A preview for Providence's 18th visit to the Pavilion, in the Big East regular-season finale for both teams... The Friars will be travelling to the Pavilion for the first time in over three years - their last trip to the on-campus venue was on February 5, 2005, in which Villanova triumphed, 89-81...
The #11 Wildcats enter the game at 12-5 Big East, 24-6 overall... the Friars come in at 10-7 Big East, 18-11 overall, and stand a good chance of receiving an at-large NCAA bid later this month... but they could certainly use a great win @ Villanova to bolster their standing in the eyes of the Selection Committee...
Villanova has won the last five games in the series, beginning with that Pavilion clash in 2005. Providence's last victory in the series was way back on Feb. 11, 2004, when they hung an extremely unpleasant century mark on the Wildcats at the Pavilion, 100-74, in one of the worst defeats for Villanova in the 21st century and arguably the worst ever at the Pavilion in its two-decade-plus existence. (Ironically, after being swept that year in the regular season, Villanova managed to beat Providence in the Big East tournament a month later. 'Nova is 6-1 against Providence in Big East tournament play.)
Villanova leads the all-time series, 49-34, in a rivalry which long predates the formal association of the Big East nearly three decades ago. The first meeting between the schools took place on February 15, 1936, at Providence, with the Friars winning 46-37. The teams played four more times up till 1940, with Villanova winning all of them; the series was then discontinued for nearly two decades. It was resumed when Providence visited the Palestra in 1959 and 1962, winning both games. In the 1964 NCAA tournament, the only time the two schools have met there, Jack Kraft's Wildcats won 77-66.
Perhaps due to these meetings, Providence and Villanova battled every year, following that NCAA tournament clash, up to the formal creation of the Big East (which was formed in 1980, with Villanova joining in its second year, 1980-81). Since then, both teams have met frequently in conference play. As members of the Big East, Villanova leads 29-21 in regular season play, and if the wide margin in BE tournament games is added, 35-22. At the Pavilion, which opened in 1985-86, Villanova is 12-5 against Providence.
One particularly memorable Pavilion game was, ironically, a loss, on February 20, 1999. Led by an incredible performance from Jamal Thomas, Providence devastated the Wildcats, 90-84. At the time, it appeared that the loss doomed the Wildcats to the NIT. However, the Howard Brown/John Celestand/Malik Allen-led team rallied and punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament by upsetting #8 St. John's at the Pavilion a week later. It was the fourth and final appearance for Villanova in the NCAA tournament under Steve Lappas, the immediate predecessor of Jay Wright.
Jay Wright is 8-4 lifetime against Providence, since he took the helm of the Wildcats in the 2001-02 season... Villanova will be looking to sweep the season series from the Friars; the Wildcats nearly lost a huge lead up at Providence back on Feb. 4, before surviving with a three-point victory - you can read my recap - #17 Villanova Hangs On for Wild Win at Providence, 94-91 - of that game...
This is the first time, since the 2004-05 season, that the longtime rivals have met twice in one year. During the 2005-06 season, the schools did not meet at all, the first time that had happened since the 1961-62 season. Villanova joined the Big East in its second year of existence (1980-81), but had been meeting PC regularly for almost two decades prior to that.
The twice-a-year series this season, is a throwback not just to the far-smaller Big East of nine teams (and ten teams, after Miami joined in 1991-92), but to the short-lived divisional setup of the early 21st century. Under that setup, Villanova and Providence were in the same division, and thus played a home-and-home series every year. That was much better than the current setup, as the rivalries were easier to maintain when there was a fixed group of teams that you played twice every year...
Also, for more on Providence, go over to the awesome Friars site at Friarblog.com, which is the premier unofficial site for all things Providence...
And make sure that you visit the other Villanova blogs for their take on the upcoming battle with the Friars:
- Pete at Let's Go 'Nova
- I Bleed Blue and White
- greyCat at Villanova By the Numbers
- Tim at Nova News
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