Monday, March 09, 2009

Villanova Big East Tournament History - Part 1

To the Wildcat faithful-

Here is Part 1 of the Villanova Big East Tournament History... Enjoy...

Villanova Big East Tournament History - Part 1

This will be the Wildcats’ 29th Big East tournament. Surprisingly, despite being a frequent powerhouse within the conference, Villanova has won the tournament just once -in 1995, behind Kerry Kittles, Jonathan Haynes, Alvin Williams, Jason Lawson, Eric Eberz, Chuck Kornegay, and Zeffy Penn, under coach Steve Lappas.

If the Big East had always been as large as its current swollen 16-team alignment, the fact that ‘Nova has only won it once would not be as surprising. However, for the first decade of its existence, there were only nine teams. After Miami joined in 1991-92, there were only ten until the next major expansion, to 13, in 1995-96, when Rutgers, West Virginia, and Notre Dame were added.

During the 1990s, moreover, the top three teams (i.e., those most likely to win the tournament anyhow) would receive byes to the quarterfinals, meaning that effectively, they just had to win an eight-team tournament – such as the fortunate position in which Villanova finds itself this season, having secured a first-round (and second-round) bye.

The 1980s – Rollie Massimino and the Nine-Team Era

(Note: “#” signs in this section refer to Big East seeding, not national ranking, for ease of typing.)

The first six participating teams, from 1981-86, all advanced to the NCAA tournament. Right now, we'll just cover 1981-84...


1981 - Villanova's First Big East Tournament

Villanova’s first Big East tournament was the second-ever, as the Wildcats joined in the second year of existence, 1980-81 (the conference had been formed with the understanding that ‘Nova would join, but it wasn’t formally done until the following year). Ironically, 28 tournaments later, it remains arguably the most exciting ever, although with a heartbreaking result.

1981 - Villanova's First Big East Tournament

In the early days of the Big East, the tournament wasn’t even initially played in Madison Square Garden! In 1981, the Carrier Dome hosted the second Big East tournament… The Wildcats went 8-6 in their maiden Big East voyage, finishing in a third-place tie and receiving the fourth seed. Playing in their first Big East tournament, the #4 Wildcats faced the #5 Huskies in the quarterfinals, and defeated them 65-54. They then met the top-seeded Providence Friars and upset PC in overtime, 58-49.

Then came the crushing blow. Facing the Orangemen on their home floor, the Wildcats battled through an epic, triple-overtime clash for the ages – but finally succumbed, 83-80. Alex Bradley and John Pinone were named to the all-tournament team.


Villanova captured its first outright Big East regular-season title, going 11-3 in conference play, and the tournament was shifted to the Hartford Civic Center. Villanova easily eliminated Seton Hall, 88-73, in the quarterfinals, and eked out a victory over Boston College, 74-71, in the semifinals, returning to the title game. However, Georgetown and Patrick Ewing (then a freshman) pummeled the Wildcats, 72-54, to take the championship.


The tournament moved (permanently, as it turned out) to Madison Square Garden in New York City. Villanova shared the regular-season title with a 12-4 mark, and received the #2 seed. The Wildcats squeaked past #7 Connecticut, 69-68, in a thriller, but then fell to the de facto home team, St. John’s, 91-80, in the semifinals.


Villanova went 12-4 once more, but this year it was only good enough for a shared second-place finish and a #3 seed. Villanova got past #6 Pittsburgh 75-65 in the quarterfinals, but fell in another heartbreaker to Syracuse, just as they had three years earlier at the Carrier Dome, by a 66-65 margin. (Although at least, this time, it didn’t require triple overtime.)

Additional chapters for subsequent tournaments will come later,
as will a preview of Villanova's quarterfinal game against an undetermined opponent, so check back...

Go Wildcats!

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged. Also, you can e-mail (Important note: This is a different e-mail address than before. Please use this new one.)

No comments: