The American University student paper, The Eagle, has a staff writer blogging his experiences following the Eagles. In today's edition, "We're Dancin' Again: Back in the NCAA Tournament", author Mike Unger has a substantive quote from American coach Jeff Jones, analyzing potential strategy and discussing the assignment to Philadelphia. Unger also interviewed one of American's starters (and leading shot blocker) Jordan Nichols. I was so impressed by this blog, that I've temporarily included it in the Various Viewpoints feed that you see over on the right sidebar...
Jones - the former star player and 1990s coach at Virginia - on facing Villanova in Philadelphia:
"It's certainly not ideal, but there's nothing we can do about it, so we're not going to spend a whole lot of time worrying about it. Bottom line, we've been in those situations before. I think we've got 11 road wins this season, so we're accustomed to being on the road. I think we certainly will have decent representation from American. My guess would be that the VCU crowd, if we can keep things close and make things interesting, the VCU crowd will jump on our bandwagon. That kind of happened a year ago down in Birmingham. If you looked around, Tennessee probably had more Volunteer Orange than any other color, but we were able to hang in there and have a shot, at least for a while all the other teams' fans got behind us. If we can hang in there, that might happen on Thursday night as well."Jones on Villanova's strategy:
"Statistically, you look at the number of free throws they've shot. That shows they're an aggressive team. They're not going to settle just for jump shots. Dante Cunningham, their biggest player, can nail the 16- to 17-foot jump shot. Scottie Reynolds can put the ball on the floor, both the Coreys can put the ball on the floor. They really attack you and force you to guard. One of the keys for us will be fighting and moving our feet to stay in front of them."Unger relayed a student question for Jones, on "how AU is going to go about trying to guard Cunningham and Reynolds, and whose job that will be:"
"Their mentality is they're going to attack the rim. One of the things in talking to the people we did talk to, they describe Villanova as being every bit as physical as Pittsburgh, just not with those real big bodies."
"It will be a collective effort, but certainly Derrick will get a good close and personal look at Reynolds, and Jordan Nichols will be the match-up for Dante Cunningham, but they aren't going to be able to do it by themselves. We're going to have to do a good job with help defense, trying to take away some of the driving lanes that Scottie Reynolds has."In the same post, Unger interviews Nichols, who faced none other than Wildcats Scottie Reynolds, Dante Cunningham, and Dwayne Anderson, while playing for DeMatha High School in Maryland. He also discusses the importance of American staying out of foul trouble, and their reaction to being assigned to nearby Philadelphia... In Nichols's own words...
"With Dante Cunningham, he's so good at using the ball screens, the pick and pop situations, shooting that mid-range shot, so we've got to handle those situations well. It's a collective effort. It's simplistic to think how you defend players like that is simply at the half-court defensively. I think how we play offensively, not allowing ourselves to take quick, bad shots, not allowing ourselves to turn the ball over and allowing them to get out in open court situations, all those things go hand in hand to put ourselves in the best position possible to make them work. I don't know that we're necessarily going to be able to stop those guys, they're really, really good. We want to make them work for everything they're going to get."
On Cunningham, Anderson, and Reynolds:
"Cunningham and Anderson I played against St. John's. Cunningham was maybe the best player in our conference. When I was a senior I played against Scottie Reynolds, and he dropped about 50 on us, at American actually. We still won, but he dropped 50 on us. All those players were great when I played against them - they're phenomenal players."
"Just like I've gotten better and changed as a player, I'm sure [Cunningham] is probably a much different player than he was in high school. They have him doing a whole lot with the ball in his hands, inside and out. I don't think what I learned in high school is going to help me out there right now, I'm going to need some help from my teammates to guard him, because he's a prolific player."
|Nichols on foul trouble:|
"Staying out of foul trouble is going to be very, very key for us, especially with the way they attack the rim and get to the free throw line a lot. A few quick fouls on a couple of our guys and that would really put us in a lot of trouble."
|Nichols on heading to Philly:|
"It was a mixed reaction. Some of the guys were dreaming of Miami. But Philadelphia, the more everyone thinks about it, I think we're getting really excited about it. We should have a good fan base out there, the trip won't take too much out of us. It's just like driving up to Lafayette or Lehigh, except we're playing in front of 22,000 instead of 2,200."
Here is the direct link to this fine American Eagles-focused blog - "Marching Through March" by Mike Unger.
Check back for more posts, further previewing Villanova's NCAA first-round opponent...