Sunday, March 15, 2009

#3 Villanova Faces #14 American in NCAA First Round in Philadelphia on Thursday!!!

To the Wildcat faithful-

The headline says it all...

Villanova/American Rivalry History

As the teams are separated by only about 140 miles, most of it highway, it is not surprising that they have met eight times. Villanova has swept all of them, and the last game was in December 1993.

The first meeting was on February 20, 1932, at American's home court. The Wildcats won by the margin of 25-19. It took another 32 years before they would play once more, at what is now Jake Nevin Field House, on January 30, 1964. This time it wasn't as close, as Villanova won 84-49. The Wildcats returned the favor during the following season, on December 10, 1964, and won 65-48.

Another decade passed, and the teams opted to play a home-and-home series, during the 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons. The Eagles made their first trip to the Palestra, where the Wildcats triumphed, 68-55, on December 5, 1975. Returning to AU, Villanova won 69-60 on December 6, 1976.

Fifteen years elapsed before the next meeting. Judging from the dates, it appears that a "two-for-one" home-and-home series was arranged, which is not unusual, in circumstances when a power conference team schedules a non-power conference team. The non-power conference team lacks the leverage to negotiate a true home-and-home, so they offer to go twice in return for one return trip.

So the Eagles flew into the Pavilion for the first time on December 14, 1991, to face Rollie Massimino's final Wildcats team - and Villanova won 78-64. When Steve Lappas, a former Villanova assistant, took over the team the following season - he made his debut as a head coach at nowhere other than AU's Bender Arena (a very good venue, if you've never had occasion to see it) on December 5, 1992. This was the worst team Villanova has had in the Big East era (before or since), as it ultimately went 8-19. They did, however, have enough to get past the host Eagles, 86-74, to start Lappas off at 1-0 as the head coach at Villanova. After the trip back from DC, though, things didn't go well the rest of the season, as the team won only seven more games, making neither the NCAA nor the NIT, for the first time in 13 years.

American completed the two-for-one agreement by returning to the Pavilion on December 1, 1993, where they were crushed, 94-62, by the Wildcats, who would eventually win the NIT that season. The teams haven't met since then.

Some things have changed, of course. At the time of the two-for-one series in the early 1990s, AU was a member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), a good mid-major conference with a knack for pulling off big upsets in the NCAA tournament (Richmond, a member at the time, and most recently George Mason's Cinderella Final Four run). Since then, AU has moved down to the Patriot League, a conference of fine academic institutions that is a low-major conference.

Of course, there will be a lot more to come, so check back later - but in the meantime....

Go Wildcats!

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