Thursday, March 19, 2009

#3 Villanova/#14 American in NCAA First Round - "Still Preoccupied with 1995" - Where Would An AU Upset Rank In Villanova's NCAA Tournament History?

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

It's time to consider the doomsday scenario- where would an upset by American rank in the history of Villanova in the NCAA tournament?

If you're looking for the Villanova/American preview, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3, and also get the view from an American University blog...

Since the modern incarnation of the 64-team tournament in 1985 - the same year in which Villanova so memorably won the tournament as a #8 seed - the track record for #14 seeds facing #3 seeds is better than one what might think. There have been 80 first-round games between those seeds, and the #14 seed has won 11 times (a little less than 14%). But perhaps the more significant statistic is that it's only happened twice (in 36 opportunities) since 2000, according to Bleacher Report...Why is that?

I speculate that one reason for the increasing futility for the #14 seeds, is the "pod" system which the NCAA installed in 2002. This permits more high-seeded teams (such as Villanova this year) to play close to home (or in the case of this year's Villanova Wildcats, at their quasi-home venue), and thus decreases the possibility of an upset...

"Still Preoccupied with 1995..."

While we're on the subject of #3/#14 upsets, we're going to have to discuss 1995 - one of the eleven aforementioned upsets.

In the worst first-round fiasco in school history, the red-hot Kerry Kittles/Jason Lawson/Alvin Williams/Eric Eberz/Jonathan Haynes team - the only Wildcats squad, before or since, to win the Big East tournament - fell in triple-overtime to #14 Old Dominion, in Albany, NY. ODU was led by Petey Sessoms, a name which is indelibly etched in the mind of any Villanova fan who observed what happened.

The one positive aspect of the disaster (at least in retrospect) is the fact that - we have to acknowledge this - it was a tremendously entertaining and exciting game, even being on the wrong end of it. Triple-overtime in the NCAA tournament. It's one of the games that I best remember of all the tournaments, regardless of the teams which participated.

Of course, Villanova will benefit from the pod system here - the 1995 game was played on a neutral court in Albany. So American's chance to pull off the upset is considerably lower than ODU's was.

However, if you look at it from the opposite perspective, an upset would be that much more impressive. If #14 American were to vanquish #3 Villanova, on its
de facto home court in Philadelphia, there's a pretty good chance that it would be the most significant upset of the entire tournament during the first round. No #16 seed has ever won a game (although a surprisingly large number have come close to doing so), and only four #15 seeds have done so (likewise).

One reason why the 1995 fiasco is so well-remembered, is the fact that Villanova was the trendy team - after the Big East tournament championship - to select to reach the Final Four (and in some of the more optimistic scenarios, win the national championship). This view was widely shared not just by Wildcat partisans, but many of the national analysts. So when that team fell in the first round, it sent shock waves throughout March Madness, nationally.

Keep checking back for more posts on Villanova/American as Thursday progresses, and for complete analysis and recaps...

Go Wildcats! Ground the Eagles!

No comments: