Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Villanova Big East Tournament History - Part 4 - The End of the Rollie Era

To the Wildcat faithful-

Here is Part 4 of the
Villanova Big East Tournament History... and here are the links to Part 1...and Part 2... and Part 3.....

Keep checking back for frequent, new installments, as this week, I chronicle all 28 Big East tournaments in which Villanova has participated... and there will be a preview of fourth-seeded Villanova's Thursday afternoon quarterfinal game against either #5 Marquette or #13 St. John's, the latter defeating Georgetown yesterday.... The Golden Eagles clash with the Red Storm at 2 PM or so on Wednesday...

Part 4 - 1991-92 - The End of the Rollie Era


This would be the end of an era for the Big East conference. After a decade of nine-team membership as a basketball conference, it would be the last year before football’s influence became primary, because Miami would join the conference as the tenth team during the following season. This mandated a 18-game schedule, since at the time, there was a home-and-home series against
every opponent. (This seems unthinkable today, with a 16-team conference, but those were simpler days.)

The most significant ripple effect for the Philadelphia sports scene, however, was the catastrophic decision by Villanova to withdraw from the full City Series round-robin, after the 1991 City Series concluded. The Wildcats would thus become the outcast team for the decade of the 1990s, until the decision was rescinded in 1999, made effective in the 1999-2000 season.

As it turned out, Villanova finished with a 7-9 record, resulting in their lowest finish ever – a tie for seventh-place – and also their lowest Big East seed ever, #8. So the Wildcats finally played in the mordant #8-#9 game, for the right to face top-seeded Syracuse in the quarterfinals.

#8 Villanova barely escaped #9 Boston College, 74-73, and then pulled off its most stunning upset in Big East tournament play, before or since. They stunned #1 Syracuse, 70-68, knocking off the Orangemen for the first time in half a dozen tries, and ending the pattern of futility against them. The victory also ensured a NCAA tournament berth that was far from secure at the end of the regular season: Villanova had finished with a losing record, albeit in the top-rated conference. The run ended in the semifinals, where Seton Hall held off an upset, 74-72.
Marc Dowdell was named to the All-Tournament team.

The Wildcats made their second straight NCAA appearance, holding off #9 Princeton, 50-48, in one of the most magnificent and exciting NCAA games in Villanova’s long history. Top-seeded North Carolina ended the Wildcats’ season in the second round, 84-69.


This was truly the end of an era: after 19 seasons at the helm, 357 victories, and a national championship, Roland V. Massimino would depart - under rancorous circumstances - for UNLV at the end of the season. (A young, unknown Wildcat assistant named Jay Wright would follow Rollie from the Main Line to Las Vegas...)

Within the conference, Villanova enjoyed a strong regular season, finishing 11-7; it was the first time they had finished four games over .500 in the Big East in half a dozen years (in 1986, they had gone 10-6) and won fourth place outright. However, they fell to #5 Syracuse (again), in the quarterfinals; the Orangemen avenged the upset loss of the preceding year, 55-52.

However, Villanova’s non-Big East schedule turned into a disaster, perhaps as retribution from the basketball gods for not playing the full City Series round-robin for the first time since 1956; Temple and La Salle were absent from the schedule. The Big East tournament loss dropped them to 14-14, meaning that they were 3-6 outside the conference, and they just snuck into the NIT. In Daddy Mass’s last game, they lost to Virginia in the first round.

Check back for subsequent installments... Part 5 coming up soon...

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: