Monday, July 27, 2009

Villanova/Maryland Series History - An Expanded Look at the 1985 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

I have substantially expanded Friday's post, on the announcement that Villanova and Maryland would play for the first time in over 23 years, this December. I've now included a substantial section, on the meeting between the Wildcats and Terrapins on March 22, 1985, in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Which, as we all know, was the year that Villanova captured the national championship by stunning Georgetown in the title game.

To read more about the 1985 Sweet 16, just click here to go back to Friday's post on Villanova / Maryland...

Go Wildcats!

Friday, July 24, 2009

VUHoops: Villanova to take on Maryland Terrapins on December 6, at BB&T Classic in Washington, DC

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

(Note: This post has been significantly expanded, from its original size. So, even if you've already read it once, please take another look at it, as there's now much more substance, on the Villanova/Maryland Sweet 16 game, during the 1985 NCAA tournament.)

As you know, the fine site VUHoops does a fantastic job, in covering our Villanova Wildcats. Earlier today (Friday, July 24), ed of VUHoops reported the following addition, to the 2009-10 Wildcats schedule:

The BB&T Classic will be held on Sunday, December 6 and will showcase Maryland against Villanova preceded by George Washington vs. Navy. The Maryland vs. Villanova game will be featured as Fox Sports Network’s ACC Sunday Night Hoops game and will air on most Fox owned and affiliated networks.
Accordingly, I thought that it would be interesting, to look back at the series rivalry history, between the Villanova Wildcats and the Maryland Terrapins. I also checked to see if Villanova had ever appeared in the BB&T Classic holiday tournament, but there was no record of the Wildcats doing so, in the Villanova media guide.

A journey between Villanova, Pennsylvania, and College Park, Maryland, is an easy trip: 132 miles and two and a half hours (depending on traffic, of course). College Park is in the northern suburbs of Washington - it's even north of the Capital Beltway of I-495. Moreover, both schools have grand basketball traditions, which include a national championship for each.

There's even a Philadelphia connection: the stunningly successful, but increasingly beleaguered, Gary Williams, head coach and alumnus of Maryland, is from Collingswood, New Jersey, went to the Palestra frequently, and aspired to play for Penn.

However, in spite of all of those factors, I was very surprised to learn that Villanova and Maryland have played a grand total of three times, and only twice during the regular season.

Ironically, all three games took place in 1985 and 1986, separated by just over a year. And two of the contests were during the mirabile annu (Latin, for "the year of miracles") - 1985, when Villanova captured its national championship.

Coaching, respectively, was Lefty Driesell for Maryland (whom, ironically, I had just mentioned in the 1969 moon landing retrospective post on Monday, when he was coaching for Davidson), and for Villanova, of course, the legendary Rollie Massimino.

January 27, 1985 - At Cole Field House in College Park, Maryland defeats Villanova, 77-74.

Two months later, in the NCAA tournament, the 8th-seeded Wildcats faced the 5th-seeded Terrapins in Birmingham, , in the Sweet 16. (It was the inaugural year of the 64-team-field tournament.)

March 22, 1985 - Villanova avenged its loss at Cole Field House, prevailing 46-43 (no shot clock or three-point line, back then). As we all know, Villanova went on to topple #2 North Carolina in the Elite Eight, and Memphis State and Georgetown in the Final Four.

Clearly, the deal had been for a home-and-home regular-season series, as Maryland traveled up to the brand-new Pavilion in its inaugural season the following year (1985-86).

February 1, 1986 - The Wildcats eked out a narrow 64-62 victory over Gary Williams's Terrapins squad.

The three games had been decided by a grand total of eight points. Perhaps the heart-stopping endings, were the reason that no further home-and-home series have ever been scheduled.

That having been said, it's surprising that come December 6, it will be the first time in almost a quarter of a century (almost 24 years) that Villanova and Maryland's paths will cross. Both teams have played in a lot of holiday and NCAA tournaments, and you'd think that they'd have met at least once. But it's not the case.

So come December 6, hopefully we'll see an exciting game, in the spirit of its three predecessors. And hopefully it will end the way the last two contests did- a narrow victory for the Villanova Wildcats.

Update - Monday, July 27, 2009

Here are some more details, on the aforementioned 1985 victory over Maryland, in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, on March 22 of that year. The source for these details is the outstanding book on the magical national championship, The Year of the 'Cat: Villanova's Incredible National Championship Story, by Craig A. Miller.

As noted above, Maryland had already defeated Villanova, during the regular season, on January 27. The primary reason for Maryland's victory, was an incredible performance by the ACC Player of the Year, Len Bias. Bias racked up an astonishing 30 point, 13 rebound performance, with teammate Adrian Branch adding 16 points, to lead the Terrapins to victory.

Rollie Massimino's strategy, was to prevent another offensive explosion from Bias. And the clampdown worked like a charm. Despite playing all 40 minutes, Bias shot just 4/13 from the floor, scoring only eight points, never reaching the foul line, while grabbing a relatively-low five rebounds and committing four fouls.

To put the Wildcats' defensive scheme in perspective: it was the first time in 55 games, that Bias had not reached double figures!

So how did Rollie do it?

According to center Ed Pinckney, after the game:
"The main thing I wanted to do was deny him the ball and make them lob over me. Even if they did, I knew I'd have Harold [Pressley] to come over and steal a weakside pass."
And Bias concurred with Pinckney's assessment:
"Every time he posted up, he [Pinckney] was there."
Undoubtedly, however, the main cost of that strategy was to permit Branch to have a tremendous game. Branch improved upon his performance in the first game, playing all but one minute, shooting 9/19 from the floor, 3/5 from the line, with five rebounds and two assists.

Fortunately, Branch was the only Terrapin, to have a fine offensive day. He scored nearly half of Maryland's points, scoring 21 while the entire Terrapin squad scored just 43. Branch and Bias were the only Terrapins to score more than four points, combining for 29 of the 43 points.

Maryland shot just 35.8% from the floor, making only 19 of its 53 field goal attempts, and going to the line just seven times, making five. Villanova also outrebounded Maryland, 40-29.

Of course, since Villanova triumphed by a score of 46-43, the Wildcats did not turn in a particularly good offensive performance, either. The Wildcats were only slightly better than the Terrapins from the floor, at 36.9%, making just 17 of their 46 shots.

The driving force behind the victory was Pinckney, the future Villanova assistant coach, who recorded a double-double with 16 points (on 5/7 shooting) and 13 rebounds, leading the team in both categories. 13 of the 16 points came in the second half. Of particular importance was his performance at the line, where the center made all but one, of his seven free throw attempts.

The only other Wildcat to reach double figures, was Dwayne McClain, who played all 40 minutes. McClain went 5/9 from the floor and 2-2 from the line, finishing with a dozen points, four rebounds, and two assists.

Villanova led early, 13-9, at the 8:21 mark of the first half. But Maryland charged back, and had taken a 20-19 advantage at intermission. Fortunately, it would be Maryland's last lead of the game.

Immediately after play resumed, Pressley, the junior forward, put Villanova up for good, with a putback off a rebound; the Wildcats now led 21-20, and would never relinquish the lead. (Pressley would ultimately score seven points and collect ten rebounds.)

Why did Villanova hold the lead for the rest of the game? Maryland was confounded by Massimino's defensive schemes. The Terrapins were held scoreless, for the first 7:10 of the second half. By the time they got back on track, Villanova held a commanding 32-22 lead.

A ten-point lead doesn't sound like much today. But in a game played with no shot clock or three-point shot, and Rollie's talent for holding the ball, it was a very formidable obstacle for Maryland to overcome.

Villanova still retained a 43-36 lead, with 5:4o to play in the contest. (The Wildcats would score only three points, in the remainder of the game, but it was enough to prevail.) Massimino then ordered stallball, one of his specialties- Rollie was one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport, in terms of his ability to hold the basketball successfully.

And Villanova, ultimately, was able to preserve its lead, through its solid free throw shooting, making 12 of its 18 attempts.

The late scare came, when Maryland, having scored four unanswered points to climb back to 43-40, fouled Pressley for a one-and-one, with just 1:02 remaining. When Pressley missed the front end, Maryland had its chance - but Pinckney stymied them. Pulling down the Pressley miss for yet another rebound, Pinckney was fouled- and he converted both ends of the one-and-one. Villanova now held a 45-40 lead, and went on to win, 46-43.

(Note: Back then, all common fouls, beginning with the fifth one of a half, were one-and-one opportunities. The reason the rule was changed to the current one - one-and-one on fouls 7, 8, and 9, and two shots beginning at 10 - was to reduce the payoff for Massimino's strategy, one which was widely used throughout college basketball.

The rule change was a great decision by the NCAA, as it speeded up games and made them more exciting to watch, instead of just watching teams trudge from foul line to foul line, down the stretch.)

Go Wildcats!

I'll be completing the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenure of Dante Cunningham, this final departing Wildcat. The Dwayne Anderson, Frank Tchuisi, and Shane Clark series are now completed...

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

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 1969 - On 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing, Where Was Villanova Basketball?

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

Forty years ago today, the U.S. space program's Eagle landed on the moon and U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon - an incredible accomplishment, that will be remembered forever.

This anniversary dominates today's news coverage. As it certainly should.

Which led me to this idea:

Since we're looking back to July 20, 1969 - what was the state of Villanova basketball, 40 years ago today? (I do not remember it, firsthand, and so all of the following was learned from research.)

In the summer of 1969, a Villanova student who watched the moon landing, had every right to feel excited and optimistic, about the state of the Villanova Wildcats basketball program. Of course, he would have had no way to know that two seasons later, Villanova would reach the NCAA championship game, and give the UCLA dynasty of John Wooden a considerable challenge.

The college basketball landscape differed considerably from today.

Home games were not played at the Pavilion, as there would be no Pavilion, until nearly two decades later. The Wildcats split their time between what we now know as Jake Nevin Fieldhouse, and the Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania. It was a situation roughly parallel with the Pavilion and the Wachovia Center nowadays. A majority of the games were on-campus, with unique games - and of course, all four of Villanova's Big Five games - at the Palestra. (All ten of the City Series games were played there.)

In South Philadelphia, the "old Spectrum", which is now defunct, was at the time state-of-the-art, having just opened in the fall of 1967. It was simply "the Spectrum", and not named after any banks. But Villanova did not play games there. The first game at the Spectrum was years in the future.

(Correction: Please see the comment below by Seamus, who provides more accurate information, as to when the first Villanova game took place at the old Spectrum.)

Of course, there was no cable television, and no ESPN (Dick Vitale was still coaching then, in fact.) Although the rise of cable TV would alter the fortunes of college athletics significantly, the concept of an entire network based entirely on sports, would have been foreseen by very few people at the time. There were only three broadcast networks and a slew of UHF stations.

Villanova's coaching position has always been a long-term situation, and since July 20, 1969, there have only been four coaches. Jack Kraft was the coach when the Eagle landed, and he would be succeeded by Rollie Massimino, Steve Lappas, and Jay Wright. (Wright was seven, at the time of the moon landing.)

There was no Big East Conference - that wasn't created until 1979. And Villanova was an independent, slating its own schedule.

The NCAA tournament was a much smaller event then, in terms of size, revenue, and popular interest. Although declining, the NIT was still a competitor for March attention. Only 25 teams were invited to the NCAA tournament, and no conference was permitted more than one bid.

The Wildcats were one of the 25 teams invited to the tournament, yet to be nicknamed March Madness. The starters for the 1968-69 Wildcats were Frank Gillon, Johnny Johns, Fran O'Hanlon, Sammy Sims, and Howard Porter.

Rounding out the roster were John Fox, Frank McCall, Jim McIntosh, Bob Melchionni, John Schroeder, Clarence Smith, Joe Walter, Harold Watson, and Leon Wojnowski. Porter is honored with a Pavilion banner today. Future NBA player and coach Chris Ford was a freshman, but freshmen were ineligible back then.

Officially, the Wildcats opened the 1968-69 season at the Palestra, defeating DePaul, but since they also have a mid-season victory over DePaul at the Palestra, it would appear that somehow the game was double-listed.

At the Fieldhouse, they bested Princeton and Philadelphia Textile (now Philadelphia University). They returned to the Palestra to defeat Catholic University easily. (As you can see, some opponents have changed, others have not.)

The Wildcats then headed north to Manhattan for the "Holiday Festival" tournament, where they fell to #2 North Carolina, but defeated Holy Cross and Michigan. Making a road trip to upstate New York, they edged St. Bonaventure by a point, and Niagara (where Bilal Benn would transfer, four decades later) by five.

Villanova opened City Series play by walloping St. Joseph's, 87-62, one of the most lopsided margins in the history of the series. Then one of the most bizarre games in Big Five history took place, between Villanova and Penn, on January 15, 1969.

The Wildcats were 8-1 and ranked 10th nationally, with their only loss to #2 North Carolina. Penn coach Dick Harter, a resourceful strategist, instructed the underdog Quakers to play stallball. And Penn eked out a 32-30 victory over the Wildcats. Of course, there was no shot clock then, and no three-point shot. The UPI article about the game, headlined Stall Pays Off As Penn. Tops Villanova, 32-30, states that:

Dick Harter... devised a simple game plan in setting up the stall Wednesday night against 10th-ranked Villanova.

"We told the players to shoot only when they were sure it was going in." That's just what his five players, who went all the way, did as they stunned Villanova...

"Regardless of whether it works, Harter defends the use of the stall. Although some coaches claim the stall should be abolished, Harter says their howls do not bother him.

'We're playing to win and we'd do it in the NCAA finals if we thought it was the way to win.'
Interestingly enough, the final NCAA game without a shot clock took place just over 16 years later, on April 1, 1985. Massimino's Wildcats shocked Georgetown, 66-64, in Lexington, Kentucky, to capture the program's first national championship.

The Wildcats shook off the stunning loss to Penn well enough, winning their next six games:

@ Virginia Tech, Detroit at the Palestra, DePaul at the Palestra, @ Toledo, @ Fairfield, and a thrilling overtime victory over St. John's.

The Wildcats dropped their third game of the season to La Salle at the Palestra, but they rebounded to blow out Canisius there. Their fourth loss was @ Duquesne. They returned to campus to defeat Providence, and completed City Series play at 2-2 after topping Temple at the Palestra.

Villanova then ended its regular season, with victories over Xavier and @ Seton Hall. (There was no conference tournament then, of course, being an independent.) Villanova was 21-4, and although they were not automatically invited to the NCAA tournament, they likely felt reasonably optimistic about their chances.

It had been a while since Villanova had gone to the NCAA tournament. Kraft had become head coach in 1961-62, succeeding the founding father of Villanova basketball, Alexander Severance.

This was Kraft's ninth season at the helm, and his Wildcats had gone to the postseason every year. In 1962 and 1964, Villanova had been to the NCAA tournament. The previous four seasons had been NIT years, but it must be remembered that at the time, going to the NIT was considerably more prestigious than it is today. After all, the entire NCAA field was only 25 teams.

And so the Wildcats were one of the seven teams assigned to the East region. This was sufficiently far in the past, that teams were actually assigned to their genuine geographical region. All seven East teams were actually from the East. And there was no official seeding.

The Wildcats were slotted to take on Davidson in the first round, in Raleigh, NC. It would be Wildcats against Wildcats.

This was not a good break, as Davidson - located in North Carolina - had a significant home-court advantage. They also had a fine coach, in Lefty Driesell (pre-Maryland). And the Villanova Wildcats could not overcome it.

Jack Kraft's Villanova squad fell to the Davidson Wildcats, 75-61. Davidson had a good run, defeating St. John's as well, before falling to cross-state rival North Carolina in the Regional Final - the Elite

UCLA - as usual - ended up winning the tournament, with Lew Alcindor being named Most Outstanding Player. As previously mentioned, two years later, Villanova would take them on in the title game. It would be Villanova's second appearance in the Final Four, and its first since appearing in the inaugural Final Four in 1939.

So, after this look at the past, there will be more on Dante Cunningham, in subsequent posts.

Go Wildcats!

I'll be completing the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenure of Cunningham, this final departing Wildcat. The Dwayne Anderson, Frank Tchuisi, and Shane Clark series are now completed...

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

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dante Cunningham- His Arrival and Freshman Year at Villanova - Senior Farewell

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

Here is the final set of the
Senior Farewell series. (For previous entries, please go to the bottom of this post...)

It pays tribute to Dante Cunningham, whom, in all goes right, will be playing for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers next season. In June, Cunningham was drafted by Portland, with the third selection of the second round, of the NBA draft. His ultimate draft position was considerably higher, than any draft analysts anticipated.

So let's look back at how Cunningham's Villanova tenure began...

Dante Cunningham - Arrival and Freshman Year at Villanova - 2005-06 Season

I don't cover recruiting extensively. But the distinct impression that I've received, from researching it, is that Cunningham turned out to be a far better player, than recruiting analysts projected. He was not a McDonald's All-American, for example, like Scottie Reynolds, nor was he a particularly heralded recruit.

The 2005-06 Villanova media guide had this to say about Cunningham:
A superior leaper who brings multiple athletic skills to the frontcourt... Combines a solid face-up game with low-post moves... An excellent shot blocker who can also fill the lane on the break.
A native of Silver Spring, Maryland, Cunningham graduated from Potomac High School, where he played for coach Rico Reed, at which he excelled... once more, the media guide:
Averaged 20 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots per game in leading Potomac to perfect (27-0) season... Named Washington Post Metropolitan Player of the Year... Previously played at St. John's H.S. in Washington, DC, where he was a teammate of Dwayne Anderson's... Averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a junior...
And Jay Wright had this to say about Cunningham:
"Dante is a warrior who runs the floor extremely well, is a good rebounder and is an extremely skilled offensive player."
Although widely acknowledged for his considerable talent, Cunningham was rarely in the starting lineup, as a freshman - he made four starts, although he appeared in all 33 games. The main reason was the fact that the 2005-06 team was the best of Jay Wright's tenure, featuring future NBA players Allan Ray, Randy Foye, and Kyle Lowry, among others.

The 2005-06 team had an extraordinarily successful season, garnering a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and reaching the Elite Eight, the first time Villanova had done so in nearly two decades (the last appearance had been in 1988, 18 years earlier). With such a talent-laden Wildcats squad, Cunningham, along with fellow freshman Shane Clark, were often used as defensive specialists.

Which is not to say that Cunningham didn't play a key role, off the bench...
  • Named Big Five Rookie of the Year.
  • Averaged 19.1 minutes/game, a significant amount of playing time for a freshman, on an outstanding team. Perhaps more revealing, however, was that his minimum number of minutes for any game was 10 - against Florida, in the Elite Eight loss.
  • His scoring and rebounding averages were modest, but in the context of 19.1/minutes a game on a team with a multitude of scoring options - they're not bad - 2.2 points and 4.0 rebounds a contest.
  • Blocked 19 shots and had 27 steals.
  • The only real area where he needed to improve was at the foul line. He went to the line only 33 times, all season (one per game), and made just 13 of his attempts, a dreadful 39.4%.
Cunningham made his first appearance as a Villanova Wildcat in a regular-season game, against Stony Brook, at the Pavilion. He played 16 minutes, scoring four points, collecting half a dozen rebounds, a pair of steals, and an assist.

In assessing his freshman season, the
2008-09 Villanova media guide cited Cunningham's first appearance in Big East play, recording that Cunningham had-
Authored his best game as a Wildcat in his Big East debut, scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds in a 76-67 win at Louisville on Jan. 5...
However, his most memorable game as a freshman came, as the media guide puts it:
His layup off an in-bounds feed with 3.0 seconds left helped lift VU to a 74-72 win over Cincinnati on Feb. 23... He ended that night with four points and six rebounds in a career-high 28 minutes...
Cunningham had set a then-career high in minutes against St. Joseph's, two weeks earlier, logging 26 minutes in the Wildcats' 71-58 victory over the Hawks.

Next up, of course - Cunningham's sophomore year of 2006-07...

Go Wildcats!

Of course, check back for the latest posts in the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenure of this final departing Wildcat, Dante Cunningham. The Dwayne Anderson, Frank Tchuisi, and Shane Clark series are now completed...

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

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dwayne Anderson's Senior Season - Marquette and More - Villanova Wildcat Senior Farewell

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

Today I will finish the series on Dwayne Anderson. His remarkable growth and development, during his final two years at Villanova, are a great testament to him and to the coaching staff under Jay

At the end of his sophomore year, Anderson wasn't even playing- let alone starting. Two years later, Anderson was receiving invitations to NBA tryout camps. He was not projected to be drafted in either round, and he was not. But the mere fact that he was even invited, is a great honor to him, as he prepares to presumably play overseas, as do most Villanova Wildcats...

Previous entries in the Anderson series:

Dwayne Anderson's Junior Year...
Dwayne Anderson's Arrival, Freshman, and Sophomore Years...

Dwayne Anderson's Senior Season and Departure - Marquette and More

Anderson's Heroics In The Victory over Marquette in the Big East Tournament

Back on March 12, Anderson had already secured himself a place in Villanova's storied March Madness history, by doing the following... Here is how I put it at the time, in-

Anderson, Redding Team Up for Winning, Rattling Layup at Buzzer, as #4 Villanova Escapes #5 Marquette, 76-75, in Big East Tournament!!! (Full Recap)

Dwayne Anderson made the biggest basket of his career, on the biggest assist of Reggie Redding's career, as the basketball gods permitted Anderson's layup - after a lengthy, agonizing rattle (and "rattle" is the only term that could describe it) around the rim at Madison Square Garden... and #4 Villanova advanced to the semifinals of the Big East tournament, stealing a 76-75 victory from #5 Marquette.

The shot will immediately be ranked as among the most exciting buzzer-beaters in Villanova's 29 Big East tournaments, and the sight of that ball finally dropping through the net just after the buzzer, will never be forgotten by anyone in attendance this afternoon, whether they were fans of Villanova or Marquette...

Within the blue-and-white Villanova partisans at the Garden, a sea of euphoria erupted
You can click on the title above, or here, for the full recap...

In any other season, the thrilling finish to the Marquette game would have been - far and away - the most memorable and exciting. Since Villanova was already assured of a high NCAA bid regardless of the outcome, and Marquette is a very recently arrived rival, its significance in the long-term was not as great, however.

And naturally, none of us - including the Wildcats and their coaching staff - had any idea that there would be a Final Four appearance, or that Scottie Reynolds's layup finishing the Elite Eight victory over Pittsburgh, would go down in NCAA history, as among the most stunning finishes in the annals of the tournament.

So Anderson's layup to sink Marquette may be overshadowed - much in the same way as he was overshadowed as a senior by Dante Cunningham, his fellow Class of 2009 member and good friend. Their friendship goes all the way back to high school basketball in Silver Spring, Maryland, where both are from, although they played for different schools- Anderson for St. Thomas More, and Cunningham for Potomac.

Anderson's Senior Season, Pre-Marquette

The Villanova media guide's profile of Anderson, heading into this season, contained the following excerpts:

Emerged as a vital component in Villanova's surge to the Sweet 16 in 2007-08... Brings leadership, toughness, and athletic ability to the wing... A solid defender capable of guarding a wide range of opponents...

Started the final 14 games of the regular season... and helped ignite Villanova's run to the NCAA Tournament... The Wildcats were 9-5 with Anderson in the starting lineup and he averaged 9.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in those starts...
At the end of the season, the official site noted this fact about Anderson-
A fixture in Villanova's late season success in 2008 and '09 ... Emerged as a cornerstone leader of teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 (2008) and Final Four (2009)... Played some of the best basketball of his career in the BIG EAST and NCAA Tournaments ... Averaged 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.
It's an accurate assessment. Anderson missed the opening seven games of his senior campaign due to injury, but he returned at full strength - fortunately. Had Anderson's injury been more severe and he had consequently been unavailable this season, it's very likely that Villanova would not have been a #3 seed- or a Final Four participant.

Anderson's most conspicuous contribution to the NCAA tournament run came in the game that most endangered Villanova's presence in the tournament - the victory over American University in the first round.

It remains one of the richest ironies of a remarkable season, that Villanova's toughest NCAA victory, of their four triumphs, came against a #14 seed on one of its home courts, the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia - while its victories over UCLA and Duke were blowouts.

While Pittsburgh was a far more formidable opponent than American, it should not be forgotten that Villanova was always in the game against the Panthers - and that they were not against the American Eagles, despite the deceptive final margin of 13 points. As I wrote at the time in-

NCAA First Round - #3 Villanova, Anderson Ascend Beyond #14 American Eagles, 80-67- After Trailing by 14 in 2nd Half (Part 1)

#3 Villanova avoided a stunning upset by a gallant #14 American squad on Thursday, overcoming a 14-point second-half deficit to cruise down the stretch for an 80-67 victory, that was far more harrowing for a Villanova fan, than the score would indicate. Dwayne Anderson scored a career-high 25 points, matched by Dante Cunningham's 25, to power the Wildcats into the second round.
Anderson did well against UCLA as well, two days later. He ended up recording a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds in the easy second-round victory over the #6 Bruins.

Nor were Anderson's impressive numbers limited to March Madness. His finest regular-season game as a senior probably came on February 4 against Providence, when he also notched a double-double in the Wildcats victory, with 19 points and 10 rebounds. His career-high in rebounds was 15, also attained as a senior, against Seton Hall on January 6. The official site notes that the 15 boards were "the top rebounding performance by a Wildcat this season."

The official site goes on to note that Anderson finished tied for the lead in steals with 47, reached double figures in points 11 times, and in rebounds, four times. He had an outstanding season at the line, converting 81.1% of his opportunities. He also made a significant impact with his shooting accuracy, hitting a superb 46% of his shots from the floor and 32.3% from three-point range.

Anderson brought a fine mix of rebounding, shooting accuracy, and steals to the floor, and his role as a starter on one of Villanova's most storied teams - its fourth squad to reach a Final Four- will assure him of being remembered. He went from being a possible transfer candidate after his sophomore to season, to being a key starter during the stunning run to Detroit as a senior. Congratulations to him, and best of luck to him in the future...

Go Wildcats!

Of course, check back for the latest posts in the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenures of the final departing Wildcat - Dante Cunningham, who was the third pick of the second round by the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. The Anderson, Frank Tchuisi, and Shane Clark series are now completed...

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

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Prolific VUHoops on Future Villanova Wildcat Isaiah Armwood

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

The prolific site
VUHoops has been running a series about the future Villanova Wildcats, who will be gracing the Pavilion and Davis Center with their presence, come the fall semester. Their most recent entry is on Isaiah Armwood.

Armwood - one of the most heralded backcourt prospects in the nation - will be joining the (fortunately) crowded backcourt. It remains crowded, due to Scottie Reynolds having wisely decided that it wasn't worth forfeiting his senior year to pursue a slim at best (and most likely, negligible) chance of being drafted as a junior.

I don't focus on recruiting at Villanova Viewpoint. Accordingly, I often learn from the expertise of the publishers of the other Villanova blogs, that do cover it extensively. So I found this piece to be a very informative summary on Armwood.

Here's a key excerpt from
the post from VUHoops:

The 6′8″ forward from Maryland came on to the scene during his sophomore year at Montrose Christian in Rockville, MD. In the summer of 2007 he became a known quantity in the recruiting world due to an immense upside based on his athletic ability.

During his junior season at Montrose, he battled a knee injury that has since corrected and healed itself.

At Villanova, Armwood will need to bulk up but in time will play the 4 in Jay Wright’s brand of basketball. His athleticism is quick to see watching the agile player on the floor. Through the High School tournament circuit, Armwood was always able to provide showtime and entertainment with his high-flying dunks- one of which was ESPN’s Play of the Day back in April...

Isaiah selected Villanova over Georgetown, Syracuse, Ohio State, and Texas. He gave his verbal to become a Wildcat on July 1, 2008 and signed his National Letter of Intent in the November signing period.

Of course, check back for the latest posts in the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenures of the two final departing Wildcats - Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham; the Frank Tchuisi and Shane Clark series are now already completed...

What remains of the series is the senior year for Anderson - as well as his invitations to NBA workout camps, and then the full series on Cunningham. I purposefully saved the series on Cunningham for last, as I thought it would make a great retrospective, now that his NBA dreams have materialized as a high second-round pick (the third selection of that round, in fact), by the Portland Trail Blazers.

Go Wildcats!

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