The #13 Villanova Wildcats must take on West Virginia on Friday night, February 13 - a date which, for superstitious reasons, has been perceived as unlucky. The confluence of a pair of 13s could be viewed as a bad omen.
Ironically, though, the Wildcats will be gunning for the exact opposite- i.e., a traditionally lucky number. Seven, to be precise - a victory would mean their seventh straight triumph. #13 Villanova will be taking its 8-3 Big East, 20-4 overall record to one of the most difficult homecourts in all of college basketball, the Coliseum in Morgantown.
Fortunately, 'Nova doesn't have to make this trip too often, thanks to the swollen size of the current Big East. This is only Villanova's second trip to the unfriendly confines in the last five seasons.
The late tip-time of 9 PM is to accommodate ESPN's Rivalry Week promotion. It is somewhat puzzling that Villanova's two Rivalry Week opponents this season, Marquette and West Virginia, are relative newcomers to the Big East. Nonetheless, tonight will be the 38th time that Villanova has played West Virginia, with the Wildcats leading the series 20-17.
Exactly half - 19 - of those games were played prior to the formation of the Big East. The first meeting was all the way back on January 18, 1938, with WVU winning 44-38 over the visiting Wildcats. The teams met consistently in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But the schools did not play again for over a decade, until the formation of the Eastern Eight, the Big East's direct ancestor. Villanova and West Virginia were rivals in the Eastern Eight, and thus, the teams once again faced each other regularly from 1973-1980.
The rivalry would lay dormant for 16 years, until the Big East expanded from 10 to 13 teams in 1995-96, with West Virginia, Rutgers, and Notre Dame joining. (The first meeting was all the way back on January 18, 1938, with WVU winning 44-38 over the visiting Wildcats. The teams met regularly in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but then did not play again for over a decade, until the formation of the Eastern Eight.)
So to break it down:
In non-Big East games, Villanova leads 10-9; in Big East play, Villanova leads 10-8. At the Coliseum, the Wildcats are 2-4 in Big East play, overall. However, Villanova has dropped its last three games @ WVU, and has not won there in a decade. Their most recent victory was January 23, 1999, when they won 73-62. That team - led by John Celestand, Howard Brown, and Malik Allen - was the fourth and final team which coach Steve Lappas led to the NCAA tournament. They lost a heartbreaker against Ole Miss in the #8-#9 game in the first round in Milwaukee that year.
The most galling loss of the series, since WVU joined the Big East, came during what would be the final season for Lappas. On February 20, 2001, the Wildcats lost in double-overtime in Morgantown, a 107-100 loss for the team remembered as the "Michael Bradley team", due to the single year of eligibility for the superstar center, who had transferred from Kentucky, sat out a year, and then played only his third season of eligibility at 'Nova. He opted for the NBA draft, rather than stay for his fourth year under then-incoming coach Jay Wright. (Wright has subseqently gone 3-5 against WVU, at all venues.)
Full recap after the game.
Please check out what all of the other Villanova bloggers are saying about tonight's game at West Virginia, in:
Various Viewpoints: Other VU Sites' Previews
Pete at Let's Go 'Nova
Chris at I Bleed Blue and White
greyCat at Villanova By the Numbers
Tim at 'Nova News
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Friday, February 13, 2009
Posted by Villanova Viewpoint Publisher at Friday, February 13, 2009