 2007 Villanova victories. First, and most importantly, Villanova upset top-ranked Connecticut at Gampel in 1995; this year, it defeated a demoralized and lethargic Huskies squad that - although ranked in the early part of the season - is going nowhere but the NIT (unless by some miracle they win the Big East tournament, which seems extraordinarily unlikely). The other is the fact that the 1995 game was a lopsided victory over that #1-ranked team, one that warrants inclusion in the creme de la creme of those 2,200-plus Villanova games - inclusion in the section entitled "Villanova's Greatest Games". Needless to say, aside from Reynolds' performance, a hard-fought, four-point victory over a NIT-bound UConn team won't be included in that section next year!

Those distinctions notwithstanding, let's go back to 1995, and look at Kittles' performance:

Kittles played all but one minute of Villanova's 96-73 victory on February 18 of that year. He finished with 37 points on 12-18 shooting overall, 5-10 from three-point range, and 8-9 from the foul line. He added seven rebounds and three assists. As would be expected in a lopsided victory, three other Villanova starters finished in double figures. Eric Eberz scored 23 points (including 7-9 from three-point range), Jason Lawson had 11 points on 5-9 shooting, plus five rebounds in just 22 minutes (he was in foul trouble), and Alvin Williams finished with a dozen points on 5-8 shooting, four rebounds, and eight assists. UConn's star, Ray Allen (it was quite ironic that Villanova would someday have a star guard named Allan Ray, albeit spelled differently) was held to just 11 points on 4-17 shooting. Surprisingly, Villanova led just 48-44 at the break, but rocketed out in the second half to win by 23.

Tonight was far different. Reynolds finished with perfect symmetry of his forty points, scoring 20 in each half. He blew away his previous high, the 27 points he scored against Notre Dame in Villanova's January victory at the Pavilion. Playing 36 minutes, Reynolds shot 12-25 from the floor, including 6-15 from beyond the arc and 10-14 from the line. He also had four rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, two steals, and officially played all 40 minutes (he fouled out with about 45 seconds to go while trying to draw a charge. That decision, his last play of the game, was the only fly in the ointment of an otherwise incredible performance, given that Villanova was trying to protect a lead and it was foolish for him to take his ball-handling and free-throw shooting skills off the floor, for the purpose trying to draw a charge.)

Of course, Reynolds did not do it alone. Seniors Curtis Sumpter and Mike Nardi, facing Connecticut for almost certainly the final time (odds are that the Huskies aren't going to be around very long in New York, and they couldn't face Villanova again until at least the semifinals anyhow), both made critical contributions to the victory. Sumpter had another double-double: 18 points and 10 rebounds, while committing just a single turnover in just 28 minutes (he had four fouls). He also delivered the game-saving play, swooping in for an offensive rebound and successful put-back to thwart UConn's last rally down the stretch. Villanova had been clinging to a small lead, after leading by 11 points with just over eight minutes to play: Sumpter's feat quieted the crowd and ensured that 'Nova would hang on. Nardi finished with a dozen points, including 6-6 from the line, which salted away the win.

It was sweet revenge for this senior class of Sumpter, Nardi, Will Sheridan, and Ross Condon, who had endured plenty of losses to the Huskies during their four years (and in Sumpter's case, five) on the Main Line. Tonight was only Jay Wright's third victory over the Huskies in 11 games. Even excluding the three losses to UConn in his first year at Villanova, 2001-02, before any of those players arrived- the Wildcats still entered tonight's game, having lost six of their last eight to the Huskies.

In another irony, UConn lost this game at the foul line. Had the Huskies shot even competently, let alone well, for the line, Reynolds' 40 points would have been for naught. Connecticut took 44 free throws and made just 24 of them, 54.5%, in a game they lost by just four points. Jeff Adrien led the Huskies with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, with Jerome Dyson matching Adrien's 20; both Huskies logged 36 minutes.

Villanova won its second straight contest and lifted its record to 8-7 Big East, 20-9 overall. The Huskies sank to 6-9 Big East, 17-12 overall, and will be heading to the NIT. It is a bitter finish for a team that was ranked #18 in the preseason AP poll, rose to as high as #12 in the Christmas Day poll, and remained in the rankings continuously through January 8, 2007. After being ranked #24 that week, they tumbled out of the polls for good. The Huskies can now finish no higher than 11th place in the 16-team league; they will be seeded either 11th or 12th at the Garden next week.

As for Villanova's seeding - that's way too complicated to determine at this point. Providence defeated South Florida tonight as well, which leads to a four-way logjam for 7th place between VU, PC, West Virginia, and DePaul. There is a complicated tie-breaking procedure (similar to the NFL provisions for playoff scenarios), and so it's too difficult to go into at present.

Next Up for the Wildcats

Villanova will have its quasi-home finale (anticlimactic after Senior Day against Rutgers on Saturday, February 24, 2007) at the Wachovia Center against Syracuse (10-5 Big East, 21-8 overall). Both schools have secured bids with victories this week, Villanova on Wednesday and Syracuse with a big upset of Georgetown on Tuesday. However, the game will help to determine Villanova's seeding for both the Big East and NCAA tournaments, and the Wildcats would like to avenge the 75-64 defeat at the Carrier Dome on January 13, 2007. There will be a comprehensive preview of the Syracuse game soon, as well as an updated "Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble", in light of this week's results.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Basketball Warfare, by Kevin McNamara

Villanova Viewpoint is proud to be powered by Basketball Warfare, by Providence Journal college basketball writer Kevin McNamara. It includes plenty of Villanova coverage, within its pages. For more information, just e-mail It is priced at $24.95, which includes shipping and handling.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Preview of Villanova @ Connecticut (Gampel Pavilion), Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 7 PM

The Wildcats will face the Connecticut Huskies on Wednesday, February 28, 2007, at 7 PM at Gampel Pavilion, on the University of Connecticut’s campus in Storrs (in contrast to the Hartford Civic Center, where many home games are played). A comprehensive preview…

The Viewpoint on the Connecticut Huskies

Coach: Jim Calhoun, 21st season at Connecticut

Calhoun won his 750th game this season (including both UConn and Northeastern, his previous stop), when the Huskies defeated hapless Rutgers at the RAC on Wednesday, February 21, 2007. The victory put him at 12th place on the all-time list, and fourth among active coaches. Depending upon how long the odious Bob Knight continues to coach, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Calhoun might catch him someday, if UConn continues to succeed and if he coaches long enough. Knight currently has a lead of 136 victories. Although it was seemingly in VU’s best interest for Connecticut to lose at the RAC, it’s actually better, because this way, there is no longer a possibility of the Wildcats becoming a footnote in the UConn annals, as the opponent when Calhoun attained his 750th-victory milestone.

2006-07 Season Analysis - 6-8 Big East, 17-11 overall, RPI rank #94 (as of’s Sunday, February 18, 2007 rankings, it will be updated on Monday, February 26, 2007, when the new numbers emerge).

By the standards of any other program, this would just be written off as a rebuilding year. However, the Huskies are scuffling badly, and after a terrible start in BE play, they faced overwhelming odds as they sought to return to the NCAA tournament (where they made an Elite Eight run last year, prior to – gloriously – serving as the foils for George Mason, the lowest-seeded team ever to reach the Final Four, in one of the most thrilling college basketball games I’ve ever seen.) UConn last missed the Big Dance in 2001.

As it turned out, the Huskies’ long shot at an at-large bid has now completely evaporated. Their tight home loss to #20 Louisville on Sunday, February 25, 2007, extinguished Connecticut’s flickering NCAA hopes entirely. The only way that the Huskies will be heading to the NCAA tournament for a sixth straight appearance will be by winning the Big East tournament.

Nonconference Schedule

As its weak SOS indicates, Connecticut did not play a particularly difficult non-Big East schedule this season. Let’s look at the nonconference schedule in detail:

The season started with a surprisingly difficult victory over in-state Quinnipiac at Gampel on November 10, 2006 – the Huskies won just 53-46. From November 17-19, the Huskies hosted their holiday tournament in Hartford, the guests being Mississippi, Central Arkansas, and another in-state school, the Jesuit-run Fairfield. Unsurprisingly, the Huskies won the tournament, blasting all three opponents by margins of 18 points or more. The Huskies concluded November by returning to Gampel for a pair of cupcake victories over Albany and Sacred Heart (also in-state) and whom they defeated by 31 and 43 points, respectively.

Connecticut opened December the same way they had ended November – with a high-cholesterol diet of five cupcakes: the first three were at Gampel and the final two at the HCC. They crushed Texas Southern, Northeastern (where Calhoun spent many years as a head coach before moving up to a then-moribund Connecticut program), St. Mary’s (CA), Pepperdine, and Coppin State: their margin of victory in all five December cupcakes was at least 16 points (St. Mary’s), with the other four all by 22 points or more. The Huskies’ record stood at a perfect 11-0, and Connecticut took its traditional place in the national rankings, thanks to all of these lopsided victories. It should be noted, however, that all of these games were at home, and only Mississippi was from a power conference.

Big East/Intersectional Schedule

When Big East play began, the Huskies’ glittering record suddenly began to nosedive, much to the shock and dismay of its huge and fanatically loyal fan base. They began the conference slate @ West Virginia, and were handed their first loss of the year. They returned to Hartford and had no trouble with terrible South Florida. But the Huskies began to gradually founder; after splitting their first two conference games: they would lose seven of their next eight.

The first sign that something was seriously amiss, came when they stepped out of conference play to visit LSU, on January 6, 2007. The West Virginia loss could be chalked up to the fact that Morgantown is arguably the toughest home court in the conference, and an undefeated team coming in there had a bull’s-eye on its back. And the Mountaineers are a legit team that will almost certainly be back in the NCAA tournament. LSU was coming off a Final Four appearance in 2006, but that having been said, the Tigers crushed the Huskies, defeating them by 17 points, and holding the Huskies’ offense to just 49 points. Next, Marquette arrived in Gampel and emerged with a 73-69 victory. The Huskies made the short trip to Madison Square Garden and topped St. John’s, 68-59, and the Huskies now stood at 12-3 overall, 1-2 Big East.

But disaster would soon strike, for the remainder of January 2007. The Huskies went into free fall, losing five straight: @ Pittsburgh, Indiana at the HCC, @ Louisville, Providence at the HCC, culminating with a loss at DePaul. Connecticut fell out of the rankings with an overall record of just 12-8, but Calhoun now had an even bigger problem on his hands: just qualifying for the Big East tournament. The Huskies were just 2-5 in Big East play and were in mortal danger of not even reaching New York, something which would induce apoplexy among their fervent supporters. Moreover, although the Huskies were about to enter the soft part of the Big East schedule, the end held no promises: the final three opponents were Louisville at Hartford, Villanova at Gampel, and at Georgetown, all three highly losable. Nobody wanted to see the season end on March 3, 2007, at the Verizon Center, but there was a real danger of that taking place.

February 2007 has turned out to be better, with one of the chief reasons being that the Huskies would have the golden opportunity to play Rutgers twice. They opened the month by beating the Scarlet Knights in Hartford, and then saved their season by defeating Syracuse by seven at Gampel. At 14-8, 4-5 Big East, the NCAAs would still be a long shot, but they were now probably at least going to reach Madison Square Garden and draw a NIT bid (not that going to the NIT would be considered a major feat in Storrs, but it would certainly beat not playing at all, which was a real danger at the end of January).

The Huskies, however, have only muddled through, since then. They traveled down to Georgia Tech and lost by 13 points on CBS. They defeated Seton Hall (a team now assured of not reaching New York) at Gampel, but fell @ the Carrier Dome in the rematch with Syracuse. They traveled to the RAC on Wednesday, February 21, 2007, with Calhoun sitting on 749 career victories. In addition, a victory would mathematically assure the Huskies of finishing in the top dozen schools and getting to New York (that’s, obviously, not a sentence that I ever anticipated writing…) The Huskies slew the Scarlet Knights by ten, thus sweeping Rutgers. They put up a good fight vs. Louisville on Sunday in Hartford, but succumbed, 76-69.

What have doomed Connecticut’s NCAA chances, are two facts. One is that they demonstrated virtually no ability to win, outside of the state of Connecticut. Their only road victories, during the entire season, were at Rutgers and St. John’s (and at Madison Square Garden, they were probably the de facto home team, due to the proximity of their fan base and the poor season by St. John's.) They did schedule some reasonably difficult power-conference opponents: two SEC teams (Mississippi and Louisiana State), plus Georgia Tech and Indiana. However, those intersectional games were a disaster, outside of the win over Mississippi. They lost by double-digits @ LSU and @ Georgia Tech, and they lost to Indiana at Hartford by four points. The blowout @ LSU doesn’t look as bad, with the Tigers’ stunning upset of former #1- Florida this weekend, but the fact remains that UConn went 1-3 against significant OOC opponents.

Connecticut Starters/Rotation

Note: all individual statistics are taken from the UConn Game Notes for the Sunday, February 25, 2007 hosting of Louisville, and so do not reflect that final game.)


#11 Jerome Dyson - 6-3 - Freshman - Guard - 13.2 points/3.8 rebounds /29.6 min per game (Rockville, MD)

#4 Jeff Adrien - 6-7 - Sophomore - Forward - 13.0 points/9.9 rebounds/32.6 min/per game (Brookline, Mass.)

#12 A.J. Price - 6-2 - Sophomore - Guard - 9.7 points/3.0 rebounds/23.9 min/per game (Amityville, NY
– the same high school that produced former Wildcat Jason Fraser)

#21 Stanley Robinson - 6-0 - Freshman - Forward - 5.5 points/4.6 rebounds/17.8 min/per game (Birmingham, AL)

#34 Hasheem Thabeet - 7-3 (yes, 7-3, according to the UConn media guide) - Freshman - Center - 6.4 points/6.4 rebounds/4.0 blocks/24.1 min per game (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

Off the Bench

#24 Craig Austrie - 6-3 - Sophomore - Guard - 6.0 points/1.8 rebounds/19.4 min/per game (Stamford, CT)

#1 Marcus Johnson - 6-6 - Sophomore - Guard/Forward - 5.8 points/3.1 rebounds/17.0 min/per game (Los Angeles, CA)

#3 Doug Wiggins - 6-1 - Freshman - Guard - 7.2 points/2.2 rebounds /18.3 min/per game (East Hartford, CT)

#14 Curtis Kelly - 6-9 - Freshman - Forward - 2.7 points/2.6 rebounds/9.1 min per game (Queens, NY)

#33 Gavin Edwards - 6-9 - Freshman - Forward/Center - 2.2 points/1.7 rebounds/7.0 min/per game (Gilbert, AZ)

Overall Analysis of the Huskies

The Huskies have led the nation in blocked shots for five straight seasons (a record), and they will make it six, thanks to Thabeet. Thabeet already has over 100 blocks (more than all of UConn’s opponents, combined!) He leads the conference in blocks, with 4.0 per contest, and ranks third nationally. And it's not just Thabeet: 11 different Huskies have blocked a shot this year. Perhaps not surprisingly, during that five-year (soon-to-be six-year) reign over opponents’ shots, the Huskies have won four regular-season Big East titles, two Big East tournaments and a national championship. The Huskies are averaging 8.7 blocks per contest, and this presents a serious problem for small Villanova, which does not have an intimidating post presence, and also likes to play a lot of wing players.

A similar pattern emerges with regard to defense, at least as measured by opponents’ field goal percentage. The Huskies have consistently ranked among the top 10 nationally in field goal percentage defense, and even this year’s mediocre team is still ranked among the top 10 nationally in that department.

However, basketball teams do not live upon blocked shots – or even field goal defense - alone, as they will be leading the nation in blocks once more and are probably heading for the NIT. What has hurt the Huskies this season is that it is, plain and simple, a rebuilding year – as a matter of fact, a textbook rebuilding year. They have no seniors or even juniors, of any consequence: the ten-man rotation is entirely comprised of freshmen and sophomores. In light of that fact, it really is remarkable that Connecticut was ranked #18 in the preseason poll in November 2006, and was nationally ranked throughout the fall and winter of 2006. And they kept those rankings by winning their first 11 games, the majority of them by blowout margins, and even reached as high as #12 at Christmas time. The Huskies actually spent ten weeks in the polls this season (all AP polls, as the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll is unreliable):

Preseason: #18
November 13: #21
November 20: #18
November 27: #20
December 4: #19
December 11: #14
December 18: #14
December 25: #12
January 1: #18
January 8: #24

The Huskies fell out of the rankings for good, after the January 8, 2007, poll. They were in the “Also Receiving Votes” category for the next two polls, January 15 and 22, but have not received a single vote since then.

Series History

The teams did not play regularly, until the creation of the Big East. The schools faced each other just four times, beginning in 1941, until the formation of the conference – the Wildcats and Huskies split those four pre-Big East meetings.

Connecticut was the perennial cellar-dweller during the Big East’s Golden Age of the 1980s. They did not emerge as a power until Calhoun’s arrival, and have now been among the league’s titans, virtually every year, since 1990. Villanova still leads the all-time series by a 30-26 margin (28-24 as Big East members), due to all of those easy victories under Rollie Massimino in the 1980s, but the Huskies have drawn far closer over the years. The Huskies have won eight of the ten contests in the series, during the Jay Wright era, which began in 2001-02:


February 13, 2006 - Villanova 69, Connecticut 64 (Wachovia Center)

February 26, 2006 - Connecticut 89, Villanova 75 (Gampel - one of Villanova’s two BE regular-season losses)


Groundhog Day, 2005: Connecticut 81, Villanova 76 (HCC)


February 28, 2004: Connecticut 75, Villanova 74 in OT (Wachovia Center – that one was heartbreaking)

March 12, 2004: Connecticut 87, Villanova 64, Big East tournament (not as heartbreaking)


January 25, 2003: Connecticut 74, Villanova 65 (HCC)

February 15, 2003: Villanova 79, Connecticut 70 (Wachovia Center)


January 13, 2002 – Connecticut 70, Villanova 65 (Wachovia Center)

February 11, 2002 – Connecticut 46, Villanova 40 (HCC – the memorable throwback to “Rollie-ball”, where the Wildcats simply held the ball for as long as possible, in Wright’s maiden season)

March 7, 2002 – Big East tournament – Connecticut 72, Villanova 70 (a gallant effort by Wright’s overmatched Wildcats in New York)

One of the greatest games in Villanova’s illustrious history took place on February 10, 1994, in the old Spectrum in Philadelphia (the CoreStates/First Union/Wachovia Center was not opened until the 1996-97 season, and even that year, Connecticut made what would be its final appearance in the “old building”). Thirteen seasons ago, the nucleus of Kerry Kittles, Jason Lawson, Alvin Williams, Eric Eberz and Jonathan Haynes upset the mighty, top-ranked Huskies, 64-63; it was the signal of the revival of the team’s glories, after a last-place Big East finish in 1992-93. That team, coached by Steve Lappas, would go on to win the NIT.

Villanova hasn’t won at Gampel since February 18, 1995, when the same team (minus Haynes) crushed the Huskies, 96-73, en route to the school’s only Big East tournament title, before or since. In fairness, though, VU has only gone to Gampel twice since then, including last year’s defeat. Villanova’s last win at Hartford was on January 24, 2001, the year prior to Wright’s arrival, when the Wildcats triumphed 70-59.

In summary, the inescapable fact is that Villanova still has to travel to Gampel, a tougher venue, for UConn’s home finale and Senior Night. I would never like VU’s odds under those circumstances. Villanova hasn’t beaten UConn, away from the Wachovia Center (@ Gampel, the HCC, or MSG) since 2001.

In addition, last year’s season split doesn’t offer a lot of clues, since Villanova lost three players, plus Fraser, to the NBA, and Connecticut is loaded with freshmen in its rotation.

Villanova Update

Villanova is coming off a feel-good, crowd-pleasing Senior Day celebration on Saturday, February 24, 2007, when they routed Rutgers 74-51, in a contest that was over, nearly as soon as it began. Jay Wright was able to completely empty his bench over the last five and a half minutes, giving each of Villanova’s four departing seniors – Curtis Sumpter, Will Sheridan, Mike Nardi, and walk-on Ross Condon – a dramatic exit, without concern over the lopsided score. The Wildcats began the game with a 13-2 run, raced out to a 45-18 lead at halftime and never needed to look back – except to honor the quartet of seniors who were playing their last game in the Pavilion.

I believe that the Wildcats probably (not definitely, but probably – if I had to quantify it, I’d say 85%) secured a NCAA bid with the victory, which placed them at 7-7 Big East, 19-9 overall. Villanova’s sky-high RPI, rooted in the teens, and strength-of-schedule (in the top 10 all season) will not change much for the rest of the year, as so many games have already been baked into the cake, so to speak. Even if the Wildcats lose @ Gampel and at the Wachovia Center against Syracuse and in the first round in New York, there would need to be a great deal of bad news from conference tournaments around the nation. And that’s the worst case scenario. If they win any of those three games, they are 100% certain of a bid, as they’d be either 8-8 in Big East play with a great RPI, or 7-9 in Big East play with a victory in New York and a chance to pick up another good loss to one of the top four BE teams on the second day.

Villanova did benefit tremendously from Louisville’s victory on Sunday. First, it means that the atmosphere in Gampel, even on Senior Night, will not be what it would have been had the Huskies upset the nationally-ranked Cardinals and thus maintained some fleeting hopes of an at-large bid. Moreover, Louisville’s victory means that the #20 Cardinals will stay ranked – thus making Villanova’s victory over them look better in the Wildcats’ tournament profile.

I’ll have a full recap after the game.

Questions? Comments? Information? You can e-mail publisher@villa

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Condon, Chivalry, Seniors Reign, As 'Nova Has No Trouble Routing Scarlet Knights on Senior Day at Pavilion, Sending Senior Foursome Off In Style

The most important event in today’s Senior Day victory took place between a pair of walk-ons on opposing teams, long after the outcome had been decided. With 24 seconds to play, Scarlet Knight Jon Mimmo – a senior walk-on, who had been inserted down the stretch- intentionally fouled fellow walk-on senior Ross Condon at the top of the key. Mimmo committed this foul, explicitly to provide Condon a second chance at the line (he had missed both FTs in his first opportunity, which had come when he was fouled by Rutgers’ Jason Cherry with 49 seconds remaining).

Fortunately, Condon made the most of his second last-in-a-lifetime chance to score in his final Pavilion game as a Wildcat. Both shots were nothing but net, thrilling the jam-packed student section, as he took those free throws. We spend a lot of time – as is often regrettably necessary –dwelling on the misconduct of athletes, and it is a real pleasure to be able to write something positive that one athlete from an opposing school did for another – entirely out of compliance with a code of chivalry. And it is, of course, symbolically apt that the gesture came from a Scarlet Knight… The free throws represented the 10th and 11th points of Condon’s career, respectively. Hats off to him, a solid practice player who does all the grind-it-out stuff that all players experience, but so rarely gets a sip of the glory.

It’s tough to imagine a better send-off for Villanova’s quartet of seniors. The Wildcats had no trouble whatsoever, in routing the Scarlet Knights at the Pavilion, on Saturday, February 24, 2007, in a late-afternoon 4 PM tip-time. The final score was a lopsided 74-51, and RU was never in the game, except, ironically, when they took a 2-0 lead off the opening tap. Villanova dominated this game for the other 99.9% of its play, as thoroughly as they have beaten any opponent (Big East or otherwise) this year.

Curtis Sumpter, Will Sheridan, Mike Nardi, and Ross Condon were honored in traditional Senior Day ceremonies at 3:40. Condon symbolically started, as per tradition for Senior Day. The seniors were sent off in style, and everyone feels pretty good about the diminishing possibility of their returning to the Pavilion for anticlimactic NIT contests, come March. The Knights’ quest for the Big East tournament had ended on Wednesday, February 19, 2007, when the visiting UConn Huskies mathematically eliminated them from contention, so they did not have much fight in them.

However, the one genuine subplot was that regarding Fred Hill, the former VU assistant, now the reigning monarch in Piscataway. Hill arrived with Jay Wright’s coaching staff in 2001 and remained at VU through the 2003-04 season, when he left for Rutgers as an assistant to the eventually-fired Gary Waters – Hill was given the crown prior to this season. (Wright is now 3-0 against his former assistants, having defeated Joe Jones’ Columbia Lions in 2003 and Billy Lange’s Navy Midshipmen earlier this season.)

Villanova snapped a brief two-game losing skid, evening its Big East record at 7-7 and boosting its overall record to 19-9. Villanova had a high RPI of #16 entering the game, although the addition of the Rutgers’ RPI of 191 may mitigate any gain; it’ll probably hold steady.

The Scarlet Knights continued their submersion into the moat, falling to 10-18 overall, 3-12 Big East. They play in a very difficult home court in the RAC, and it is not surprising that the squad finished its Big East road slate at 1-7 (the only victory coming at last-place Cincinnati). Unless they upset Notre Dame in their home finale, they will not have beaten a single BE school, qualified for the conference tournament (home or away). For Rutgers, Marquis Webb led with a dozen points, with the best overall day coming from JR Inman, who finished with eight points and 14 rebounds in only 27 minutes.

Ironically, it was a freshman, Scottie Reynolds, who led the way for the Wildcats on Senior Day. The guard finished his inaugural Pavilion season with another outstanding performance: 25 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. But all the seniors did well. Curtis Sumpter had 13 points, eight rebounds, and two blocked shots prior to fouling out. Mike Nardi had 11 points, seven assists and just one turnover. Will Sheridan turned in his usual solid defense – in 24 minutes, he finished with four points, three rebounds and one steal. But the big story line today was Condon.

Condon played till the first whistle, at 18:43, when he was replaced by Reynolds, to great cheering by the crowd. After RU sank two FTs to take an early 2-0 lead, VU went on an 8-2 run to force a timeout by Hill with 16:57 to play. VU led 10-2 at the under 16, and RU still had no field goals. 26 seasons as asst/associate head coach for nine different schools, a track record that makes Larry Brown look like a rooted, stalwart resident of the coaching fraternity.

RU’s first field goal came from Webb, at the 12:13 mark; it was the first time in nine tries that RU finally got one in. Webb returned on the next possession to hit a 3, making it 13-6 at 11:39 and JW called a timeout. Hill abandoned his man-to-man and switched to zone. It didn’t help. At 11:09, the under-12, VU still led 16-6.

By the under-8 timeout, VU had increased its advantage, boosting its lead to 24-7, with Rutgers’ Adrian Hill on the bench with 3 fouls. It was all downhill from there. RU made only two of its first 16 shots, and had enormous difficulty getting the ball inside. After they had finally done so on consecutive possessions, their team’s only big man, Hamady N’Diaye, injured himself with 3:01 to go, triggering the under 4 timeout with ‘Nova enjoying a huge 39-16 lead (these sorts of setbacks probably represent a typical day for Rutgers, during this long season). Reynolds already had 18 points, including five triples, by this point. (He had two more points that RU’s whole team.) RU had made just 5 of its first 25 shots from the floor.

The signature play of the game came when Rutgers committed a turnover on what should have been the final possession of the first half, giving ‘Nova the ball under its own basket with 3.8 seconds to play. Reynolds – reinserted by Wright for offense – took the inbounds pass, and dribbled coast-to-coast to lay it in at the buzzer and give ‘Nova a looming 45-19 lead at the half. Game over.

At 10:31 of the second half, came its best play: a dunk from Will Sheridan from Reynolds, making it 59-34 VU. The second-best of the second half had come shortly before, at the 11:29 mark: a steal by Reynolds off Anthony Farmer, and then an acrobatic loop-de-loop layup to convert it at the other end.

With Rutgers never remotely in the game, it became – as the basketball gods deemed to fit to bless Villanova with – exclusively a showcase for the departing seniors. To Wright’s credit, he re-inserted Condon well before the end, restoring him to the floor with 5:37 to play and ‘Nova up 68-39. At the 4:18 mark, Curtis Sumpter fouled out, giving him an opportunity to take his final bow; it was noted on the ESPN broadcast that he had been joined during the pregame Senior Day ceremony by trainer Jeff Pierce, who had been crucial to his successful rehabilitation, after missing all of 2005-2006 with severe knee injuries. Loud chants of “Cur-tis Sumpter! Cur-tis Sumpter!’ reverberated throughout the Pavilion. At the 4:07 mark, it was Will Sheridan’s turn for a big exit (ESPN analyst Rick Majerus shared an interesting fact – Sheridan’s choice of #50 is directly inspired by the fact that both of his parents are police officers, a play on the old television series “Hawaii Five-0”.)

Then it was Mike Nardi’s turn. Nardi had laid it in to make the score 72-42, just before the under 4 timeout. He was sent out to the floor after the timeout, but was then immediately removed by Wright, before play resumed, so that he could receive his ovation from the crowd. First, Nardi went over to Hill and gave him an embrace, before returning to the ‘Nova bench and embracing Wright. At that point, Wright emptied his bench for the final 3:04. Reggie Redding, Casiem Drummond, Dwayne Anderson, and Bilal Benn joined Condon on the floor. Frank Tchuisi replaced Redding – a regular member of the rotation – at the 1:58 mark, so every Wildcat saw action.

The clear goal, from the moment he returned at the 5:37 mark, was to get Condon the ball and permit him to score. And the team – and crowd, who loves Condon (Jay Wright joked with the crowd in advance, telling them that they put “too much pressure on me to put Russ Condon in”), was continually frustrated in pursuit of this goal. Condon missed four field goal attempts and two free throws. Finally, there came the chivalrous gesture by the aforementioned Scarlet Knight, Jon Mimmo, with just 24 seconds remaining in Condon’s career. After they both went down, Wright wisely pulled Condon out and sent in Redding, giving Condon a chance to make a glory-laden exit. He finished his Pavilion career, with this box score line:

Russ Condon - 6 minutes - 0-4 FG - 0-2 3FG - 2-4 FT - 2 rebounds (1 offensive)- 1 Turnover - 2 Steals - 2 Points.

Series History

Villanova now leads RU all-time, 23-7, and is also 6-1 vs. Rutgers, at the Pavilion.

Next Up for the Wildcats

The two games that could make or break the season: @ Connecticut’s Gampel Pavilion (the on-campus venue, a tougher place for a visitor than the Hartford Civic Center) on Wednesday, February 28, 2007, and the regular-season finale vs Syracuse at the Wachovia Center. I will have a comprehensive preview on the struggling Huskies…

Questions? Comments? Information? You can e-mail

Friday, February 23, 2007

Preview of Senior Day, Rutgers @ Villanova, Saturday, February 24, 2007, 4 PM

Senior Day Against Rutgers

The Wildcats will face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday, February 24, 2007, at 4 PM at the Pavilion, with TV coverage provided by ESPN. Senior Day ceremonies will honor seniors Curtis Sumpter, Will Sheridan, and Mike Nardi, three huge contributors who have been instrumental in Villanova’s back-to-back Sweet 16 NCAA tournament appearances, including its stellar top-five-ranking and Elite Eight appearance last year. The ceremonies will also honor senior walk-on Ross Condon. According to the press release, those who wish to see the ceremonies are asked to be in their seats by 3:40 PM, when they will take place; in addition, the senior players will address the senior members of the ‘Nova Nation prior to the game. A comprehensive preview…

The Viewpoint on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Coach: Fred Hill
(1st season) - record @ RU, 10-17

2006-07 season analysis - 3-11 Big East, 10-17 overall, RPI rank #191, SOS #90, as of Monday, February 19, 2007,

Nonconference Schedule

Rutgers is observing their basketball centennial this year, the same way Georgetown is. The Hoyas have had a lot to celebrate with their centennial commemoration - national ranking and a sure bid to the NCAA tournament. However, in contrast, Rutgers' 100th anniversary has not provided much of a lift for the fan base, even under new leadership.
The Scarlet Knights’ first quest under its new king, got off to a disastrous start, and from which the season ultimately never recovered. Of their first half-dozen games, one was against a non-Division I opponent – and it was the only game that they won. They started out the year with five losses to Kansas State, Jackson State, a 29-point-loss @ the Chicago Invitational Challenge to Bradley (in which they allowed 101 points), a 13-point loss to Miami (OH), and a 23-point loss to Fran Dunphy’s Temple squad, a former Atlantic 10 rival.

Then Hill managed to right the kingdom, at least temporarily. After a 1-5 start, the Knights suddenly ripped off five straight wins: Nebraska, New Hampshire, @ Princeton (the longest-running-rivalry in the nation), Iona, and Lehigh, surging back over .500 at 6-5. Then the roof caved in. They traveled to then-#2 North Carolina and lost by 39 points at the DeanDome (albeit without two starters in the lineup, suspended for academic violations). They returned to the RAC to beat cupcake South Carolina State, lifting themselves back over .500 at 7-6 and with the hope of finishing the top dozen in the Big East and getting to New York. (RU will now be missing the BET for the third time in the seven years that the BET has excluded teams from participation, and for most of that span it was only the bottom two, not the bottom four, that were omitted.)

Big East Schedule

When Big East play started, the losses began to mount. Rutgers started the season by losing six of its first seven Big East games, with the lone win being @ woeful Cincinnati in the second game (they lost narrowly to in-state rival Seton Hall in the opener). After the Cincy win, there were five straight double-digit losses: perhaps the worst loss was to mediocre DePaul – at the RAC – a game which the Scarlet Knights managed to score only 37 points to DePaul’s 60, the second-worst was a 22-point loss @ South Florida.

At 1-6, the Scarlet Knights managed to split with Seton Hall by sinking the Pirates, 74-70. They did so in exciting fashion, in double OT, at the RAC- undoubtedly the high point of the year. They have now lost five of their last six, with the only victory completing the sweep of Cincinnati. (In other words, RU’s three Big East wins are all against teams that won’t go to New York, either.)

Overall Analysis

Rutgers has little to play for, and the reason is the bloated Big East and its consequent need to limit the conference tournament to the top 12. There was always a hope, before, always a reason for the league’s struggling programs to keep practicing, that maybe you could get hot in New York and atone for the whole season. Unfortunately for ‘Nova, the scuffling UConn Huskies managed to win at the RAC, rendering RU’s season over, as the Scarlet Knights have now been officially eliminated from the Big East tournament. The only silver lining was the removal of any reason for RU to have optimism for their trip to the Main Line, but I would have preferred that RU win, to knock UConn off the bubble and lower their intensity level for Villanova’s trip to the Nutmeg State on Wednesday (and plus, I always prefer that UConn lose whenever and wherever possible). The Scarlet Knights now have officially confirmed that they have just two games remaining, the first being Saturday’s clash at the Pavilion.

From a narrow Villanova perspective, two facts are clear. One is that Rutgers is 10-17 overall and with a RPI rank - as of Monday, February 19, 2007 - of #191, almost lower than I could imagine any Big East team having. Should the Wildcats lose this game – against a team that has historically struggled to win away from the RAC and the home court advantages it brings – their NCAA tournament hopes would go from solid to dangerously low. This would happen not only because of the RPI dip: there is the inescapable fact that if ‘Nova can’t defeat a team with a #191 RPI rank, playing out the string, at the Pavilion on Senior Day, the Selection Committee could justifiably claim that they don’t deserve one of the precious at-large bids, regardless of what happens the rest of the way. (Rutgers has only two non-RAC wins all year, @ Princeton and @ Cincinnati).

A Capsule on Recent Rutgers History

Rutgers, in theory, should be at least average in Big East basketball, due to the resources of a big state school, central location in the Northeast’s prime recruiting territory, and a home court that is extremely difficult for opponents, even with the Scarlet Knights’ poor records, over the last decade and a half. In spite of these advantages, the Scarlet Knights haven’t reached the NCAA tournament in 16 years, however – their last bid was in 1991. Bob Wenzel was the last coach to do it, and that was when RU was still in the Atlantic 10 for basketball. Kevin Bannon and Gary Waters were both fired, after failing to come close to the NCAAs (this will be RU’s 11th losing record in the last 15 seasons). Hill is in his first season as head coach (although Waters was forced to have Hill on his staff, prior to his departure, in an unusual arrangement of forcing a head coach to harbor his likely heir). Moreover, the high-profile success of the school’s football program in 2006, has only served to juxtapose the chronic weakness in basketball.

Rutgers actually went into the season with some optimism. Hill, as the third new head coach to arrive in Piscataway, with a dream of taking RU to the NCAA tournament and with all three of his immediate predecessors having been fired for not doing so, either on a regular basis (Wenzel) or at all (Bannon and Waters), there was a new sense of a chance at renewal. Hill has a reputation (many would argue as to whether it is exaggerated) as a fantastic recruiter in the NYC/North Jersey corridor, precisely the area where Rutgers needs to obtain talent. He also inherited a reasonably talented team: the Scarlet Knights were returning four starters from last year’s dreadful team, including two that made the All-Big East rookie team. J.R. Inman, the team’s current leading scorer, made the team even while missing nine games with a broken fibula; he’s also a good shot blocker, especially for a 6-9 forward – he had 42 blocks as a freshman, tops among BE newcomer. The other honoree was Anthony Farmer, the point guard whose 124 assists last year were likewise the best for any BE freshman. Farmer is a product of New Jersey’s St. Augustine Prep, which also produced former Wildcats Brian Lynch (1997-2000) and Andrew Sullivan (2000-2003).

The unofficial goal for 2006-07 was just to reach the Big East tournament. But they aren’t even going to come close to doing so, being mathematically eliminated with just two games remaining.

Scarlet Knights Starters and Rotation

J.R. Inman # 15 - 6-9 – Sophomore (Pomona, NY) - Forward - 32.9 min/12.3 pts/game

Marquis Webb # 1 - 6-5 – Senior (Paterson, NJ) - G-F -36.5 min/9.9 pts/game

Adrian Hill # 4 - 6-8 – Senior (Canton, OH) F - 24.9 - 39.6 min/9.6 pts/game

Jaron Griffin #32 - 6-7 – Sophomore (Manchester, NJ) - G-F - 30.4 min/8.9 pts/game

Anthony Farmer #2 - 6-1 – Sophomore (Millville, NJ) - G - 33.5 min/8.1 pts/game

Off the Bench

Ollie Bailey # 13 - 6-7 – Junior (Chicago, IL) - F

Courtney Nelson #3 - 6-1 – Sophomore (Newark, NJ, via University of Richmond) - G

Hamady N'Diaye #5 - 6-11 – Freshman (Dakar, Senegal) - C

Hill uses a fixed starting lineup, with the original five intact for the balance of the season. He uses an eight-man rotation. Although I have not seen RU play this year, I surmise from the numbers that the team suffers from two major weaknesses:

a) the lack of a reliable perimeter shooter – the best three-point shooter is Farmer, who shoots only 34% from long-range and only 33.5% from any range;
b) the lack of size in the paint – the only big man in the rotation is N’Diaye, a freshman who plays only 13.4 minutes/game.

In conclusion, it’s a game that the Wildcats need to win quickly, over a team with little to play for, and move on to the more formidable challenge of winning at Connecticut next week. The only wild card is the fact that Hill knows Villanova’s players and coaching staff far better than any other opponent, and that gives RU an advantage they wouldn’t have otherwise. In addition, the players recognize that defeating Villanova would be high on their coach’s wish list, in a season where the program’s dreams were cruelly shattered in the middle of January. So RU might have a revenge factor in mind, and thus might be a more intense opponent, than their record and status as an eliminated team would indicate.

Villanova Update

The ‘Cats enter Senior Day having lost their momentum, as they suffered twin losses to ranked opponents Georgetown and @ Marquette over the last week. Their record stands at 18-9 overall, 6-7 Big East, and today’s just a must-win.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

First Edition of "Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble" - The Big East Bubble Teams

Villanova’s RPI rank, as of Monday, February 19, 2007, is #19, with strength-of-schedule ranked at #6. If the season ended today, and the NCAA did not invite them, they would be – by far - the highest-RPI-ranked team to be omitted from the field since Jerry Palm started in the mid-1990s. (All RPI ranks and SOS ranks are taken from Palm's outstanding site.) It has undoubtedly dropped a bit, thanks to the loss @ #14 Marquette on Monday, but the Golden Eagles have a strong RPI as well, so it won't be too much.

Of course, the season is not ending today, and ‘Nova’s lofty RPI would drop, if they lose any of the next three contests, and would also drop even with a win over RU, due to the latter’s anemic #191 rank being added to the mix. Nonetheless, the Wildcats, even if they lose both at Connecticut and to Syracuse at the Wachovia Center, would probably still be better-than-even odds for an at-large bid, at 7-9 in Big East play, due to the powerful strength of schedule and the good wins over Texas, Georgetown, etc.

The six other BE teams to watch out for, which hold various positions on the proverbial bubble: Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville, West Virginia, Providence, and Connecticut. Of the half-dozen BE schools on the bubble, Notre Dame, Louisville, and West Virginia are almost certainly in, needing only home victories against terrible teams to secure their bids. Of the other four, Villanova will face Syracuse and Connecticut head-to-head, and also has a good chance of drawing either in the first round of the BE tournament, which will go a long way toward clarifying the bubble situation in the Big East. Providence, although it doesn’t face ‘Nova head-to-head in the regular season stretch run, is also a likely first-round opponent in New York. (Pittsburgh, Georgetown, and Marquette are all assured of bids, regardless of what happens the rest of the way.)

Let’s look at the six other BE bubble teams, competing with Villanova:

Louisville (as of Monday, February 19, 2007 - #52 RPI, , SOS #31), 20-8 overall, 10-4 Big East

I would say that the Cardinals are 95% in, barring complete collapse. They are in the somewhat unusual position, of having a great BE record and a poor RPI, although it will rise after adding their victory over St. John’s. It’s almost unthinkable that a team that would finish no worse than 10-6 in the BE wouldn’t make it, and they still have a chance to add to their win total, @ Connecticut and finishing with lame-duck Seton Hall at Freedom Hall.

Notre Dame (as of Monday, February 19, 2007 - #42 RPI, SOS #114), 21-6 overall, 9-5 Big East

ND has just two games left, with Marquette and @ lame-duck Rutgers. The victory at DePaul on Tuesday, probably removed any doubt about a NCAA bid, since ND will now finish with a winning BE record, and should probably win at least one of their last two (they’d be favored in both). Nonetheless, the Fighting Irish played an extraordinarily weak OOC schedule, and will need a win in New York (they’ll draw a high seed, among the highest to play in the opening round) to absolutely cement a bid.

Providence (as of Monday, February 19, 2007 - #66 RPI, SOS #39), 17-9 overall, 7-6 Big East

The Friars still have a fighting chance, by defeating #22 WVU at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Wednesday. They also catch a break, in having an extremely easy schedule the rest of the way: Syracuse at home on Saturday, February 24, 2007, then traveling to two eliminated schools: South Florida and St. John’s. If they sweep the last three games they’d be certain of a bid, at 10-6 Big East; even with a loss to Syracuse they’d still be over .500 in BE play and played a tough OOC schedule: beating Boston College and losing to Florida. (What may hurt them are two bad losses: a ten-point loss to crosstown Brown and a 30-point thrashing @ Florida State). Nonetheless, they are largely in control of their own destiny: if they finish out the season with five straight BE wins (which they would if they sweep the last three), they’re in.

Syracuse (as of Monday, February 19, 2007 - #64 RPI, SOS #55), 19-8 overall, 8-5 Big East

The Orangemen have a very difficult schedule the rest of the way: @ Providence, Georgetown at the Carrier Dome, and the finale at the Wachovia Center. The only upside is that if they win two of those three, they’ll not only get a good RPI bounce but have two more decent wins. They have to overcome a weak OOC schedule. Their best OOC wins are over Penn and Holy Cross, and it’s tough to get a NCAA bid with that profile. They also only have one really good BE win, @ Marquette.

#22 West Virginia (as of Monday, February 19, 2007 - #49 RPI, SOS #101)) 20-7 overall, 8-6 Big East

The Mountaineers are in a very secure position, and not only because they are ranked. They have an outstanding signature win over UCLA, and their pair of remaining games will both help them: a potential victory @ #6 Pittsburgh on Saturday, February 24, 2007, and a home finale over Cincinnati, the BE’s worst team. I put them on the bubble because if they lost to Cincinnati (somehow) and exited in the first round in New York, it’s conceivable they could be left out, but they’re 95% in. Their OOC schedule was not all that strong, but they did not have any particularly bad losses, and they’ll also have two losses to Pitt (or a split).

Connecticut (as of Monday, February 19, 2007 - #94 RPI, SOS #79) 17-10 overall, 6-7 Big East

The once-ranked Huskies are in serious trouble, struggling all year, with a RPI of #94. Counterintuitively, they have struggled all season while playing an unimpressive non-Big East schedule, as their low SOS indicates. They would need to win at least two of their three remaining games, finishing 8-8 in Big East play, to have any shot at an at-large bid. They will have chances for good wins in all three: home battles with Louisville and ‘Nova and finishing @ Georgetown. In addition, the Huskies will certainly get more consideration than another school with an identical profile, simply because they are UConn.

Nonetheless, even with the UConn name, it’s increasingly difficult to see how the Huskies (who have lost six of their last ten) get into the NCAA tournament, without winning the conference tournament, or at least reaching the final. For better or worse, the Huskies ended up getting mediocre Syracuse and woeful Rutgers as their twice-faced opponents this season, which gave UConn three out of four victories, but also deprived them of two chances to beat somebody better. Ordinarily, Connecticut versus Syracuse is the league’s marquee matchup, but it didn’t work out that way this year – they could both be heading to the NIT, with the Huskies in particularly grave danger. Heading into this stretch, UConn’s only BE victory of any significance was over the Orangemen. All of their other five wins were over the four teams already condemned to miss the conference tournament: the two over RU, Seton Hall, @ St. John’s, and South Florida.

Overall Viewpoint for Villanova on the Bubble

Villanova is a rare bubble team, for two reasons. One is the sky-high RPI, which would likely lead them to have one of the highest RPIs of any team not invited in the history of the tournament; the only real stumbling block is the mediocre BE record. The home loss to Drexel does not look as bad as it did at the time, and the Wildcats’ schedule is so formidable that a loss like that does not glare out the way it would if Villanova had a weaker overall profile.

The other distinctive feature of Villanova’s profile this season, is the rare opportunity to directly eliminate potential bubble rivals. Should Villanova defeat UConn and/or Syracuse, the vanquished opponent(s) would likely vanish from the bubble (both the Huskies and Orangemen need a RPI and profile boost from beating somebody good).

A note about the selection process:

A common shorthand analysis tends to overemphasize the number of bids going to each conference. While it’s easy to make that generalization, I haven’t seen any evidence, in many years of watching the bubble, that the SC considers a conference “capped” at a certain arbitrary number of bids, or conversely, that there’s a minimum number of bids that go to each power conference. They have always insisted that bubble teams are compared directly to each other, not to other bubble teams in their conference, and the years seem to bear that out.

Much of the pessimism that surrounds the Wildcats stems from the idea that “the Big East can’t get __ teams into the tournament.” The Big East has a lot to do with it, to be sure, given that the BE drives the Wildcats’ RPI and SOS, but that’s already baked into the pie, so to speak. The Big East will get, by and large, the number of teams that deserve to make it. The SC recognizes that conferences are larger now, and that it’s not really fair to compare the bid process when the Big East had nine schools, in the 1980s, to the bid process when it has sixteen teams. (Likewise, the ACC had just nine schools, into the 2000s, and now has twelve.)

It happens to be a fortuitous coincidence that the Wildcats, Orangemen, and Huskies will play each other down the stretch, and probably in the first round in New York (all three will likely fall in the 7-8-9-10 seed range, with 7 playing 10 and 8 playing 9 on the first day). But what happens to Syracuse and UConn generally only will adversely affect ‘Nova, no more or no less than the performances from bubble teams from the Mountain West or ACC would. (Except, obviously, if they happen to beat ‘Nova head-to-head in either the regular season or conference tournament.)

Questions? Comments? Information? You can contact

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wildcats Fall in 54-Foul-Marred Feud at #16 Marquette, 80-67

Villanova faced Marquette in Milwaukee, for the first time in over four decades, on Monday, February 19, 2007. The last time the schools had met there was February 10, 1967, 40 years and nine days earlier. Much has changed for both schools and the NCAA landscape during that span – among them, the abolition of the one-and-one on five team fouls and the addition of the right to shoot two shots at the 10th foul. These provisions were wisely added in order to avoid games such as the one that took place on Monday in Milwaukee. However, had he been present, a visitor from 1967 would have actually seen a style of play, with which he’d have been familiar: a long game, with a boatload of fouls on both teams, and a dreary back-and-forth march from foul line to foul line, down the stretch. #16 Marquette was able to stymie Villanova, 80-67, in an ugly, foul-marred game that saw no fewer than 54 fouls (ironically, with 27 called on each team) at the Bradley Center.

Marquette snapped a three-game losing streak and virtually assured itself of a NCAA bid: it was their ninth conference victory, and they are now assured of finishing over .500 in conference play, the final obstacle to being able to relax on Selection Sunday. The Golden Eagles improved their record to 9-5 Big East and 22-7 overall. Unfortunately for Villanova, the Wildcats dipped to 6-7 Big East, 18-9 overall – it was their second loss to a ranked opponent in three days, as ‘Nova fell to then-#14 Georgetown on Saturday at the Wachovia Center. They have just three regular-season games remaining to right the ship, although ‘Nova’s already high RPI will only be enhanced by adding the Marquette loss.

There was an unlikely hero for Marquette. Freshman Lazar Hayward scored a career-high 18 points on 5-7 shooting, before fouling out down the stretch (his 18 points came in just 28 minutes). A more likely hero was sophomore Domenic James, who matched Hayward’s 18 points, and added five assists, three rebounds and a pair of steals. The best line in the box score came from Wesley Matthews (who took a nasty fall in the first half diving for a loose ball, but eventually returned). Matthews finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, while being perfect at the free throw line, from which he took a dozen shots. As a team, Marquette (which had ranked next-to-last in the Big East in free-throw accuracy) shot 31-35 from the line, an astonishing 88.6%.

For Villanova, Scottie Reynolds had 25 points, but he did not have a good game running the point, committing five turnovers against a pair of assists. Curtis Sumpter had 14 points and five rebounds, while Mike Nardi (in a substantial improvement from last year’s Marquette game at the Pavilion), finished with 10 points on 3-6 shooting, while playing just 22 minutes. Of the eight Wildcats who saw action, Shane Clark fouled out and Reynolds, Sumpter and Dante Cunningham each finished with four fouls. (Bilal Benn returned from his one-game absence against Georgetown, playing 13 minutes but scoring just a single point.)

In marked contrast to the loss to Georgetown two days earlier, this was a painful game to watch. Villanova matched Marquette in the first half, going to the locker room deadlocked at 33, but gradually watched the Golden Eagles pull away in the second half. The 80 points yielded were a high, the first time since January 17, that a Villanova opponent has reached the 80-point plateau (The Wildcats defeated Notre Dame by 15 points, in a 102-87 victory at the Pavilion.) Granted, 31 points were scored at the foul line, but the high number of fouls also indicates that ‘Nova was permitting the Golden Eagles too many possessions and too much penetration, hence there were more fouls which needed to be committed.

The game started very early in Milwaukee on Presidents' Day, with a 6 PM tip Central Time to accommodate ESPN. The Marquette students got a lot of face time, and furnished a far more lively performance, than the interminable, foul-plagued game itself. Among others, there was a “Merry Presidents’ Day” sign, but they honored the heroes of the NCAA pantheon as well, waving giant heads-on-sticks of ESPN”s Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, etc. There was also a pair of “Blues Brothers” (Chicago is just 90 minutes away).

Next Up for the Wildcats

Villanova will have a respite, returning home all week to await a weak Rutgers team on Senior Day, Saturday, February 24, 2007, at the Pavilion. I will have a comprehensive preview later in the week.

Questions? Comments? Information? You can e-mail publisher@villa

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Villanova @ #12 Marquette Preview, Big Monday, February 19, 2007

The Wildcats will face the #12 Marquette Golden Eagles on Monday, February 19, 2007, at 7 PM (Big Monday) at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. A comprehensive preview…

The Viewpoint on the #12 Marquette Golden Eagles

Coach: Tom Crean - 8th season at Marquette, 163-83 career record.

2006-07 Season Analysis - 8-5 Big East, 21-7 overall, RPI rank #. They were ranked #12 prior to Monday’s poll.

Nonconference Schedule

The Golden Eagles played a passable non-Big East schedule. There were three games against significant opponents:

1) a stunning,11-point win over then-#9 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, back on November 21, 2006;
2) a 15-point victory over Bob Knight’s odious Texas Tech squad, back on November 20,2006.
3) a narrow, four-point home loss to in-state rival, then #11 (now-#2) Wisconsin on December 9, 2006.

Outside of those three games, the Golden Eagles routed a series of weak opponents, but also managed to lose to one of them at the Bradley Center: they fell to unheralded North Dakota State on December 2, 2006, 64-60. They did have the courage to go to tiny Valparaiso, a one-time giant-killer in the NCAA tournament, and defeated the Crusaders, 65-62.

Big East Schedule

Marquette began Big East play on January 4, 2007, and has remained in conference play since then. The Golden Eagles crashed in their first two games, losing by double-digits @ Providence and vs Syracuse at home. However, they went on a torrid tear for three weeks, winning eight Big East games in a row (just as Georgetown had done, entering Saturday’s game @ Villanova, aftet which the Hoyas extended their streak to nine). During that span, they defeated three ranked opponents (@ then-#6 Pittsburgh, vs. then-#21 West Virginia by 18 points, and @ then-#24 Connecticut). They also won @ Louisville, a difficult home court. After crushing Rutgers by 20,on Wednesday, February 7, 2007, Marquette had a glittering 8-2 Big East record, and seemed poised to challenge Pittsburgh for the regular-season Big East title.

However, the Golden Eagles have once again descended to earth, suffering defeat in each of their last three games. At then-#22 Georgetown, the Hoyas thumped them by 18 points; when they went to DePaul, the Blue Demons upset them. Finally, the Cardinals avenged the Freedom Hall defeat on Saturday, February 17, 2007, topping the Golden Eagles at the Bradley Center, 61-59. The game ended on a buzzer-beater by Louisville’s Jerry Smith, a triple which erased Marquette’s 59-58 lead at the buzzer. After over two minutes reviewing the play on the monitor, the officials verified that Smith had launched the buzzer-beater just before time expired.

Which brings us to Monday, February 19, 2007, and their hosting of Villanova.

Marquette’s concern now is no longer winning the regular-season championship but just finishing in the top four, in order to get a bye in New York City in March. Short of this losing streak continuing throughout February, the Golden Eagles are pretty much a lock for the NCAA tournament. Even if they lost their last three, they’d still be 8-8 in conference play. In addition, all three opponents are strong in RPI terms (the other two games are @ Notre Dame and a home rematch with Pitt): none would hurt Marquette’s tourney profile.

That having been said, down-the-stretch play is an issue with NCAA seeding. Marquette certainly needs to finish over .500 in Big East play to draw a decent seed, and avoiding having to play on the first day in New York greatly enhances the Golden Eagles’ chances of a deep BE tournament run.

Marquette Starters/Rotation


#1 Dominic James - 5-11 - Sophomore - Guard - 15.1 points/2.9 rebounds/4.6 assists/2.6 TOs/2.0 steals/33.0 minutes/ per game (Richmond, IN)

James is the engine that drives the Marquette offense – he leads the team in scoring and assists.

#22 Jerel McNeal - 6-3 - Sophomore - Guard - 14.6 points/4.7 rebounds/3.9 assists/4.1 turnovers/2.7 steals/30.2 min/per game (Chicago, IL)

McNeal has tremendous difficulty in avoiding foul trouble, as his 3.4 fouls per game indicate.

#23 Wesley Matthews - 6-5- Sophomore - Guard - 11.9 points/5.2 rebounds/2.1 assists/2.4 turnovers/1.5 steals/31.3 min/per game (Madison, WI)

Matthews nearly had a double-double in the loss @ DePaul, finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds.

#41 Ouswane Barro - 6-10 - Junior - Forward - 8.7 points/7.0 rebounds/1.0 blocks/27.6 min per game (Dakar, Senegal)

Entering the loss to Louisville on Saturday, Barro had been rebounding very effectively, averaging over 10 rebounds per game in the Golden Eagles’ three previous contests.

#32 Lazar Hayward - 6-6 - Freshman - Forward - 6.0 points/3.6 rebounds/14.6 min per game (Buffalo, NY)

Hayward has made only 10 starts, as his low minutes indicate. He started against Louisville on Saturday, February 17, 2007, and I assume he will start against Villanova. He tied his career-high with 14 points in the loss @ Georgetown.

Off the Bench

#5 Dan Fitzgerald - 6-9 - Junior - Forward - 7.0 points/3.8 rebounds/20.8 min per game (St. Paul, MN, via Tulane University)

Fitzgerald has started seven games this year. He tied his season-high in the recent loss @ DePaul, finishing with 16 points.

#10 David Cubillan - 6-0 - Freshman - Guard - 4.6 points/1.8 rebounds/1.5 assists/20.1 min/per game (Mara Caibo, Venezuela)

#51 Jamil Lott - 6-7 - Senior - Forward - 2.5 points/2.1 rebounds/11.2 mins/per game (St. Paul, MN, via North Dakota State College of Science)

Series History

Marquette did not begin facing Villanova regularly, until it joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season. Ironically, the Golden Eagles were the first opponent faced by the heralded quartet of freshmen (Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Curtis Sumpter, and Jason Fraser), when they took on the Golden Eagles at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2002 (all four are from the metropolitan New York area). But Marquette and Dwyane Wade made easy work of the Wildcats, 73-61. In retrospect, the loss set the tone for a very disappointing season by the 2002-03 Wildcats, who went to their fourth straight NIT despite adding the Fab Four to a strong nucleus from the previous year. It would be 2005 before the class would play in the NCAA tournament. (Note: Sumpter is still around, due to taking a medical redshirt during the 2005-06 season; he’s a fifth-year senior.)

Villanova leads the short series, 6-3, and 1-0 as members of the Big East.

Last season, the teams met at the Pavilion. Villanova, in its most successful season since 1985, emerged with a very difficult victory over the NCAA-bound Golden Eagles, on February 4, 2006. The Wildcats, ranked #4 at the time, had to rally to overcome Marquette, 72-67, behind 28 points from Allan Ray and 24 from Randy Foye. Marquette led by seven points with just 3:30 to go, before Villanova sparked its rally. The key to Marquette’s defeat were the 22 turnovers it committed against the Villanova defense. Of some note was the poor performance of Mike Nardi, who shot only 1-8 from the floor, including missing all half-dozen of his three-point attempts. However, the perspective from last year’s game is difficult, as the majority of Villanova players who participated significantly in last year’s contest are gone. Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark, both sophomores, combined for just 24 minutes, but are now significant members of the rotation. Four Golden Eagles reached double figures, led by the now-departed Steve Novak, who had 18 points. Of that quartet of scorers, James and McNeal are still around, and they both shot well against the ‘Nova defense.

Note: The #8 seed Wildcats faced #9 seed Mississippi at the Bradley Center, in the opening round of the 1999 NCAA tournament. Ole Miss hung on to win, when the team led by Howard Brown, John Celestand, and Malik Allen had three chances to tie the game on the final possession, but could not get a tying shot to drop. Although nobody expected it at the time, it would be six years before the Wildcats would return to the NCAA tournament, in 2005. From 2000-2004, ‘Nova was consigned to five consecutive NITs (the first two under Steve Lappas and the back three under Jay Wright).

What to Expect

Marquette is a very young team. There is just one senior in the rotation, and the five starters include three sophomores and a freshman. They had a very successful season last year, finishing in the top four and escaping the first round in New York (although they did quickly exit in the quarterfinals to Georgetown). The Golden Eagles ended up qualifying for the NCAA tournament as a #7 seed, falling to #10 seed Alabama, 90-85, in the first round in San Diego. The game was delayed for 70 minutes due to a bomb scare in Cox Arena, the San Diego State venue hosting the event. It was Marquette’s 24th NCAA tournament appearance, and their storied history includes a national title under Al McGuire. The first-round exit was a disappointing end for Marquette, which was making its first NCAA trip, since the Dwyane Wade team reached the Final Four back in 2003.

This is one of the rare, critically important games for both teams. Neither has absolutely secured a NCAA bid as of yet, although both are likely to go, and the team that wins Monday night will have taken a giant step toward being safe on Selection Sunday. Villanova probably needs it more, with an inferior conference record, but Marquette is coming off three straight losses, including the painful buzzer-beater to Louisville on Saturday. They also have more difficult games the rest of the way.

Villanova Update

The Wildcats (6-6 Big East, 18-8 overall) are coming off a disappointing 58-55 loss to #14 Georgetown, at the Wachovia Center on Saturday. While the Hoyas entered the game red-hot, Villanova should have hung on to win, failing to hold an 11-point first-half lead and also losing control in the waning minutes. The Wildcats took a 55-51 lead and then permitted Georgetown to score the final seven points. The Hoyas triumphed despite the complete shutdown of star center Roy Hibbert, who was nearly shut out entirely in both contests with Villanova this season (the Wildcats won @ Georgetown on January 8, 2006).

‘Nova has a very strong RPI, and if the Wildcats can reach 8-8 in Big East play, it would be almost impossible to keep them out of the NCAA tournament. Villanova has one easy game left (Rutgers at the Pavilion) and three difficult ones (@ Marquette, @ an increasingly desperate Connecticut, and Syracuse at the Wachovia Center). Winning two of the four should do it, but two victories are far from certain.

I’ll have a full recap after the game.

Questions? Comments? Information? You can e-mail publisher@villa

Saturday, February 17, 2007

#14 Hoyas Rally, Scoring Final 7 Pts Of Game To Top Villanova at Wachovia Center, 58-55

Villanova could not seize the opportunity to assure itself of a NCAA bid on Saturday, February 17, 2007, against #14 Georgetown, at the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia. Trailing 55-51, the Hoyas rallied to score the final seven points of the contest, and win their ninth straight game.

Georgetown improved to 10-2 Big East, 20-5 overall, led by Jeff Green's 19 points on 8-15 shooting, and a career-high eight blocks. Georgetown's victory was that much more impressive due to the fact that star center Roy Hibbert sat on the bench for most of the game, due to a quick slide into foul trouble. He finished with only four points. Jesse Sapp's 16 points were also crucial to the Georgetown victory, in particular a 55-foot desperation heave at the end of the first half which somehow went in.

The Wildcats saw their four-game winning streak end, dropping to 6-6 Big East, 18-8 overall. Scottie Reynolds, playing with foul trouble, scored 18 points on 7-14 shooting; Curtis Sumpter added 15 points on 4-11 shooting.

Georgetown avenged a 56-52 loss to Villanova in Washington, DC, on Monday, January 8, and beat the Wildcats for the first time in its last four tries.

So how did Georgetown survive? Read on...

Hibbert picked up his first foul on the opening possession, and after picking up his second foul prior to the under-16-minute TV timeout, was confined to the bench by JT III for the balance of the half (although not before he had the - probably unexpected - chance to be guarded one-on-one by Mike Nardi for one possession.)

Unusual signal early in the first half – there was a warning by one of the officials to VU, not to touch the basketball, after a field goal. After blowing the whistle, the official then gave a sweeping signal that resembled the “incomplete pass” signal in football, but one which I had not previously seen. The ESPN broadcasters helped the viewers by explaining the unexpected whistle and signal’s meaning, concisely.

There were frequent, spectacular dunks by Georgetown. With Hibbert in foul trouble, Patrick Ewing, Jr. played a lot (his jersey number actually is his father's 33, but makes the important generational distinction of “Ewing Jr” on the back. Scottie Reynolds was on fire, during the end of the first half, helping Villanova to increase its lead.

However, what probably kept the Hoyas in good morale, was a genuinely incredible, 55-foot, beyond half-court, desperation buzzer-beater by Jesse Sapp to make it 29-27. The final minutes were unusual, VU had the ball with 41 seconds (and change), did not score, but GU in transition lost possession and returned it to VU with 19 seconds (and change) left. This was highly significant (or appeared to be.) Not only would GU not take the final shot, thus depriving the Hoyas of a chance to score – but it also added a free possession to ‘Nova.

At least it seemed that way, before Nardi waited – properly, 99.9% of the time – long enough to shoot, to prevent Georgetown from scoring.. But the miracle shot went in, giving the Hibbert-less Hoyas a huge momentum boost going into the locker room, and triggering some quiet awe from the Villanova partisans. It was the culmination of a 9-0 GU run that ended the half. VU’s lead had been 29-18 – now it was 29-27. In addition, Reynolds, Cunningham, and Sumpter had all been whistled for their second fouls during this stretch. Even without Hibbert, though, the Hoyas were controlling the paint. Georgetown only averages four blocks a game, as a team. However, they already had eight blocks, in just the first half. Jeff Green was the force in the paint for the Hoyas, making up for Hibbert's absence.

By the under-16 timeout of the second half, Hibbert still had no shots and only five touches, all at the foul line or beyond (i.e., not in the paint). Hibbert was making his presence felt on the defensive end, twice forcing Villanova into jump balls with his interior defense.

At the 13:36 mark, Reggie Redding - a product of Philadelphia's St. Joseph's Prep - attempted to drive on Hibbert, and managed to get Hibbert his 3rd personal foul. Orthodoxy would dictate that JT III remove him, given that the score was now 39-39 (he left him on the bench during the entire first half, during all of which Georgetown trailed, sometimes significantly). But Hibbert stayed in. Redding made one of the two FTs to put VU up, 40-39.

Staying with Hibbert, Georgetown would gain the lead for the first time at 42-40. At the 12:12 mark, Hibbert finally got the ball in the lane, but was fouled by Dante Cunningham before he could shoot, so he still had no shot attempts, as GU got the ball on the side. At the 11:48 mark, Hibbert finally got a shot, and scored - it was GU up by four, 44-40. It was a 15-3 GU run at this point, GU's largest lead.

There appeared to be reason for optimism among the Wildcat faithful, however, when at 10:50:

Hibbert – just having finally broken through the VU defense, after 68 minutes of being prevented from shooting – committed a foolish foul, after VU drove to the lane and successfully rebounded the ball. He got whistled for his 4th foul; with GU still up 44-40, obviously, JT III had no choice but to remove him.

Sheridan hit a basket from the corner to make it 44 all. Georgetown seemed to have recovered a bit by gettting Reynolds's fourth foul at the 8:06 mark, as he was defending Green. In consequence, Jay Wright had to send Reynolds to the bench, of course. When Sumpter hit a three from the corner, while being defended, to put 'Nova back up 48-46, JT III opted to return Hibbert to the game. To his credit, Hibbert managed to stay in the game and never fouled out.

With less than four minutes left, Wright sent Reynolds back in - and he drained what appeared to be the game-deciding shot, boosting the Wildcats’ late lead to 55-51 with just 3:26 to play, and engaging the huge crowd in the contest.

The under-4-minute timeout saw the Wildcats clinging to a 55-53 lead with 2:29 to play and 9 seconds on the shot clock (Hibbert had scored the second of his two buckets). However, the 'Cats were unable to complete a shot (the 13th Georgetown block of the day), and lost possession due to the shot-clock expiration, a costly blunder. At the other end, however, Sheridan made what Villanova fans hoped would be the decisive defensive play. As Hibbert attempted to go to the hoop, Sheridan was able to block his shot, which Cunningham rebounded. Villanova called timeout at 1:53, with the lead and the ball, and Sheridan and Redding enthusiastically chest-bumping as they sprinted to the bench.

At this point, it unraveled for VU. They simply couldn't score. Georgetown closed it to 55-54, and on the ensuing possession, Nardi was forced to call a timeout with 43.9 seconds left and just 3 on the shot clock. Coming out of the timeout, VU once again was hit with a shot-clock violation. After a timeout of their own in the offensive end with 32.8 seconds remaining, the Hoyas retook the lead at 56-55. Villanova took its last timeout to consider its options.

Ultimately, Wright used a play designed to free Shane Clark (undoubtedly, not whom Georgetown expected to be taking such a game-winning shot) in the corner for a three. Clark had a great look, but it didn't go down. Green rebounded it and was fouled with 3.8 seconds to go. After making both, Reynolds dribbled speedily to the other end, and did manage to launch an off-balance, but reasonably clear three-pointer that would have counted had it gone in - but it didn't. Game over, Georgetown 58, Villanova 55.

Despite the low score, this was a marvelously entertaining game to watch. Granted, today's score is more likely to be conjuring up images of a more traditional Villanova/Georgetown game in the 50s- such as the Villanova victory on January 8, where the Hoyas committed 22 turnovers. They had only 11 today - and the Wildcats had only seven. There were great plays made on both sides, and Georgetown, particularly in the first half, had some spectacular dunks, some coming off the Princeton-offense backdoor cuts. (The most stunning was one from young Ewing over Mike Nardi.)

What is particularly frustrating, is that Villanova had three clear chances to seize this game, but was unable to put Georgetown away. The Wildcats led by 11 points in the first half and had Hibbert forced to the bench with foul trouble. The Hoyas rallied even without him, and reduced the deficit to 29-27 at halftime. The second opportunity came after Villanova had raced out to a 37-29 lead at the beginning of the second half, with Hibbert remaining uninvolved in the contest due to foul trouble and successful defense, particularly by Will Sheridan. The Hoyas rallied a second time.

Finally, there was Reynolds’ triple, right after coming back in with four fouls. The freshman drained what appeared to be the game-deciding shot, boosting the Wildcats’ late lead to 55-51 with just 3:26 to play, and engaging the huge crowd in the contest. Unfortunately, Villanova was unable to score for the rest of the contest, despite numerous timeouts (official, and called by both teams) to set up plays. And when Villanova did get open shots, down the stretch, they missed.

Of some concern is the lack of scoring output: Villanova’s 55 points were a season low, beating the pair of 56s from earlier in the season, against West Virginia and St. Joseph's. Villanova has plenty of offensive scoring weapons (Sumpter, Reynolds, Nardi, and to an increasing degree, Cunningham), and it appears that shooting accuracy (as opposed to turnovers, rebounding, etc.) is the biggest obstacle to victories for the rest of the season. The Wildcats shot only 35% today and lost despite having more rebounds and fewer turnovers. (Consider this statistic: VU had 18 field goals, while Georgetown had 14 blocked shots. When the opponent blocks almost as many shots as you make, you're in trouble.)

Of interest: Villanova used only seven players today. Bilal Benn, despite seeing his minutes sharply increase recently, and with Reynolds sinking into foul trouble, never even made it into the game. As expected, Dwayne Anderson saw no time, either.

Silver Lining

If anything, it was a home loss where there will not be much fallout, other than the opportunity-cost of securing a NCAA bid and needing to find another win somewhere in conference play to make it to 8-8. Georgetown had won its previous eight contests by a high, double-digit margin, and in contrast, the Hoyas had to really battle, in order to escape Philadelphia with a win. Redding and Sheridan also had top-notch games. Sheridan played more minutes than he has been recently, with outstanding defense to go with some boards (he had half a dozen rebounds in 27 minutes). Redding contributed half a dozen points in just 16 minutes.

This was of no importance, but at the under-4-minute TV timeout in the first half, the VU pep band played a fine rendition of the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean, a great pep band song.

Next Up For the Wildcats

Villanova will need to shake off the loss quickly, as the Wildcats must fly to Milwaukee immediately, to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles on Monday, February 19, 2007. It will be their second game against a ranked opponent in three days.

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