Saturday, February 28, 2009

Georgetown Preserves Flickering NCAA Hopes with 56-54 upset of #10 Villanova @ the Wachovia Center

On Saturday, February 28, at the Wachovia Center, #10 Villanova missed a golden opportunity to improve its Big East (and NCAA) tournament seeding - and thus the very real possibility of having de facto home games at the same venue come March, as Philadelphia will be one of the eight first/second round sites... The Wildcats were upset, 56-54, by the Georgetown Hoyas, despite Villanova collecting 13 offensive rebounds and forcing a season-high 23 Georgetown turnovers.

It's not an exaggeration to say that the Hoyas would have lost any hope of an at-large bid, had they lost this afternoon. But with the big road upset, they revived flickering NCAA tournament hopes with the victory, with another signature win to point to over an elite opponent. Moreover, as the team with the #1 strength-of-schedule nationally, they can benefit from some lesser opponents down the stretch. Georgetown is now 6-10 Big East, and 15-12 overall, and remain very much on the bubble with a RPI of 47 (that will rise with another quality opponent added).

The Wildcats fell to 11-5 Big East, 23-6 overall, and lost ground in the race to secure one of the four precious double-bye spots for the Big East tournament in March. However, the Wildcats might have been due for a loss; it was only their second loss in their last 11 games. (They certainly could have lost to DePaul earlier in the week, and that would have been a lot worse...)

Villanova has now dropped five in a row to Georgetown, extending back to the 2006-07 season. The last Villanova victory in the series was on January 8, 2007, at the Verizon Center, when the Wildcats eked out a 56-52 victory. The Wildcats have not won a home game against the Hoyas since Feb. 19, 2006, at the Pavilion; the last South Philadelphia win in the series was back in 2002, Jay Wright's first year at the helm. Georgetown now leads the all-time series 39-27, a commanding lead; in Big East regular-season play, the Hoyas lead 28-19, and in Big East tournament play, the Hoyas have won all five meetings, including last season's 82-63 game at Madison Square Garden.

Jay Wright won five of the first seven meetings with the Hoyas, but is now 5-7 against them while at Villanova. His first game against them, in fact, was the last South Philadelphia victory, an overtime triumph over Craig Esherick's Georgetown team, 83-72, on Feb. 16, 2002.

What does this mean for the polls?

Villanova would deserve to drop a couple of spots, as this week has not been kind. A two-point victory at winless-in-the-Big-East DePaul and a home loss to Georgetown (a good team, but one that Villanova should have beaten on paper) will mean a drop out of the top 10 on the AP side. The Wildcats are #12 in the less prestigious ESPN/USA Today poll, but we'll drop in that as well.

Looking at the box score-

Of the eight Wildcats who saw action, let's look at the two big guns first:

Dante Cunningham had a decent game: 13 points, nine boards, just missing a double-double, two blocks, 37 minutes of action - and stayed out of foul trouble, something to which he has been prone. In the first half, he also had a spectacular block of a shot in transition, with precision timing; he rejected a Hoya's shot, while in full pursuit from behind, in one of the best plays for any Wildcat this season.

Scottie Reynolds also had a decent game: a dozen points, but with most coming from the line (7-9). From the floor, he was 2-10, missed five out of his half-dozen three-point attempts, and also committed half a dozen turnovers (against four assists). He did have a fine defensive game, and was one reason why Georgetown was held to 56 points - he had four steals.

The rest of the team:

Reggie Redding continued to make solid contributions, finishing with eight points (3-4 from the floor), four boards, two assists, and a steal, against three turnovers, and did his usual fine duty on the defensive end.

Dwayne Anderson chipped in with seven points, seven boards, and a pair of steals.

Shane Clark, regrettable, did not make an impact. Playing only 19 minutes, Clark had two points and no rebounds, although he did have two steals and a block.

Wright used, in practicality, just seven players today. Off the bench, each playing 21 minutes, the Coreys did not pack the usual offensive punch, that Villanova sorely needed today. Fisher ended up scoring six points on 2-8 shooting, two rebounds, no assists, and three turnovers. Stokes had a worse game from the floor, with his six points on 1-7 shooting, but he committed just one turnover, collected three rebounds and had a pair of steals and assists. Antonio Pena had just a cameo appearance, playing two minutes, committing two fouls, and had no points or rebounds.

As a team, the most damning statistic were the turnovers (20!?!) against just nine assists. Or to look at it another way, the Wildcats had significantly more turnovers (20) than field goals (15). This was on top of the 33.3% shooting percentage from the floor, and the 18.8% accuracy from beyond the arc. Only at the line, where they made 21 of their 27 free throws, did the Wildcats excel, shooting 77.8%.

In light of all of the grim numbers above, it can be fairly asked, "how did Villanova stay in the game?" Georgetown was even worse when it came to, as Ryan Fannon often puts it, "taking care of the basketball". The Hoyas committed a season-high 23 turnovers, diluting their greater success from the floor - they shot very well (48.9%) but, like Villanova, also had more turnovers than field goals (25-22). From beyond the arc, the Hoyas also struggled, shooting just 4-16 (25%). And unlike the Wildcats, who got to the line frequently, Georgetown took just ten free throws, making eight of them for an 80% clip.

For the Hoyas, DaJuan Summers had a game-high 16 points, although he did not have a particularly good day outside of that. He finished with two rebounds, one assist, and eight turnovers, more than a third of Georgetown's turnover total. Chris Wright finished with 13 points on 5-10 shooting, hauled in
four rebounds, along with five assists and a steal, while committing three turnovers. The final of the three Hoyas in double figures was the one who had the best game for Georgetown: Nikita Mescheriakov, who finished with 11 points on 4-5 shooting and had three rebounds in his 21 minutes.

This was a game that Villanova certainly did not deserve to win, looking at the numbers above and the enormous difficulty that they had getting on track offensively, and particularly in light of the fact that they had home-court advantage (a sellout Wachovia Center crowd was on hand). But I believe that over the course of a season, that winning games that the opponent actually deserved to win is part of the magic of a great run, and the Wildcats unfortunately weren't able to steal this one.

The overall elegance of Georgetown's play under John Thompson III is really something to see, and is in such marked (and favorable contrast) to the painful, bricklaying process used by his father and by Esherick. Even when they are having an off-day (and when you have 23 turnovers, you're certainly having an off-day), the Hoyas move the ball with great precision, using the beautiful, hard-to-foresee backdoor cuts; there was also great curling, swinging the ball to the outside, and great ball movement around the perimeter. There were about seven or eight instances today of Georgetown plays that were simply magnificent to watch, and that's a very substantial compliment to a team that scored only 56 points (including just 24 in the second half).

For lack of a better phrase, Villanova simply could not get anything going today. The teams traded baskets for the most part in the first half, with the Hoyas developing some momentum near the end, enough to get JT III into the locker room with a 32-27 advantage. The stretch where they took control was early in the second half, after Fisher nailed a three to get 'Nova within 42-39 at the 15:16 mark. The crowd started to get engaged at that point. And the Wildcats simply could not make baskets, for a long time: the next VU field goal came over seven minutes later, when Redding hit a jump shot at the 8:02 mark. During that 7:09 span, Georgetown increased its lead from 42-39 to 50-41; Redding's field goal cut it to 50-43 (VU's only other points in that span were from the line.)

Redding's shot keyed a rally, with the Wildcats clawing back to 52-50 when Redding ably dished it back to Cunningham for a jumper at the 5:10 mark. The crowd was once again fully engaged, and it appeared that 'Nova was going to surge ahead for the first time since the first half. And then the scoring abruptly died - for both teams. The scoreboard was stuck on 52-50, Georgetown, for what seemed to be an eternity; neither team scored any points for the next four minutes down the stretch.

Perhaps the most agonizing episode, for a Villanova fan, was when the Wildcats caught a break; they had possession under the Georgetown basket as a result of a ball tapped out of bounds with 14 seconds on the shot clock - and as luck would have it, the under-4 timeout was whistled at that juncture, with 3:18 to play. So Wright and the Wildcats had the benefit of a free, long TV timeout to discuss what to do with those 14 seconds while trailing 52-50. But they were not able to exploit the unexpected bounty from the basketball gods. Reynolds was forced to take an absurdly long three from well beyond the NBA three-point line as the shot clock expired, with Georgetown's Austin Freeman gathering in the miss. Henry Sims turned the ball back over to 'Nova on the next possession, but it was a missed opportunity that 'Nova would not receive again. Much the same could be said of this game as a whole.

It finally changed, when Fisher made one of two free throws with 1:10 remaining to make it 52-51. But there wasn't another basket until just 48 seconds remained, when Wright drove for a layup to increase the Hoya advantage to 54-51. He made two free throws to all but seal the game with 10 seconds to play, making it 56-51; Stokes' triple with six seconds left was too late; Villanova was not able to execute a foul in the remaining time, and Georgetown triumphed, 56-54.

Also, the Hoyas deserve a great deal of credit for winning a very difficult road game in a challenging environment, particularly with their season hanging effectively in the balance. This was a game that Georgetown won, more so than Villanova lost...

Various Viewpoints

Also, go get the reactions from the disappointing loss to Georgetown, from the other Villanova sites:

Pete at Let's Go 'Nova

I Bleed Blue and White

greyCat at
Villanova By the Numbers

Nova News

And for a valuable Georgetown perspective - there's no place for Hoya hoops better than

Go Wildcats!

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Concise Look at Villanova/Georgetown History

To the Wildcat faithful-

I thought that it might be a good time, with the #10 Wildcats hosting the Hoyas on Saturday at the Wachovia Center, to take a look at the long history of the rivalry between Villanova and Georgetown, and how it has intersected over the years...

Before diving into that, here's a quick roundup of what's going on in the blogosphere for Saturday's go-around with the Hoyas in the Various Viewpoints post, just below this one...

OK - onto the Villanova/Georgetown rivalry history:

Villanova's legendary rivalry with Georgetown is truly remarkable. The greatest game in Villanova history took place on April 1, 1985, when the Wildcats defeated the heavily-favored Hoyas to capture the NCAA championship. For more on the traditions and rivalry, please keep reading... At the end of this article, I will tell the story of the 1985 game, the most thrilling game I have ever seen, in any sport.

But before I do so, I will describe the rise of the Hoya empire. Villanova's upset is fully appreciated, when one considers what the Wildcats had to face.
In marked contrast to Villanova, Georgetown had little basketball tradition, prior to the arrival of John Thompson in 1972.

First - The perennial question: "What Is A Hoya?"
I will quote the Georgetown media guide: "In the days when all Georgetown students were required to study Greek and Latin, the University's teams were nicknamed "the Stonewalls". A student, using Greek and Latin terms, started the cheer, "Hoya Saxa", which translates as "What rocks!" The name proved popular and the term Hoyas was eventually adopted for all Georgetown teams.

Georgetown's colors are blue and gray, and the direct inspiration for them was the Civil War.
During the war, Georgetown's location on the Potomac river placed it at the border between Union and Confederacy. Maryland and the District of Columbia were part of the Union. But Virginia, across the river, was the most populous and important state of the Confederacy. In addition to its location, many Georgetown alumni, the "sons of Georgetown", had fought for each side. (It was an all-male school at the time.) In light of those facts, Georgetown decided to adopt blue and gray as its colors: the Union soldiers had worn blue uniforms while many Confederate armies had worn gray. Like the nation, the Georgetown community itself had been divided during the conflict. The symbolism was intended as a healing gesture, to reunite after the war.

Thompson, a member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame, is a genuine legend. Due to his success and his powerful personality, he remains one of the best known college basketball coaches in America. However, Thompson's accomplishments are even more remarkable, in light of the Georgetown program which he inherited. Thompson literally constructed the Hoyas' program, brick by brick, for over a quarter of a century. Georgetown's program is among the oldest in the nation, as it observes its centennial anniversary this season. The Hoyas' first season (just four games) was 1906-1907: the Hoyas played nearby George Washington three times, and one against Virginia. The program did enjoy some success during the 1920s, posting some strong records. However, the success predated both the NCAA tournament and the NIT. Villanova traveled to Georgetown in the Wildcats' second season of play, 1921-22. But the Wildcats fell, 39-34. Surprisingly, due to the close proximity of the schools, the teams would not play again for 23 years!

In 1943, Georgetown qualified for postseason play, for the first time in school history. Led by Elmer Ripley, the Hoyas went 22-5 and qualified for the NCAA tournament, held at New York's Madison Square Garden that year. The talented Mr. Ripley must have been a great coach: at that time, the NCAA tourney invited only eight teams! Georgetown defeated New York University and DePaul to reach the national championship game. But Wyoming whipped the Hoyas, 46-34, to win the national championship. In the consolation game, Georgetown topped Toledo and thus finished in third place.
Unfortunately for Georgetown, its next two seasons were cancelled due to World War II. I speculate that due to the school's DC location, its building was commandeered for military use. For example, in Philadelphia, Penn's Palestra was used for Navy administrative offices. However, no Big Five team's schedule was canceled due to the war.

After the war ended in 1945, Villanova and Georgetown began a spirited rivalry. Three months after the Japanese surrender, Villanova hosted the Hoyas for the first time. The Wildcats won, 40-37. For the next four years, they played each other twice a season, foreshadowing the twice-a-year rivalry in the BIG EAST. Georgetown swept Villanova in 1947, and the teams split the 1948 series. But Villanova swept the Hoyas, during the next two seasons.For some reason, the series ended after the 1950 season. Three decades would ensue, before the creation of the BIG EAST in 1980. Surprisingly, the teams played each other only three times, over those 30 years.

In 1953, Georgetown made its first NIT appearance: it was still the era when the NIT was probably more prestigious than the NCAAs. The Hoyas went 13-7, and lost to Louisville in the first round. They wouldn't return to post-season play until 1970, earning another NIT bid and losing in the first round to Louisiana State.

Thompson arrived in DC, taking over for the 1972-73 season. He inherited a moribund Georgetown program, which had gone 3-23 the previous season. Georgetown's "tradition" was a grand total of three post-season appearances: two NIT bids and a NCAA third-place finish.

Naturally, nobody expected that Georgetown would become even a respectable program, let alone a powerhouse. The idea that the Hoyas would become one of the most prominent and successful teams in the nation was utterly absurd. But Thompson was the architect and visionary that made it possible.
In 1975, Thompson's third season, the Hoyas made their first trip to the NCAA tournament in 32 years. While Georgetown lost in the first round, it began one of the most remarkable eras in college basketball.

The Hoyas won the 1984 national championship, and reached the Final Four in 1982 and 1985. Georgetown also has made four trips to the Elite Eight, the most recent in 1996, led by Allen Iverson.
Georgetown was one of the eight original members of the BIG EAST, in 1979-1980. Villanova joined as the ninth team, one year later.

That brings us to the miraculous game, on April 1, 1985, when Villanova beat Georgetown and captured the NCAA championship!

That season was the first year that the NCAA tournament consisted of 64 teams, up from 48. At 19-10, it was unclear as to whether Villanova would even receive a bid: the Wildcats received a #8 seed.
There is a consensus among national observers, that Villanova made the most unbelievable, miraculous run of any team in the NCAA tournament, before or since. The Wildcats defeated #9 seed Dayton on Dayton's home floor (teams are no longer permitted to play on their home floor.) Villanova then upset the #1 seed, Michigan, to head for the Sweet 16. The Wildcats then flew to Birmingham, Alabama, and knocked off ACC powers Maryland and North Carolina. It was Villanova's first Final Four appearance since 1971, when the Wildcats lost to UCLA in the final. (Villanova's games were ultimately forfeited due to Howard Porter signing with an agent, prior to the tournament, rendering him ineligible.)

Two other BIG EAST teams, Georgetown and St. John's, joined 'Nova in Lexington, Kentucky.
Villanova surprised Memphis State in the national semifinal, while Georgetown stopped St. John's. Georgetown was considered a virtual lock for the national title. The Hoyas were the defending national champions, and entered the game at 35-2. (Georgetown's only two losses had been to St. John's and Syracuse, by a total of three points.)

Moreover, Georgetown had been routinely thrashing 'Nova, since the Wildcats had entered the BIG EAST in 1981. The Hoyas had won nine of the eleven games in that span, many by convincing margins.
In 1985, there was only a slight glimmer of hope. Villanova had battled the Hoyas in two close losses that season: a 57-50 loss at Georgetown and a heartbreaking, 52-50 overtime loss at the Spectrum. Nonetheless, nobody other than Rollie and the Wildcats thought that they had a chance to come out on top.

College basketball observers everywhere agree that Villanova played "The Perfect Game," defeating the Hoyas, 66-64, to bring home the national championship to the Main Line! Villanova shot 22-27 from the floor, an unthinkable 78.6%. The Wildcats took only ten shots in the second half, making nine of them.

Surprisingly, prior to the arrival of Jay Wright, on the subject of the commemoration of the 1985 championship, there was only very minimal acknowledgment of the championship in the Pavilion. Subsequently, under the Wright regime, a fitting and proper mural of the 1985 national championship team has been added to the ground floor of the Pavilion lobby. Nonetheless, there should be a mini-museum to tell the story. The mural was a good start, but more still needs to be done for proper commemoration.

The best illustration of Georgetown's stature: Villanova played The Perfect Game - and only won by two!
More recently, there has been another Villanova victory over Georgetown to savor. On January 30, 1999, Villanova pulled off a 93-90, double-overtime, miraculous win over Georgetown at the then-First Union Center. (I attended the game, and it was the most exciting finish that I've ever seen live.)

In the second OT, we trailed 90-87, with five seconds to go. Georgetown was at the foul line. After the Hoya missed two shots, Howard Brown hit a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game with one second remaining. Georgetown carelessly inbounded the ball, it was stolen by Brooks Sales, and Jermaine Medley hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to win it...
Another worthwhile note: The Wildcats were the first opponent to play Georgetown at the new MCI (now Verizon) Center, in December 1997 - and won.

Various Viewpoints

Also, go get the full roundup on the upcoming game with Georgetown, from the other Villanova sites:

Pete at Let's Go 'Nova

I Bleed Blue and White

greyCat at
Villanova By the Numbers

Nova News

Go Wildcats!

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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.)

Various Viewpoints on Villanova/Georgetown - and the Prolific

To the Wildcat faithful-

To see a great informative post from a Georgetown perspective - there is never a better place to go than, one of the best Big East sites... Read their full pre-game report here. A key excerpt, including a tribute to the invaluable CBS analyst Clark Kellogg, who called our game with Syracuse on Sunday...

Some keys to the game:

1. The Hoop and The Harm: Look for Villanova to exploit Georgetown up the middle and get to the line, where they remain one of the conference's best teams.

2. Bench Production: Villanova owned a 25-4 edge on DePaul in bench scoring Wednesday night. Georgetown must get better point production from Jessie Sapp, Jason Clark, and Julian Vaughn.

3. Austin Freeman: Freeman's scoring has been steady but unspectacular in February. Could he take off with a big game Saturday?
Also, go get the full roundup on the upcoming game with Georgetown as well other long-term issues, from the other Villanova sites:

VUHoops has been particularly prolific, with a game preview - "Game 25: vs Georgetown" - on Friday, in addition to four Thursday posts... One is a great summary of other stories in "Thursday Links"... it notes the prestigious honor bestowed on Dante Cunningham in "Dante Named Finalist for Oscar Robertson Award"... (although nobody should get their hopes up, as Slumdog Millionaire will likely beat out Dante)... Speculation on 'Nova's double-bye hopes in "Earning a DoubleBye in the Big East Tourny"... and Mike Gilchrist in "Recruiting: Mike Gilchrist '11"...

Pete at Let's Go 'Nova asks readers: "Is 'Nova in a Downward Spiral?" , in reference to the latest from greyCat at Villanova by the Numbers: "Performance vs Expectations"... Pete also has mustered some key support for his pro-Corey Fisher position from Tim in "Nova News agrees on Fisher PT". (Note the proper use of the Dick Vitale nomenclature in the headline.) Here's the 'Nova News original post - "Something Smells Fishy"...

I Bleed Blue and White warns, in Paul Reveresque terms: "Blogger Beat: The Hoyas Are Coming"... in an interview with HoyaHoops - at the latter site, Tony discusses the rocky Georgetown season in the context of Superman II in "Final Verdict", by comparing the fate of Jack the Bulldog to that of General Zod...

Go Wildcats!

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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, February 25, 2009

#10 Villanova Escapes Ignominious Upset @ Big-East-Winless DePaul, 74-72

To the Wildcat faithful-

On Sunday, February 22, in the aftermath of the second victory over Syracuse, this one at the Carrier Dome, I wrote in the recap:
Villanova will now enjoy a considerable breather as it heads to Chicago to take on struggling DePaul on Wednesday. The Blue Demons are locked in the hell of a winless Big East season, and are trying to avoid becoming the first BE team to go through an entire conference slate without a victory since the 1994 Miami team went winless (credit Ryan Fannon on the radio post-game show for that fact).
Nobody would wish a winless Big East slate on anyone, particularly when it hasn't happened in 15 years. Unfortunately, the #10 Wildcats came unpleasantly close to permitting DePaul from escaping that ignoble record on Wednesday, February 25, in Rosemont, Illinois. The Wildcats were down eight at halftime and still down by one with as late as the 12:23 mark in the second half, prior to escaping Chicagoland with a far-too-suspenseful victory over woeful, winless DePaul. The Blue Demons entered the game trapped in the Hades of the Big East, with a 0-14 conference slate, 8-19 record overall.

A loss certainly would not have wrecked Villanova's at-large NCAA hopes; a Top 10 team is in the tournament at this point. That having been said, it would have severely tarnished the team's image in the eyes of the Selection Committee. It would have been a truly bad loss, to a team with 20+ losses of its own, and might have knocked the Wildcats down significantly when it came to seeding. Equally importantly, it would have hindered the Wildcats' quest to obtain one of the first-ever double-byes in New York City in March for the Big East tournament.

Villanova "improved" - if that can be said - its record to 11-4 Big East, 23-5 overall, and should remain in the top 10 with a victory over Georgetown on Saturday. DePaul "fell" - likewise, if that can be said, in light of the fact that they lost a two-point game to the #10 team nationally- to 8-20 overall, as the team's nightmare season continues.
Although the Wildcats' five-point lead was shaved to two by a three-pointer by Dar Tucker at the buzzer, the narrowness of the score accurately reflects the margin of the game, one in which DePaul led for a good portion of play. And while it's still a loss, it's a game that DePaul can view as a highlight of an otherwise very arduous season, in the nation's toughest conference.

One solace, unavailable to recent Big East nether-dwellers, is the fact that all 16 teams will participate in New York City. Granted, the probability of any team - let alone DePaul, still winless - rattling off five straight neutral-court wins and taking the automatic bid is extraordinarily low. But it's something to keep hope alive. More probably, DePaul would have the opportunity to damage the hopes of a team on the bubble, as a loss to the 16th-place team in a conference tournament would probably decisively knock a team off the bubble. But it's far better than nothing- which is what those bottom-feeding teams have had for many years now in the Big East, come March.

Looking at the box score:

The Wildcats' two primary weapons, senior Dante Cunningham and junior Scottie Reynolds, both scored 18 points to lead the way for 'Nova. Cunningham turned it on in the second half, adding five rebounds to his 7-13 shooting and 4-4 from the line. Reynolds recovered somewhat from his difficult game against Syracuse on Sunday, ending up with 5-11 shooting and 7-8 from the line.

Reggie Redding turned in another strong performance, on the heels of his heroism against Syracuse. The junior guard nearly posted a double-double, finishing with nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists. While Redding played very well, the other hero at Syracuse - Dwayne Anderson - did not. Anderson veered to the other extreme, missing all six of his three-point attempts and making just one field goal in 29 minutes. He did rebound and defend effectively, finishing with half a dozen boards and a pair of steals, but 'Nova needs his outside shot and didn't have it at all tonight. Shane Clark was plagued with foul trouble, ending the game with four fouls and 16 minutes of action, with a pair of points, rebounds, and steals.

The Coreys came off the bench and once more provided some punch. Fisher scored a dozen points in two dozen minutes, and Stokes also reached double figures with 10 points in 19 minutes. Antonio Pena saw more action than he had against Syracuse, logging 14 minutes, with three points, three boards, and two assists. What also hurt 'Nova were turnovers - 14.

For DePaul, the big guns were Will Walker, who had a game-high 23 points and four rebounds, and center Mac Koshwal, who finished with an impressive 17 points and 13 rebounds. Dar Tucker also had 16 points, but he shot just 7-23 from the floor (including a dreadful 1-11 from beyond the arc, with the single triple coming at the buzzer while trailing by five points). He also committed five turnovers...

Villanova will host Georgetown on Saturday afternoon at the Wachovia Center, and will be looking to snap the Hoyas' four-game winning streak in the hotly contested series... Check back soon for the Villanova/Georgetown Rivalry History...

Various Viewpoints

WPVI (6ABC)'s incomparable Keith Russell on 'Nova tonight:
Villanova - in a game that should be easy as a layup - DePaul, 0-14, in the Big East....
Why should tonight be any different? Why? This is why:

Jay's team couldn't do anything right in the first half... [DePaul's] Will Walker says 'three is all I give, three is all I got,' 'Nova down eight at the break...

A different half, a different story...

Dante Cunningham, throwing down [shot of dunk], 'Cats shoot over 60% for most of the second half... They survive a second straight scare, 74-72 - your final... 'Nova avoids the upset...
Also, go get the full roundup on the narrow escape from Chicagoland, from the other Villanova sites:

Pete at Let's Go 'Nova accurately sums up the game with this headline: "Villanova sputters to DePaul win"...

I Bleed Blue and White has a summary in "postGame: Villanova 74, DePaul 72"... and also furnishes video in "Highlights from Villanova/DePaul"...

greyCat at
Villanova By the Numbers chimes in with "DePaul Post Game: Old Reliables"... states it concisely: "Villanova 74: :72 DePaul"...

Tim at
Nova News has it this way: "Nova Escapes DePaul With Win"... and note the photos of Scottie Reynolds laying it in and an indignant Jay Wright protesting a call...

Go Wildcats!

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Anderson, Redding Key #12 Wildcats Victory at #24 Syracuse's Carrier Dome, 89-86

To the Wildcat faithful-

Senior Dwayne Anderson set a career-high with 22 points, matching his jersey number, and junior Reggie Redding dished out seven assists and added persistent defensive tenacity - half a dozen steals - on Sunday.
Redding had one of the best games of his career, as the defensive-minded guard also scored 11 points to go with his stellar 7-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

They made the difference in #12 Villanova's thrilling 89-86 victory over #24 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, in front of a national CBS audience. The Wildcats have now swept Syracuse this season and remain red-hot, triumphing for the eighth time in nine games.

This was Villanova's fourth consecutive victory at the Carrier Dome, an impressive feat by any team. This year also marked the fourth consecutive season that the Wildcats and Orangemen have met twice in the regular season, which is unusual given the now-16-strong conference. It's worth noting that this is the first time that 'Nova has swept two meetings from Syracuse in the regular season since 2006, the first year of this sequence of twice-a-year regular-season meetings. (Last season, in fact, 'Nova faced Syracuse three times, beating the Orange in the NCAA tournament to take two of the three contests.

It was a marvelously entertaining game today: full of steals, dives, frequent assists and rapid ball motion, dunks in transition, and (for lack of a more ornate phrase) just really exciting basketball. There was a very large crowd on hand to see it: according to CBS, was the third-largest to attend any NCAA game this season (in fairness, there aren't many other venues outside the Carrier Dome that could accommodate a crowd that large, but SU fans are passionate).

The dramatic crescendo in a contest, that was already chock-full of spectacle, was the late charge by Syracuse, after trailing for most of the second half. It culminated in the last-second flurry of fouls and Villanova turnovers, as the 'Cuse nearly stole the game at the end, literally and figuratively. They forced 'Nova miscues and subsequently obtained no fewer than three chances to hit what would have been the tying-triple at the buzzer, as well as missing half a dozen shots with under a minute to play.

However, the orange-clad throngs in the Carrier Dome, although they saw exciting basketball, did not have the opportunity to hear Verne Lundquist and Clark Kellogg do the CBS broadcast: they make a great team, as Lundquist's low-key manner makes a great mix with the analysis of Kellogg, who did his usual fine job of combining high-level substantive analysis with entertaining, unique turns of phrase...

Villanova collapsed its interior defense very effectively on the 'Cuse today, forcing Jim Boeheim to rely on his perimeter shooters. The Orangemen took no fewer than 39 (yes, that's not a typo) three-point attempts, of which they made a dozen.

Andy Rautins came off the bench to take 15 three-point attempts (as many as the entire Wildcat team) and made six of them (one fewer than the Wildcats), finishing with 18 points and five assists before he fouled out in the waning seconds of the game. I was surprised that Rautins committed that foul, as although the foul was necessary, it was not necessary that Rautins himself commit it. As a result undoubtedly went through the minds of the Orangemen, when they missed three three-pointers as the clock ran out, that Rautins might have made one of them, had he still been on the floor. Another bench player with a big impact was the Belgian Kristof Ongenaet, who logged 24 minutes, made all three of his shots, had three assists, two blocked shots, and contributed 11 rebounds. Boeheim ultimately used just seven players.

Eric Devendorf led the way for the 'Cuse, scoring 22 points (firing up 10 three-point attempts and hitting three of them) on 7-14 shooting and adding six assists. Paul Harris had 21 points on 9-16 shooting, six rebounds and three steals. Jonny Flynn did not have as much of an impact as he had in the first game at the Wachovia Center, finishing with a dozen points on 5-17 shooting, but had eight assists.

Some thoughts on the box score:

Villanova had a tremendously well-balanced attack, with no fewer than half a dozen players in double figures. Anderson had the career-high 22 points on 8-14 shooting, including 4-6 from beyond the arc; he established a perimeter threat early by canning his first three triples over the trademark Syracuse 2-3 zone. Fellow senior Shane Clark, although overshadowed by Anderson's heroics, came up big with 15 points and eight boards.
Sophomore Corey Fisher came off the bench to add 16 points on 5-6 shooting, and also hit five of his seven free throw attempts.

Senior Dante Cunningham added yet another double-double - a "dozen-dozen", with 12 points and 12 rebounds, the most impressive field goal being a dunk off one of his four offensive rebounds - plus half a dozen assists (a unique statistical combination). Cunningham had a major impact, despite the fact that he did not have a good shooting day from the floor. Cunningham has great accuracy, but Syracuse held him to 5-14 shooting.

Villanova's other most potent offensive weapon, Scottie Reynolds, did not have a particularly good day. Reynolds played just 23 minutes (and he wasn't in foul trouble - he had no fouls, in fact). He made only one of his five three-point attempts, uncharacteristically missed two of his three free throw attempts, and committed five turnovers against two assists. A particularly encouraging lesson to be drawn from this game may be the fact that Villanova was playing a ranked opponent on its home floor, who managed to contain both Reynolds and Cunningham - Villanova's two biggest guns - and the Wildcats won, anyway.

As a team, Villanova shot well from the floor (52.5%), and won the game down the stretch at the foul line; the Wildcats ultimately finished the game with 18-26 shooting from the line, 69.2%.

Looking at the rotation:

Cunningham fell into foul trouble in the second half, when he picked up his third and fourth fouls on consecutive sets, but that was virtually the only time he wasn't on the floor - he still played 34 minutes, despite missing a critical stretch of the second half. Corey Stokes received 13 minutes and had three points and three rebounds. Antonio Pena got just four minutes today, with one rebound and one shot. Senior Frank Tchuisi made an unexpected cameo appearance at the end of the first half, coming in for the last 3.9 seconds for defense after a Villanova free throw, to ensure that Cunningham did not pick up a bad foul on the last set (a great move by Wright that we might see in the future).

The game action:

After the score opened at 7-7, the Wildcats made a run off some Syracuse turnovers, launching a 13-2 run to take a 20-9 lead. They were able to maintain that lead, and still led 32-20 at the 7:46 mark. The Orangemen countered with a 12-4 run, capped off with a traditional three-point play from Ongenaet, and pulled to within 36-32 with 4:34 to play in the half. 'Nova maintained its lead for the rest of the half and led 45-40 at intermission; Anderson was already in double figures with 11 at this point.

After 'Nova started the half with five quick points to boost the lead to 50-40, Syracuse was able to rally and take a 59-57 lead with 12:58 to play on a triple by Rautins, the first time the Orangemen had led since holding a 5-2 in the early going. The very large crowd started to engage, and the Wildcats seemed vulnerable. However, they responded with the most electrifying sequence of the contest, scoring 11 unanswered points and taking the lead for good. After retying the game at 59, Anderson hit a triple on an assist from Redding, and Boeheim opted for a timeout at the 11:22 mark. Clark put in a layup to boost the lead to 64-59. On the ensuing possession, Redding stole the ball from Flynn, and got it to Anderson in transition; Anderson missed the layup but Cunninghaml, trailing behind, dunked it off the rebound. Flynn then turned it over again to Redding, who got it to Anderson again - and this time Anderson didn't miss, dunking it. With the score now 68-59 and with all of the momentum 'Nova's way, Boeheim had to use another timeout at the 10:39 mark; he ended up with only one timeout down the stretch and it probably helped 'Nova's efforts to protect its lead.

Villanova still led 80-71, as late as the 2:49 mark, and 86-79 with 47 seconds to play, and the Wildcats were looking to salt away the win. It seemed that Syracuse was out of it, but they were able to make it unpleasantly exciting in those 47 seconds. Syracuse reduced the lead to 88-84 with 32 seconds to play, and after a 'Nova timeout, forced Reynolds into travelling. Devendorf scored on a layup to make it a one-possession game with 21 seconds to play. Trailing by two on the next possession, Rautins committed the necessary foul on Redding with 16 seconds to play, but it didn't have to be him - Syracuse was only down two, and it benefitted the Wildcats to get him off the floor. Redding made one of two to boost the lead to 89-86. Flynn missed a three-pointer on the next possession but Syracuse got the ball out of bounds off the rebound. On their final possession, Devendorf's three was blocked by Stokes; Harris rebounded for Syracuse and missed a three, and Flynn had yet another shot to tie it at the buzzer, but when his shot clanged off the rim, that was the end for Syracuse. The three Syracuse misses on the last possession were the coda on a memorable game, with lots of highlight-reel-worthy plays...

The Wildcats soared to 10-4 Big East, 22-5 overall, and can expect their national standing to increase slightly when the new Top 25 polls emerge on Monday. The Orangemen fell to 7-7 Big East, 19-8 overall. Despite its #24 ranking and wins over prominent opponents, Syracuse has not yet definitively locked up a NCAA bid, having lost six of its last eight games; a victory over #12 Villanova would have gone a long way toward security on Selection Sunday.

Villanova will now enjoy a considerable breather as it heads to Chicago to take on struggling DePaul on Wednesday. The Blue Demons are locked in the hell of a winless Big East season, and are trying to avoid becoming the first BE team to go through an entire conference slate without a victory since the 1994 Miami team went winless (credit Ryan Fannon on the radio post-game show for that fact).

Various Viewpoints

Go get the full roundup from the other Villanova sites:

Pete at Let's Go 'Nova

Chris at
I Bleed Blue and White has his wrapup in postGame: Villanova 89, Syracuse 86, as well as Highlights from Villanova-Syracuse and Video: Jay Wright Discusses the Win...

greyCat at
Villanova By the Numbers - Nova Sweeps Syracuse in a Nail Biter...

Tim at
Nova News has Nova Sweeps Syracuse...

And for the view from a Syracuse perspective-

The always-entertaining Troy Nunes Is A Magician: Covering Syracuse For the Good of The People - story

Go Wildcats!

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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.)

#12 Villanova @ #24 Syracuse - VU/SU Rivalry History

To the Wildcat faithful-

Looking back at the first game, here's a summary:

It took 63 meetings – but on Saturday, February 07, 2009, #17 Villanova reached the century mark for the first time ever against Syracuse, and did so in a memorable way. The Wildcats walloped a very good, then-ranked #20 Orangemen squad, 102-85, at the Wachovia Center.

There were a surprising number of empty seats at the beginning, at least in view of the ESPN cameras, but some of that was probably attributable to the early, noon tip-time.

Dante Cunningham tied his career-high by scoring 31 points, leading the way for the Wildcats, who never trailed in the contest. The senior nearly attained yet another double-double, finishing with nine rebounds, while shooting a torrid 12-15 from the floor.

The game was witnessed, as all Syracuse visits are, by former Orangeman football (and basketball) star Donovan McNabb, the long-time quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, sitting at courtside.

The Wildcats improved to 7-3 Big East, 19-4 overall, winning their fifth straight contest. Syracuse dropped to 6-5 Big East, 18-6 overall.

One key element - in the first game, Jonny Flynn filled up the box score, although he did not have a good afternoon from the floor, making only five of his 14 attempts and one out of four from three-point range. Of course, Flynn scored 22 points (going 11-13 from the line) eight rebounds, and five assists, so he certainly did a great deal to further his team's cause, but they'll be looking for a better shooting day at the Carrier Dome.

Despite the Big East's inflated size, this will be the fourth consecutive season that the Wildcats and Orangemen are meeting twice in the regular season. The Wildcats will be seeking to defeat Syracuse twice in one regular season for the first time since 2006; they also will be seeking their third straight victory at the Carrier Dome. Last season, the Wildcats won there, 81-71, although Syracuse triumphed at the Wachovia Center. The Wildcats won the third meeting in the Big East tournament.

Given the long and intense rivalry between these two Big East powers, I thought that it might be of some value to look back at some of the more memorable aspects of their entwined history. And of course, this year is an opportunity for nostalgia, for those who remember when Big East rivals faced each other twice every year (and sometimes three times in the Big East tournament or as in 1985, in the NCAA tournament)... Villanova and Syracuse revive their home-and-home series on Sunday at the Carrier Dome...

Prior to the formation of the Big East three decades or so ago, Villanova and Syracuse had rarely faced each other. This was understandable, given that the schools are not particularly close together geographically. There were only four pre-Big East meetings, in 1946, 1966, 1974, and 1980, all won by Syracuse, the final game of which was in the NCAA tournament. However, Villanova joined the Big East in its second year of existence, 1980-81, and began to play the Orangemen regularly. All-time, Syracuse leads 34-29; as members of the Big East, they lead just slightly, at 30-29. Villanova can even it at 30 each with a victory on Sunday. The Wildcats have also won four of the last five meetings.

In regular-season Big East contests, VU leads 25-22; in Big East tournament play, Syracuse holds a decided 8-4 advantage. However, in last season's BE tournament, the Wildcats crushed the 'Cuse, 82-63, at Madison Square Garden, in a game which undoubtedly preserved Villanova's hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which they eventually received as one of the final teams in, as a #12 seed.

Given Syracuse' long-time status as a power, it's interesting that Villanova actually won five of the first six contests. However, the single loss ranks among the most heartbreaking in Villanova history: a triple-OT loss at the Carrier Dome in Villanova's first-ever Big East tournament on March 12, 1981. (This was only the second Big East tournament; it wasn't even played at Madison Square Garden yet.) I have no doubt that it was a very thrilling game but undoubtedly depressing for 'Nova fans.

Villanova also has had remarkable success at the Carrier Dome, the site of Sunday's game. The Wildcats are 12-13 there, which must rank among the strongest records for any visiting team, given that Syracuse has been a perennial titan for nearly the conference's entire existence and also captured two national championships. In particular, the Steve Lappas-era teams of the 1990s had a great three-year run at the Carrier Dome during their three consecutive NCAA tournament seasons from 1995 to 1997, the teams featuring Kerry Kittles, Jason Lawson, Alvin Williams, Jonathan Haynes, Chuck Kornegay, Eric Eberz, and Zeffy Penn, at various stages...

On Valentine's Day, 1995, 'Nova won in overtime, 89-87; the following year, on January 29, 1996, they repeated the overtime feat @ Syracuse, triumphing 72-69. On February 1, 1997, they did not require overtime to beat Syracuse in a down year for them, winning 70-60. In doing so, the Wildcats avenged a narrow 62-60 loss at the then-CoreStates Center a month earlier, in Syracuse's first trip to the newly-opened building.

In Jay Wright's first season of 2001-02, he defeated Syracuse twice, once at the then-First Union Center and then in Madison Square Garden.

Although it is highly unlikely that Villanova would ever host Syracuse at the Palestra again, they did so five times from 1981 through 1985, sweeping all five contests. (Syracuse did win at the Palestra prior to the formation of the Big East, however.) In the Connelly Center on campus, in fact, there is a photograph of one of those games.

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Update - Various Viewpoints: The Rest of the Villanova Blogosphere on Senior Night

Time to check in with the other Villanova sites and their thoughts on the Senior Night victory over Rutgers... my recap of the game is directly below this post...

Pete at Let's Go 'Nova
- Villanova Survives Rutgers Scare

Chris at
I Bleed Blue and White notes that it was his final game in the student section in postGame: Villanova 82, Rutgers 72:

greyCat at
Villanova By the Numbers - in his post Senior Night -- Looking Back & Looking Ahead, discusses in detail the trajectory for the seniors to break the all-time win record by a Villanova class. - Rutgers 72: :82 Villanova

Tim at
Nova News - Nova Gets Past Rutgers - great photos distinguish this post, particularly one of Shane Clark's dunk in the early going...

And from a Rutgers perspective, there is (Wild) Cat Scratch Fever, at a fine site - Protect R Turf.

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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, February 19, 2009

#12 Villanova Says Farewell to Seniors Cunningham, Clark, Anderson, and Tchuisi By Slaying Scarlet Knights, 82-72, on Senior Night at the Pavilion

To the Wildcat faithful-

#12 Villanova said farewell to departing seniors Dante Cunningham, Shane Clark, Dwayne Anderson, and Frank Tchuisi on Thursday night, February 19, at the Pavilion. Fortunately, the Wildcats were able to send them off with a victory over lowly Rutgers, in a surprisingly hard-fought 82-72 battle.
And, fortunately, the Scarlet Knights became the 27th consecutive opponent which Villanova has defeated at the cozy on-campus venue. Villanova is now 7-1 all-time against RU at the Pavilion.

Ironically, Fred Hill - at Jay Wright's side for five years as an assistant and associate head coach - was making his second Senior Night appearance at the Pavilion, during his three years with his Rutgers squad. Previously, on February 27, 2007, 'Nova crushed Rutgers, 74-51, on Senior Day. (You can read my recap of that game here - "
Condon, Chivalry, Seniors Reign, As 'Nova Has No Trouble Routing Scarlet Knights on Senior Day at Pavilion, Sending Senior Foursome Off In Style.")

Tonight's Senior Night ceremonies were held because the students will be on Spring Break during the final Pavilion game against Providence on March 5, and the program wanted the students to be on hand for the event.

Villanova improved its record to 9-4 Big East, 20-5 overall, and has won seven of its last eight. Rutgers continued its dreadful campaign, falling to 1-12 Big East and 10-16 overall. (Their only win is against DePaul, the only BE team with no wins.) In the last three years combined, Rutgers has seven BE wins. Unfortunately, last season, Rutgers obtained one of those several wins against Villanova, by upsetting the 'Cats at the RAC, 80-68. Accordingly, it was imperative that there be no repeat of this upset.

The Scarlet Knights emerged on the floor as a collective misnomer, wearing black jerseys. RU had announced that no current Scarlet Knight had appeared in the black jerseys yet, but it did not change their luck.

The bright spots for RU were freshman Mike Rosario, with 19 points, six rebounds, and five assists (plus five turnovers), Anthony Farmer with 17 points, and Corey Chandler, off the bench for 13 points. (These VU/RU games are the rare BE ones where there are three Coreys in the box score...) What destroyed Rutgers in this game were turnovers - 20, to be exact (VU had only half as many, 10). RU shot well from the floor (52.1%), very well from three-point range (45.5%), and tremendously from the line (85.7%), but still suffered a decisive defeat, primarily for that reason.

Villanova benefitted from a well-balanced attack, as four Wildcats finished in double figures. Scottie Reynolds had a game-high 21 points on 5-11 shooting, including an outstanding 10-11 from the line. Both Coreys came off the bench and powered the offense: Stokes had 17 points on 6-9 shooting, including a sizzling 5-7 from beyond the arc; he did it in just 22 minutes of action and also had five rebounds. Most importantly,
Stokes had 14 of his 17 points after halftime, as they keyed Villanova's surge to take control of the contest.

As for Fisher, he added 14 points on 4-5 shooting, plus three assists and no turnovers in only 19 minutes. Finally, the departing senior Cunningham finished with a dozen points and half a dozen rebounds.

All four seniors were properly given the honor of starting, as Cunningham, Clark, Anderson, and Tchuisi were all in the lineup against the black-clad Scarlet Knights at tip-off. Tchuisi - fluent in five languages - committed two fouls in the single minute he played at the beginning, which was entirely understandable. (I was glad to see him get involved in the action.) He would return, amidst chants of "We Want Frank", for the waning seconds of the second half..

The most noteworthy play in the first half was a sensational dunk by Clark at the 17:49 mark, giving 'Nova a 4-3 lead... for a picture of it, go to 'Nova News...

In a nice bit of statistical symmetry, the three seniors who played significantly - Cunningham, Clark and Anderson - all had four points at halftime. Some other noteworthy halftime numbers:

Reynolds led 'Nova with 11 points. Villanova's largest lead was half a dozen points, although there were nine lead changes in the first half, indicating the see-saw battle. 'Nova took a 37-31 lead into the locker room, but RU was far from out of the game, as events early in the second half would make clear.

There was a sequence, early in the second half, which permitted Villanova to establish some initial momentum. First was Gregory Echenique's 3rd foul (he is RU's best rebounder); he was immediately yanked by Fred Hill, but then reinserted in an effort to halt the blue-and-white tide. The second was a fantastic play by Reynolds at the top of the key; he sighted Anderson all alone underneath the basket, fed him a perfect bounce pass, and the senior finished it with a dunk...

Rutgers responded well, though, with some help - ironically - from Cunningham. The senior came up with what appeared to be a clean block on Rosario's layup. However, it was ruled as goaltending and rendered the score 49-43 with 13:32 to play.

This goaltending call seemed to be the spark that gave Rutgers some life. They had been trailing 49-41 at the 14:17 mark, VU's largest lead up until that point. The Scarlet Knights went on a tear - a 13-3 run which vaulted them into a brief lead at 54-52, and again at 56-54, the latter coming at the 10:18 mark on a fadeaway jump shot by Coburn.
(At the 13:05 mark, with Villanova still holding a 49-46 lead, Wright opted to use the first called timeout in the second half to try to halt the momentum. As by rule, this becomes a full timeout, and so the game was a bit choppy, with the under-12 timeout coming up so soon.)

Perhaps recognizing that a loss to 1-10 Rutgers at the Pavilion on Senior Night was too terrible to contemplate, Villanova responded to the Rutgers challenge. That 56-54 lead was RU's last of the game. Suddenly it was 66-56, VU - a 12-0 run that put 'Nova in control for good.

Worth noting : Villanova had just two team fouls at the 12:22 mark, against 5 for RU. At the 8:10 mark, the 7th team foul on RU sent Fisher to the line for a 1+1 opportunity, which he converted to make it 63-56. This was followed by an offensive foul on Mike Coburn, yet another Rutgers turnover. It was now a 9-0 run, with 7:56 to go, Villanova now had a seven-point lead at the under-8. Coincidentally, Reynolds and Fisher each had 14 points, one rebound, and two assists at this point.

In an interesting move, less than a minute later, and with the score now 66-58, Wright opted for a quick timeout as the pep band played a few bars of Beyonce's 2003 hit "Crazy in Love". He appeared displeased by a relatively easy layup made by Chandler...

Villanova swiftly resumed the onslaught after this timeout, blasting Rutgers out of contention and zooming to a 76-61 lead at the under-4 timeout at the 3:59 mark. It was now a 22-5 run for Villanova. Rutgers' lack of depth and the hostile environment meant that the Scarlet Knights were essentially ground down...

The most satisfying play during this run, was a Stokes two-handed dunk off a steal from Reynolds, on a fast break, with 3:05 to play. This dunk boosted the Wildcat lead to a virtually insurmountable 78-63 lead and was the exclamation point on the victory. Hill went down fighting, as he called his last timeout with 2:50 to go, trailing 80-67, but RU never got any closer than the ten-point final margin of 82-72. Another spectacular play happened at the1:16 mark, as Cunningham fed a bounce pass to Reynolds on a textbook backdoor cut, to make it 82-69...

"We Want Frank" chants began late in the second half, and they were rewarded as he re-entered the contest with 27.4 seconds to play.... although Villanova did not run a play and so he had no opportunity to shoot. For more on the game action, check out CBS Sports' GameCenter, for all of the details on the contest...

The game was actually shorter than some recent games, given the fact that it was not especially close at the end; it ended at 11:05 PM, after a late 9 PM tip-off; Senior Night ceremonies began at 8:40...

Looking at the big picture, this was the 32nd meeting all-time between VU and RU. The Wildcats are now 24-8 against Rutgers all-time. This season represents another chapter in the long drought for RU basketball fans. RU has only six NCAA appearances, with its last appearance in 1991, 18 years ago. It hasn't won a NCAA game in 26 years... RU has never appeared in the NCAA tournament, since it joined the Big East in 1995-96...

Some brief thoughts on Senior Night:

It is always a great occasion, to think back to when these players were freshmen. Clark and Cunningham were judiciously used by Wright as off-the-benc defensive specialists on the 2005-06 team that made an Elite Eight run in the NCAA tournament. In many ways, it's hard to believe that they're seniors already. And it's great for a player like Tchuisi, who makes a valuable contribution in practice and is a great representative for the program, to receive some recognition. Wright instituted the practice of introducing the players through the student section, and at no time is the introduction more memorable than during Senior Night.

This class will certainly break the school record for wins by a class. Currently, it is held by the class of '97, fueled by Alvin Williams, Jason Lawson, and Chuck Kornegay, who finished their careers with 95 wins during the Steve Lappas era (1993-2001). Tonight's victory was the 93rd for the class of '09, with five regular season games, the Big East tournament, and the NCAA tournament still ahead of them. It's a remarkable accomplishment, and congratulations to them.

Villanova returns to action on Sunday afternoon at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Wildcats crushed Syracuse by 17 points at their first meeting this season, at the Wachovia Center, and will be going for a season sweep.... A full preview will be forthcoming...

Thoughts are welcome...

Go Wildcats!

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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, February 18, 2009

Rutgers @ #12 Villanova Preview (Fred Hill Edition)

To the Wildcat faithful-

With Rutgers coming to town, it seemed to be a good opportunity to look back at the early days of the Jay Wright regime at Villanova, and the role that Fred Hill was widely perceived to have played within it. (I say "widely perceived" because I don't know how much of it was perception and how much was accurate; it may have been a mixture of both.) I recognize that there are students and young alumni, of course, who do not remember the circumstances under which Fred Hill was an assistant here, and so perhaps this might be of particular interest to them...

Although this was coincidental, there was a Philadelphia Daily News article by Sam Donnellon in which Jay Wright was philosophical about his tenure at 'Nova. Pete over at Let's Go 'Nova had some thought-provoking commentary on the piece, and it dovetails very well with Hill's return to the Main Line as the head coach of a different Big East team.

Back in the early part of this decade, Jay Wright arrived at Villanova in the spring of 2001, to universal acclaim. One of the new assistants he brought with him was Fred Hill, who has very deep ties to the North Jersey/NYC sphere of influence within the basketball community.

The first Wright-recruited class was the nucleus of his first NCAA teams: Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Curtis Sumpter, and Jason Fraser - the academic class of 2006.

(Footnote: the first Wright-recruited player was Chris Charles, who signed with Villanova shortly after Wright took over in the spring of 2001. The other player in that class was Marcus Austin, one of three players who had been signed by Wright's predecessor, Steve Lappas, in the fall of 2000. The other two players whom Lappas had signed, Brennan Martin and Kyle Wilson, decided to follow Lappas to Massachusetts; Austin decided to stay anyway and play for Wright.)

That having been said, the Fab Four, who arrived for the 2002-03 season, were the first all-Wright class. They did not all graduate collectively, because of Sumpter's knee injury, which led to him taking a redshirt year. At the time, the class was widely viewed as among the top three in the country. All four of them were from New York/North Jersey, and Hill was given a large share of the credit for their being signed by Villanova. However, Wright was certainly quite familiar with New York/North Jersey players. He had been the head coach at Hofstra, on Long Island, and we can't escape the central fact that Wright was the head coach and Hill the assistant.

In retrospect, the twists and turns (both literally and figuratively), of the trajectories of all of the players and coaches involved from that time, could not have been foreseen. To cite one example, Jason Fraser was a McDonald's All-American and widely believed to be the top post player, nationally, in that class. Unfortunately, a string of injuries never permitted him to blossom as a dominant post player.

As it turned out, the players from that class of 2006 did usher in a new golden age on the Main Line, as the stellar 2005 and 2006 teams excelled in the NCAA tournament. However, their freshman year was very difficult, with sky-high expectations. Wright's first team, in 2001-02, had surprised many by nearly reaching the NCAA tournament. All significant players from that team were returning, with the Fab Four being added. Unfortunately, the team never gelled and ended up missing the NCAA tournament completely. There was also the added indignity of a phone-access-code scandal marring the end of the season and forcing the Wildcats to compete with a skeleton team. (Ironically, that skeleton team nearly upset nationally ranked Pitt in the season finale, before heading into the NIT for the fourth consecutive year.) After the season, Hill was promoted from assistant coach to associate head coach.

Wright's third team, in 2003-04, also did not reach the NCAA tournament. These were all decent teams, it should be noted; they ended up with winning records against very difficult schedules (which is why they received NIT bids); they just hadn't gotten into the Dance. Fortunately, the team broke through in 2004-05, not only reaching the NCAA tournament but getting to the Sweet 16 before losing a heartbreaker to North Carolina, the eventual winner. (It was a great game, although still painful to recall.)

In 2005, the off-season brought some unexpected news - Fred Hill was leaving for Rutgers. The fact that Hill was leaving, per se, wasn't surprising. Ever since the Fab Four had arrived at Villanova in 2002, Hill had been widely rumored to be leaving to become a head coach elsewhere. What was surprising were these anomalous facts:

Hill was leaving Villanova, not to become the head coach at Rutgers, but the associate head coach (i.e., a lateral move). Rutgers also had a beleaguered head coach in Gary Waters. And it was at not only another Big East program, but one with whom Villanova would be battling for recruits geographically. And generally, it's unusual to ask a head coach to accept an outside assistant whom the school wants to groom to succeed him. But these were unusual circumstances. Rutgers had a VU grad as AD, Bob Mulcahy, and Hill's father was also the baseball coach at RU. And Waters wasn't really in a position to say no, unless Rutgers really improved quickly.

Unfortunately for Waters (although fortunately for Hill), Rutgers fired him at the end of the 2005-06 season. Subsequently, Hill was formally named head coach on March 27, 2006. (Waters ended up at Cleveland State - ironically, one of his predecessors was former VU coach Rollie Massimino.) This NY Times article - "It's Second-And-Long for Rutgers in the Hill Era" - from Hill's first season, is a good capsule.

This was the first time that Hill was serving as head coach, after a quarter-century odyssey as an assistant at a variety of programs. This NY Times article - "Sure He's a Good Coach, But Can He Recruit?" sums up the situation best, as a snapshot of the environment Hill was entering in Piscataway, NJ.

Anyhow, it's been four years now since Hill left VU - he's now been at Rutgers for three years as head coach, plus his grooming year as Waters' associate head coach.

So, hopefully some food for thought...

Thoughts are welcome...

Go Wildcats!

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, welcomed, 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, February 16, 2009

Pete's West Virginia Grades From Let's Go 'Nova Blog

Pete has issued his grades for individual Wildcats over at Let's Go 'Nova for the West Virginia game.... Here are my thoughts on his grades... note that he also explains the reasoning for all of his grades over on his site, in considerable detail, so check them out...

Hello, Pete-

My recap for WVU is up now...

My thoughts on your grades...
Fisher A-
Clark D-
I strongly disagree here. Clark played reasonably well in a game that the two stars did not. He ended up with seven points, five boards and one turnover in 29 minutes, on 2-5 shooting, making the only triple he attempted. I don't think that's a D-. I would go as far as to give him a C+, C at the lowest. He's a role player, and he played his role competently.

That having been said, I recognize that not everything shows up in the box score. Defense isn't measured very well, because it only shows up in steals, blocks, and rebounds, and there's no way where you can tell whether someone gives up open jumpers (or how many). I think that your criticisms of him are very well thought-out and intelligent, even if I don't agree with them.
Stokes - B
Agreed. I might have gone B+, but think that either is fair.
Reynolds - D+
Cunningham - C-
Agreed. I think that the higher grade for him is justified b/c ultimately, DC stayed in the game (he ended up w/ only 3 PFs, ironically, after getting two in the opening minutes), and his shooting wasn't bad, and he rebounded. For 'Nova to win, he has to rack up some more points and boards, and not turn the ball over so much; this could be a C...
Anderson - B-
I'd go with a B+ here. Anderson was injured and played pretty well (I singled him out for praise in my post)….He brought what he had to the table.
Redding - C-
I would have gone with C+ (as you can see, I'm a more generous grader across the board). But he fouled out in a game where the two stars were in foul trouble and one player was injured, and he needed to stay on the floor. So I can see that C-.
Pena - D
I'd probably say C-, for his 4-4 from the line, the fact that he didn't foul out, and he only had one turnover. I agree completely that for a role player who role is to rebound, he has to get some rebounds if he's on the floor for 18 minutes, especially with DC on the bench for as long as he was.
Tchuisi/Colenda - incompletes

Thoughts are welcome...

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