Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Villanova / Penn Rivalry History - Updated For 2010 - Wildcats @ Quakers

To the Villanova Wildcat faithful-

Tonight, Wednesday, December 8, 2010, at the storied Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Quakers will clash with the Wildcats, for the 58th time. 

When Jay Wright first arrived on the Main Line as head coach, for the 2001-02 season, the Wildcats lost to Penn, during both of his first two seasons at the helm.  But things sure have changed since December 2002.  Tonight, Wright and the Wildcats will try to achieve their eighth straight victory, over their City Series rivals.

The All-Time Series Since 1922

The 2000s  

November 16, 2009 - Pavilion - #5 Villanova 103, Penn 65

The Villanova / Penn series is played in November, for the first time.  The #5 Wildcats demolish the Quakers - and notably, Wright calls no timeouts, during the entire game.  Afterwards, he remarks that he can recall no previous game as a head coach, whether at Villanova or at Hofstra, in which he did not call a single timeout.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the Wildcats' 103 points mark a record for either team in series history; neither team had ever reached the century mark against the other.

December 1, 2008 - Palestra - #17 Villanova 69, Penn 47 

December 1, 2007 - Pavilion - Villanova 87, Penn 61

December 2, 2006 - Palestra - Villanova 99, Penn 89 (double overtime)

December 13, 2005 - Palestra -  Villanova 62, Penn 55

December 31, 2004 - Pavilion - Villanova 74, Penn 64

December 9, 2003 - Palestra (Big Five Classic) - Villanova 73, Penn 63

December 10, 2002 - Wachovia Center - Penn 72, Villanova 58

December 5, 2001 - Palestra - Penn 75, Villanova 74 (overtime)

February 6, 2001 - Wachovia Center - Villanova 80, Penn 51

January 9, 2000 - Palestra - Villanova 67, Penn 65

The 1990s

February 23, 1999 - Pavilion- Villanova 74, Penn 63

1997-98 - No game, as Villanova was playing its four City Series opponents only every other year, two each season

December 10, 1996Palestra - Villanova 89, Penn 62 

1995-96 - No game, see above 

February 22, 1995 - Pavilion - Villanova 78, Penn 74 

1993-94 - No game, see above 

December 15, 1992 - Old Spectrum - Penn 71, Villanova 59

1991-92 - No game, see above.  This marked the first season since 1955-56, that the teams hadn't clashed - a 36-year tradition broken.

December 3, 1990 - Palestra - Villanova 82, Penn 62

The 1980s

December 4, 1989 - Pavilion - Villanova 75, Penn 46

December 6, 1988  - Palestra - Penn 71, Villanova 70

December 2, 1987 - Pavilion - Villanova 84, Penn 55

January 27, 1986 - Palestra - Villanova 68, Penn 64

December 15, 1984 - Palestra - Villanova 80, Penn 67 

February 21, 1984  - Palestra - Villanova 65, Penn 51 

December 11, 1982 - Palestra - Penn 84, Villanova 80 

December 12, 1981 - Palestra - Villanova 75, Penn 61

January 17, 1981 - Palestra - Villanova 68, Penn 55 

January 19, 1980 - Palestra - Villanova 65, Penn 51

The 1970s

February 13, 1979 - Palestra - Villanova 89, Penn 80

December 10, 1977 - Palestra - Villanova 69, Penn 68

December 18, 1976 - Palestra - Villanova 83, Penn 66 

January 24, 1975 - Palestra - Villanova 69, Penn 67 

December 14, 1974 - Palestra - Penn 90, Villanova 80 

January 23, 1974 - Palestra - Penn 83, Villanova 61 

January 17, 1973Palestra -  Penn 77, Villanova 69

March 16, 1972 - NCAA Tournament - Penn 78, Villanova 67 

January 19, 1972 - Palestra - Penn 74, Villanova 64 

March 20, 1971 - NCAA Tournament, Raleigh, North Carolina, Elite Eight - Villanova 90, Penn 47 

January 23, 1971 - Palestra - Penn 78, Villanova 70

The 1960s

December 20, 1969 - Palestra -  Penn 59, Villanova 55

January 15, 1969 - Palestra -  Penn 32, Villanova 30

January 17, 1968 - Palestra -  Villanova 75, Penn 45

December 30, 1967 - Palestra  - Villanova 45, Penn 44

January 25, 1967 - Palestra - Villanova 71, Penn 54

December 22, 1965 - Palestra - Penn 73, Villanova 60

January 27, 1965 - Palestra - Villanova 75 , Penn 46

December 26, 1964 - Palestra -  Villanova 52, Penn 47 (overtime)

January 25, 1963 - Palestra - Villanova 72, Penn 48

March 11, 1961 Palestra - Penn 82, Villanova 80

January 18, 1961 - Palestra - Penn 63, Villanova 62

January 23, 1960 - Palestra - Villanova 71, Penn 58

The 1950s

January 3, 1959 - Palestra - Villanova 93, Penn 63

February 19, 1958 - Palestra - Villanova 73, Penn 61 

January 16, 1957 - Palestra - Villanova 63, Penn 47 

February 8, 1956 - Palestra - Villanova 89, Penn 74

Prior to the formation of the Big Five, in time for the 1955-56 season, Villanova and Pennsylvania had played just once, surprisingly (?!?).

On January 7, 1922 - in just Villanova's second season of organized, intercollegiate play, in fact - the host Quakers (this was pre-Palestra, in fact - stopped Villanova, 27-23.  The teams then didn't play for another 34 years, despite the close proximity...

Go Wildcats!

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Friday, December 03, 2010

The Holy War - Villanova / St. Joseph's - An Updated Preview For December 2010

To the Wildcat faithful- 

Villanova leads the all-time series, 43-24. As members of the Big Five, the margin is considerably narrower: 32-23. Villanova had won eleven of the twelve meetings since the first game took place in 1921, until the formation of the Big Five in the 1955-56 season. 'Nova has done well in recent years, winning nine of the last dozen contests. Most of the SJU victories came during the 1950s and 1960s; Villanova is 27-12 over the last three decades or so.

This year, as well as the last two years, have marked a departure from the previous scheduling in February.  The telecast had often been featured on ESPN and ESPN2; the ESPN networks had featured the Holy War as part of their "Rivalry Week" series in that month.   This year, it will air on ESPNU, during December.

The Origin of the Series, Prior to the Formation of the Big Five

Villanova played SJU (then St. Joseph's College) twice, during the Wildcats' first ever season on the hardwood, which took place during the 1920-21 school year. The first contest took place on January 15, 1921, on the Main Line, with 'Nova winning 31-22. In the return game, Villanova completed the sweep by prevailing 24-14. The teams clashed often during the 1920s, but after the 1930 game, the series lay dormant for a long time. In the ensuing quarter-century, the only meeting was in 1939. As to why two proximate Catholic schools would go so long without meeting - can't figure it out.

But when the Big Five got rolling, it was SJU's turn to dominate the series. The Hawks won the first six City Series games and ten of the first twelve. The two schools had the honor of clashing in the first-ever Big Five contest at the Palestra, on December 14, 1955- St. Joe's won, 83-70. Surprisingly, the public did not seem all that interested in the game, as a paltry 2,636 spectators showed up for the historic inaugural. Villanova was ordinary that year, finishing at 14-12, but St. Joe's went 25-6 and reached the NIT semifinals.

The lack of interest is even more surprising, in light of the fact that starting with the 1958 game, every single VU/SJU game attracted a sellout or near-sellout crowd at the Palestra, with the high attendance continuous for all games since then, regardless of venue. The attendance for the 1957 game climbed to 5,659, but then the Palestra was packed to the rafters for Villanova/St. Joe's.

Some Memorable Games in the Series (Villanova victories in light blue, St. Joseph's victories in crimson)

February 12, 1958

Villanova loses to St. Joe's, 86-82, in overtime, after failing to hold a 17 point lead.

January 28, 1961

St. Joe's was a powerhouse, and would finish with a 25-5 record under Jack Ramsay
, a deep NCAA tournament run, and a City Series sweep. In the last season for legendary coach Alexander Severance, Villanova would finish winless in City Series play and with a dismal 11-13 record. But the Wildcats nearly pulled off a huge upset, losing only 64-63.

March 3, 1962

New coach Jack Kraft leads the Wildcats to their first-ever City Series victory over the Hawks, prevailing 66-59. The victory gives Villanova its first City Series sweep, with Hubie White leading the way with 23 points and 17 rebounds. Both teams went on to the NCAA tournament, in an era when the tournament field was very small.

February 20, 1965

This was the most titanic clash in Holy War history, as in no other year have both schools simultaneously posted such gaudy records. St. Joe's would finish at 26-3, with a 4-0 City Series sweep, and reach the NCAA tournament. Villanova would finish at 23-5 and reach the NIT semifinals. And when they met head-to-head, there was a bizarre incident - a bomb scare at the Palestra. 

According to a perhaps legendary tale, radio broadcaster Les Keiter refused to go off the air during the threat, announcing his intention to stay there all night if necessary. It turned out to be a false alarm, and the Hawks won, 69-62.

January 16, 1966

In one of the most written about Big Five finishes, Hawk substitute Steve Donches
connects on a 29-footer at the buzzer to give SJU a 71-69 victory.

January 11, 1969

The legendary Wildcat center Howard Porter turns in one of his most incredible performances, scoring 36 points and grabbing 26 rebounds to help Villanova blow out St. Joe's, 87-62. The 25 point margin was Villanova's most lopsided victory in the series to that point. The performance helps propel Porter to a share of the Geasey Award (the Big Five MVP) with La Salle's Ken Durrett.

February 20, 1971/March 13, 1971

In Villanova's second-greatest season, the Porter-led Wildcats will go 23-6 and reach the NCAA championship game before bowing to John Wooden's UCLA dynasty. But en route, they meet St. Joe's twice in one season, for the first time since 1923. In the City Series game, Villanova triumphs 63-55, although Hawks center Mike Bantom
outplays Porter.

The schools would meet again at the Palestra, in the first round of the NCAA tournament (the only time, before or since, the Holy War has extended to postseason play). 'Nova won in a rout, 93-75.

January 27, 1973

In Kraft's final season, Villanova scuffled to a rare losing record at 11-14. St. Joe's went 22-6 and to the NCAA tournament. But the Wildcats shocked the heavily favored Hawks, 79-72, with 43 points coming from Tom Ingelsby- the Geasey winner - and Ed Hastings.

February 22, 1975

Rollie Massimino wins his first game against the Hawks: Larry and Keith Herron each score 19 points in Villanova's 71-67 victory. The attraction of the rivalry was quite evident at this point. Villanova and St. Joe's finished with disastrous 9-18 and 8-17 records, respectively. La Salle and Penn had fantastic seasons, in contrast. But Villanova/St. Joe's drew 9,233 fans, the 3rd-highest total of the ten City Series contests. (Penn/Villanova and Penn/La Salle were the only others to draw more than 7,300).

February 19, 1977

The first City Series game away from the Palestra, as the Villanova/St. Joe's game goes to the Spectrum, to accommodate more fans for both schools. The Wildcats win 92-78, in front of 12,138 fans.

February 23, 1980

For the first time, the Wildcats and Hawks meet while both squads are 3-0 in City Series play. In front of a sold-out Palestra, the Hawks came away with a narrow 60-59 victory to give St. Joe's its first City Series title since 1968.

February 22, 1983

In the second Spectrum game in the series, a record throng of 18,060 witnesses a 70-62 Wildcat victory, the most to ever witness a Holy War.

February 19, 1985

It was the annus mirabilis (in Latin, the "year of miracles") on the Main Line. And perhaps the basketball gods' first sign of favor took place at the Spectrum, in the Holy War.

Villanova entered the game having lost three in a row, while the Hawks had won nine straight. Villanova was 3-0 in City Series play, but SJU was 1-1 and could pursue a share of the Big Five title with a victory over the 'Cats. 'Nova started the game on a 9-2 run, but by halftime the Hawks had overtaken them, 22-19. St. Joe's led 30-23 with 14:18 to go, before 'Nova rallied. Ed Pinckney connected on two free throws to draw the Wildcats even at 44 with 3:08 to play.

It seems odd to write this today, in the era of the shot clock, but SJU nearly succeeded in holding the ball for three minutes to take the last shot. Dwayne McClain rebounded the errant St. Joe's shot with only four seconds to go. On the inbounds play, McClain hit a 18-footer and was fouled. By converting the three-point play, McClain gave Villanova a 47-44 victory- and the outright Big Five title for the first time since 1967.

McClain's 18 points and Harold Pressley's 14 points paced 'Nova, as they each went 7-11 from the floor.
Rodney Blake
led the Hawks with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

February 19, 1987

"Daddy Mass" had the chance to win his 300th game against the Hawks. It took double overtime at the Palestra, but the Wildcats finally delivered an 88-87 victory. (Once a perennial fixture at the Palestra, it would be the last Holy War at the basketball cathedral for over seven years, until December 1994).

December 12, 1988

The Hawks soar into the Pavilion for the first time ever, facing a powerful Wildcat squad that would reach the Elite Eight come March. But the heavy-underdog Hawks pull off a 53-52 upset over Doug West, Mark Plansky and Tom Greis, thanks to a 15-foot bank shot by the obscure "Pick" Brown.
(Villanova finished the season at 24-13, the Hawks at 15-14.)

December 18, 1994

The Holy War, now taking place every other year due to Villanova's 1991-99 withdrawal from the full round-robin, returns to the Palestra for the first time in over six years. #22 Villanova - at the apex of the Kerry Kittles era - is a heavy favorite over a small, slow St. Joe's squad. (The Hawks hadn't reached postseason play since 1986.) 

But Dmitri Domani hits two key free throws down the stretch, to give St. Joe's a 60-57 upset victory. Kittles graduates as the first Wildcat superstar since the 1950s, to never beat St. Joe's (albeit with only two opportunities, rather than four).

Although nobody knew it at the time, it would be the last Holy War for SJU coach John Griffin, who also had been a Hawk player; he resigned at the end of the season, and was replaced by one of his longtime assistants, Phil Martelli. However , St. Joe's would not defeat Villanova again, for another decade.

December 23, 1996

At Christmas time, Villanova coach Steve Lappas, as well as stars Alvin Williams and Jason Lawson, finally defeat St. Joe's. The #10 Wildcats had only one disadvantage - the absence of freshman sensation Tim Thomas, sidelined with an injury. After struggling in the first half, the Wildcats go on a 24-3 run in the second half to win easily, 81-65. (There is a huge Pavilion crowd of 6,672, including a healthy number of Hawk partisans able to obtain tickets, with the VU students on break.)

The victory looks more significant in light of subsequent events than it seemed at the time. St. Joe's - which hadn't been to the NCAA tournament in over a decade - went on to a highly unexpected 26-7 season and Sweet 16 appearance. However, at the time, the 'Nova victory was considered routine, given the Wildcats' vast advantages in talent (even with Thomas out).

December 1, 1998 -

The Wildcats make it two in a row over the Hawks, 61-49, thanks to 15 points each from seniors Howard Brown and Rafal Bigus. Brown punctuates the game with several acrobatic feats, including a highly memorable tip dunk.

February 17, 2000 - Pavilion

This was the first Holy War to take place, after the joyous announcement during the previous off-season, that Villanova would resume participation in the full-round robin, starting with the 1999-2000 season. 

The Wildcats had been absent from the round-robin, beginning with the 1991-92 season, an eight-year absence.

Marvin O'Connor,
who transferred from 'Nova to St. Joe's after his freshman season of 1997-98, takes on his former teammates for the first time. (Intra-Big Five transfers are rare.) O'Connor leads the Hawks with 20 points, but on only 8-24 shooting. Gary Buchanan singlehandedly gives the Wildcats a hard-fought, 68-61 victory, with a 24 point outburst.

December 11, 2000

The Holy War returns to the Palestra. St. Joe's comes close to its long-denied victory over the Wildcats, leading 39-32 at intermission. O'Connor dazzles with 32 points on 11-17 shooting to lead the Hawks. But 'Nova rallies in the second half to come away with a hard-fought, thrilling 78-75 victory. Michael Bradley has a field day in the paint, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Reggie Bryant and Aaron Matthews add 13 for the 'Cats.

February 2002 - Pavilion

In the first Holy War under Jay Wright, Villanova eviscerated SJU at the Pavilion, 102-73, the largest margin of victory for either side in the then-81 year history of the series. Gary Buchanan led the way with 28 points, including a career-high seven three-pointers.

February 2003 - Palestra

Martelli had been the most successful coach at SJU since Jack Ramsay
, having won Atlantic 10 titles and reached a Sweet 16 in 1997. He defeated Villanova for the first time in six tries, as the Hawks humiliated the 'Cats, 92-75, at the Palestra. Incredibly, the 17-point final margin does not accurately reflect, how lopsided the game actually was.

During the first eight minutes, the Wildcats committed 15 turnovers and scored three baskets. The Hawks started the contest on a 40-9 run - and the 17-point deficit was actually the closest Villanova drew after that, during the entire game. (One particularly zealous Hawk partisan actually had the opening run immortalized on his Pennsylvania license plate: "SJ40-VU9".)

Jameer Nelson had 30 points to lead the Hawks. Delonte West,
who had been the lead story entering the game, after media reports surfaced regarding an altercation he had allegedly had with the SJU trainer, did not start as a result. But playing 26 minutes, he scored 25 points.

February 2004

The #3 Hawks entered the Pavilion soaring as high as they ever have, bringing an unblemished 18-0 mark into the game; they would eventually garner a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and reach the Elite Eight. However, the Wildcats substantially improved upon the sorry spectacle of the previous year. The overmatched Wildcats fought admirably before finally falling, 74-67.

Nelson and West combined for 45 points, but Mike Nardi led the Wildcat counterattack with 16 points and five assists. A three-pointer from Andreas Bloch cut the Hawk lead to 54-50, with less than nine minutes to play, before what had to have been one of the largest crowds in Pavilion history. But that was as close as 'Nova came to an upset.

February 2005

By a remarkable twist of fate, Super Bowl XXXIX between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots is scheduled for the previous day. And so Holy War LXII is relegated to the back burner. Lost amidst the avalanche of Super Bowl coverage, it was the probably the least hyped battle between the two schools since the formation of the Big Five.

VU was enjoying its first great year, under Jay Wright, and entered the contest with a #22 ranking. SJU was coming off a remarkable season in which they were undefeated until the Atlantic 10 tournament and ranked #1 for a week. The Hawks had reached the Elite Eight (moreover, coming within a Jameer Nelson shot of reaching the Final Four), and with both teams enjoying a renaissance, it should have had the makings of a fantastic contest.

However, the melancholia of the crowd (for both teams) was too much to overcome. The Patriots' vanquishing of the Eagles, on the previous evening, cast a funereal pall over the proceedings, like a vast, billowing fog through which no other sporting event could shine.

And as it turned out, the game wasn't all that good, anyway. The Wildcats were never challenged in a slow, foul-marred game, which they won, 67-52. Jason Fraser had arguably the finest game of his star-crossed career, coming off the bench to score 14 points, grab 14 rebounds and block two shots, despite being hampered by a heavily bandaged hand and playing only 29 minutes. 

The Hawks' Pat Carroll, a superb outside shooter, would miss his first 13 shots, as SJU had mustered only 20 points with less than 14 minutes to play.

Finally, the Hawks' band would play, during garbage time, a mournful version of "Fly, Eagles, Fly", accurately reflecting what was on the mind of the Palestra crowd... 

February 7, 2006 - Palestra

It was the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Big Five. And as fate would have it, both teams entered the sold-out, packed-beyond-capacity Palestra, with perfect 3-0 City Series marks: the winner would take the 50th Big Five title. This represented only the fourth time in the Big Five's half-century history, that two schools would enter a City Series contest, with both having 3-0 records.

And despite a terrible first half, Villanova ended up withe the chance to savor another City Series sweep. Despite the unavailability of a tonsillitis-stricken Mike Nardi, the #4 Wildcats were heavy favorites over the Hawks. And so there was much astonishment in the venerable building, when St. Joseph's dominated the first half. Villanova was trailing by double-digits, 34-22, at halftime.

But Villanova rallied to defeat the Hawks, 71-58, for the second year in a row, capturing the City Series crown. "Nova annihilated SJU after intermission, winning the second half by more than doubling up the Hawks, 49-24. The Wildcats shot a stunning 68% in the second half, after scuffling to an anemic 30% in the first half.  

Kyle Lowry, playing in his second (and since he ultimately left early for the NBA, final) contest with SJU, scored 25 points, including 17 in the second-half counterattack, which featured a 21-3 Wildcats run. The gifted senior backcourt of Allan Ray and Randy Foye also contributed 14 points apiece. For SJU, Chet Stachitas had 19 points, with Abdulai Jalloh adding 15 points and Dwayne Lee recording 11 points. 

February 6, 2007 - Pavilion 

Villanova 56, St. Joseph's 39 

The Hawks are held to their lowest Holy War total in 68 years, as Villanova completes a City Series sweep - read my full game story here.  

February 4, 2008 - Palestra 

St. Joseph's 77, Villanova 55  

St. Joseph's prevents Villanova from sweeping the City Series, with a 77-55 victory.  Pat Calathes and Rob Ferguson each score 20 points to lead the Hawks, while Darrin Govens adds 16; Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds score a dozen points apiece, for the Wildcats. 

December 11, 2008 - Pavilion 

#12 Villanova 59, St. Joseph's 56 

The Wildcats rally from a 35-26 halftime deficit against the underdog Hawks, triumphing 59-56.  Reynolds scores 18 points, including the winning free throws with 4.8 seconds to play, to cap the comeback.  Govens has 18 points to lead the Hawks. 

December 9, 2009 - The Palestra

#3 Villanova 97, Saint Joseph's 89

The Wildcats entered the game with a perfect 8-0 record, and held off a surprisingly spirited effort from an overmatched Hawks squad, which had limped into the contest at 3-5.  The Wildcats' lead at halftime was just 41-38, and it would have gone down as one of the greatest upsets in Holy War history had the Hawks managed to topple the third-ranked team in the land.

However, Scottie Reynolds' 22 points paced the Wildcats, as the senior - facing the Hawks for the final time - also grabbed half a dozen caroms.  For the Hawks, Idris Hilliard led the way with 22 points and seven rebounds.
Another chapter written, tonight, at the Pavilion...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

#6 Wildcats Maul Marist in NIT Tip-Off First Round, 84-47, At Pavilion

To the Wildcat faithful-

The #6 Wildcats had no trouble getting past a hopelessly overmatched Marist Red Foxes squad, 84-47, at the Pavilion on Tuesday night.  No fewer than five Wildcats made it into double figures, by the final buzzer.  

Villanova was paced by its youthful backcourt of Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek.  Wayns finished with 17 points on 6-11 shooting, and seven rebounds, the latter being a remarkable number for a point guard.   Cheek came off the bench to add 15 points on 6-10 shooting, great numbers for a player who logged only 22 minutes.

Villanova held a 36-24 advantage at intermission, as Marist had stayed within reasonable striking distance, but the Wildcats really pulled away in the second half, scoring 48 additional points en route to a 39-point blowout victory.  The entire team played fine defense, as Marist mustered only 47 points - in other words, Villanova's 48 second-half points alone, would have been enough for a 48-47 victory.   (This undoubtedly would have made for a far more exciting contest, though, if the Wildcats had trailed 47-0 at halftime and rallied to win.)

The Wildcats made it 2-0 on the young season, and although this was not a surprising outcome, the final numbers look like what they should for a Top 10 team at home against a low-major opponent.  So while we can't read too much into it, there's reason for optimism.

Next Up for the Wildcats
There is only a brief respite, before facing the Boston University Terriers in the next round of the preseason NIT at the Pavilion, at 8:00 PM this evening.   Unfortunately, the game won't be televised...

Go Wildcats!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

#6 Wildcats Top Wright's Alma Mater, Bucknell, In Season Opener

To the Wildcat faithful-

The #6 Wildcats - ranked in the top 10 to start the season - launched the 2010-11 season with a victory over Bucknell, 68-52, at the Pavilion.  The Bison of Bucknell - one of my favorite nicknames in all of college basketball - put up a gallant effort against Jay Wright's powerhouse squad, but there was no upset to be had.

Rarely has a season opened in such warm weather in Philadelphia, either.  This season opener was earlier than normal, and with unseasonably balmy temperatures around here, it doesn't really feel quite like time for basketball yet, even Villanova basketball with a preseason ranking in the Top 10.
Bucknell is chiefly notable as the alma mater of Jay Wright.  Wright played four seasons at Bucknell, graduating in 1982.  As Wright once put it, "I grew up a Villanova fan.  And I wanted to play for Villanova and Rollie Massimino.  But I wasn't good enough!  So I played at Bucknell."  Little did he know, back then, of course, that he'd be at the helm of his favorite team for a decade...

Next Up For the Wildcats

Villanova will now participate in the 2010 NIT Season Tip-Off, the more elaborate name for what was once simply known as the Pre-season NIT.  Their first battle is against the Marist Red Foxes, on Tuesday, November 16 at the Pavilion.

Go Wildcats!

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

One Shining Moment Montage 2008 CBS - Identifying the Shots, Frame by Frame

To the Wildcat faithful-

I had previously noted the presence of various Wildcats in the classic CBS "One Shining Moment" montage...  and the thought occurred to me, that it might be interesting to do it for the entire song.  I have tremendous respect for CBS's NCAA tournament coverage...  Obviously, what you see below is not perfect, but it's the best that I can do at the moment...

From 2008 - "One Shining Moment" - recorded by Luther Vandross - about 3 minutes, 8 seconds:

Ball bouncing along the NCAA logo on court
Tennessee dog mascot
North Carolina fans
Texas cheerleaders
Baylor Bear and cheerleaders
Indiana fans dancing
What I believe is the UCLA band playing instruments - blue and yellow tie-dyed shirts
Notre Dame Leprechaun doing somersaults and bowing to the crowd
Little kid from Pitt cheering
Two little kids in stands, dancing for Arkansas
Butler cheerleaders blowing kisses
Duke Blue Devil and cheerleaders
Tiger mascot, can't tell who though
Texas A&M band percussion section
Blue and white cheerleaders doing backflips - may be Duke, but can't conclusively tell
Xavier players
Hands on ball
Arkansas Razorback flag being carried
Blue-clad pep band
Players in a circle - can't identify team - may have been Duke or possibly Pitt
Another team in a circle - red warmups
Player's face
Tip-off Villanova/Kansas, I believe, Sweet 16
Another tip-off, player in an orange jersey
Players running - a North Carolina game, since some of the sneakers were light blue, some were red; most likely this was the Elite Eight win over Louisville, whose colors are red and white.  Although it could be Washington State in the Sweet 16, since their color is crimson
Davidson - Stephon Curry
Somebody dunking - can't tell yet
Blue and gold player running into scorer's table, trying to corral a loose ball
Kansas Jayhawk going out of bounds to save a ball (can tell by the Jayhawk on the side of the shorts)
Western Kentucky player stopping to shoot
Carolina Tar Heel shooting three-pointer
Player in white uniform with maroon trim shooting
Three-pointer going down
Jim Phelan, coach of Mt. Saint Mary's - "all these years"
Two opposing players diving for a ball
Another guy diving for a ball
Butler player scooping up a loose ball while white-jerseyed opponent slides out of bounds under the basket; appears to be Tennessee.  Those teams did play that year - in the second round, UT won won 76-71...
Texas A&M #32 getting pumped
Georgetown (at least a gray jerseyed player, dunking, his number is just too small to conclusively identify - against a team with black and gold jerseys - I believe this was UMBC, which has those colors; that was a #2/#15 game in the first round
Texas #5 dunking
Red and black clad cheerleader with back to the camera - I think this was a Davidson cheerleader
Oklahoma #11
UMBC Retriever clapping
Red-jerseyed player diving
West Virginia cheerleaders and Mountaineer with musket, pumping fist
Two fans with orange hats with an "L"
Guy with the basketball glasses
Ball in slow motion rolling in - "frozen in time"
Orange and white jerseyed players embracing - I think that I can see a "T" for Tennessee, or Texas
Glum player in dark jersey
UConn player #12 being helped off court by teammates - #34 on left and can't tell on right
UConn player looking disgusted, pushing arm over head
Angry coach in a game with red and white jerseys
Washington State cheerleader winking / "in the blinking of an eye"
Backboard Dartronic clock counting down, 0:00:03-02-01-00 / "that moment's gone"
Drake #5 with hands behind head, looking dejected, after the #5 seed lost to #12 Western Kentucky, in first round, 101-99
Purdue player in dark jersey, looking dejected on bench
Kansas State players in dark jerseys looking dejected - can't quite find double-digit number on left player, right player wearing #1 - they were a #11 seed, lost to #3 Wisconsin in second round
Agitated UCLA coach Ben Howland
One teammate consoling another - wearing gold uniforms with green trim on bench, one guy with a towel over his head with his head covering face
Belmont player - appears to be #2 - walking off floor with teammate after Belmont - the #15 seed - lost to #2 Duke in first round, 71-70, in Washington, DC
Red jersey black trim player being hugged by coach
Kansas #3 jersey shooting over Villanova Wildcat, as #25 dunks on him
Memphis #1 cheering, with Memphis cheerleaders in background
Cheerleader - gold and black
Three Marquette Golden Eagles in white jerseys on bench - middle player is #41 - right player is #5, can't tell for sure - #10 giving someone a kiss.  This was their victory in the #6/#11 game against Kentucky, the only game in which Marquette was the higher seed; they lost in the second round.
Blue clad cheerleader
George Mason mascot - big green thing  - with guy in a white suit, dancing
Southern California cheerleaders
Xavier player in white headband
Xavier player in white jersey, saying "One Shining Moment" for the camera, after game ends, and pulling up Xavier jersey; #3 seed Xavier had three white-jerseyed wins, before losing to UCLA in Elite Eight
Memphis players linking arms and swaying on the bench
Davidson #23 pumping fist for camera - as Georgetown #4 walks slowly behind him 
Davidson #2 and #30 doing body jump and bump
Woman lifting arms in celebration
Three-pointer shot against UConn, from angle behind basket
Dark-jerseyed players celebrating, pouring off the bench
North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough dunking, from angle directly overhead the basket
Coach - apparently Kansas coach Bill Self - looking frustrated and hitting floor
White-jerseyed Texas Longhorn trying to engage crowd by gesturing arms
Arizona Wildcat #0 blue jersey pumping fist, opponent running behind him
West Virginia Mountaineer player in blue jersey looking somber
Memphis Tiger player exulting with raised arms
Three-pointer from corner good
Three-pointer from opposite corner good - #11 Xavier in white jersey
Davidson's Stephon Curry driving to basket, getting an "and one" call, apparently against Wisconsin, whom they played in the Sweet 16, as the opponents seem to have white jerseys with red trim and no name on back
Curry celebrating and looking to heaven
Shot of Stanford against Marquette, with Stanford scoring on floater that rattles in
Marquette players in dark jerseys on bench looking dejected; this was during their 82-81 loss in the second round to #3 Stanford, in overtime
Stanford #11 exulting, wtih Marquette #12 in background
Western Kentucky #1 lining up to take three-pointer from right side - he drains it, and starts celebrating, as teammate grabs him by his jersey
UCLA #0 in white jersey dunking on breakaway
2:14 West Virginia #43 on bench, covering his face with his dark jersey
Texas A&M dark jersey sitting on floor in fetal position; the #9 Aggies lost to the #1 seed, the UCLA Bruins, in the second round, 52-51.
Cal State-Fullerton players on bench; the #14 seed lost to #3 Wisconsin in the first round.
Rameses, the North Carolina ram mascot
A Memphis player, I think...
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt clapping
Memphis #23 showing his jersey
Memphis #3 making a spectacular dunk
Kansas introductions
Kansas dunking over Scottie Reynolds, from under-the-basket inbounds play
Jayhawk mascot giving OK sign to camera
Memphis #5 dunk
Memphis player shouting
Then-Memphis coach John Calipari yelling, during game with UCLA
Kansas #15 pumping
Kansas #24 yelling (Sascha Kaun, I believe)
Jump ball between Kansas and Memphis in title game - #5 for Memphis - Dizier?
Flashbulbs popping throughout crowd
Memphis #22 layup, guarded by Kansas #15 - "and one"
Kansas #15 shooting three-pointer
Kansas #5 dunking, on lob from #15
Kansas #4 exulting
Bill Self with both arms and up and index fingers extended
Kansas #10 and redhaired guy celebrating
Chalmers/#15 hugging someone while wearing title hat
Jayhawks encircled, bouncing
Chalmers extending jersey as confetti falls from the proverbial rafters, then arms raised
Jayhawks gathered around, holding NCAA Tournament Championship Trophy over heads

E-mail: villanova.viewpoint-at-yahoo-dot-com

Thursday, April 01, 2010

25th Anniversary of Villanova over Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game - Lexington, Kentucky

To the Wildcat faithful-

Today is the anniversary of the most important day in the history of not just Villanova basketball, but arguably Villanova University as a whole.  A quarter of a century ago, today, the Wildcats stunned the nation by upsetting Georgetown, 66-64...  Villanova was a #8 seed, the lowest seed to ever win the title under the current format, adopted in 1985 - its inaugural year.

It was stunning to observers at the time, but even more so in the light of history.  No other seed that low has done it in the 25 subsequent tournaments, including this one, in which the two lowest seeds remaining are a pair of #5s, in Butler and Michigan State.

With us in the Final Four last season, I had written the following piece for last season's April Fool's Day.  I think that as we emerge from the wreckage of this year's so promising, and then profoundly disappointing ending, I think that it might be a good idea to revisit the greatest moment in the Villanova Wildcats program, before or since...  I've revised and updated it for this season...

Last season, to put myself in the proper perspective for April Fool's Day, 2009, I re-watched the outstanding HBO documentary, The Perfect Upset, to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the stunning Villanova

Simply put, The Perfect Upset is outstanding. I highly recommend it, for anyone who wants to dive deeply not only into the game itself, but Villanova's entire NCAA tournament run, as well as the social atmosphere and upheavals that were convulsing American life and society in the 1980s.

I had previously seen it, but of course, it has particular resonance in light of the highly unexpected Final Four run by the 2009 Wildcats... here are some observations, on the game that took place two dozen years ago...

Villanova - as a #8 seed - winning the NCAA tournament in 1985, is probably the second-greatest upset in the history of North American sports.

(The only one that I believe is clearly greater, was the U.S. hockey team capturing the gold medal against the Soviet Union in 1980.) Nor does that primarily stem from my being a Villanova alumnus and fan. For sports enthusiasts of any partisan stripe, Villanova/Georgetown is a magnificent story, enormously entertaining, filled with unique, memorable, flamboyant characters, richly textured, with a thrilling plot and spectacular ending. It's so great that no fiction writer could ever have contrived it.

No other team seeded that low has ever come close to repeating the feat. Granted, Villanova is not the lowest seed to advance to the Final Four - George Mason in 2006, and LSU two decades earlier - both made it as #11 seeds. But neither won a game in the Final Four. And even if they had, they would not have to face an opponent as formidable as the 1985 Georgetown Hoyas.

Perhaps the most astonishing element of the story of the 1985 Villanova Wildcats, is the fact that the entire story is true and genuine. One interviewee in The Perfect Upset notes that "you can't script the stuff," and he's absolutely right. (His line parallels the slogan Fox Sports used once for its October baseball coverage - "You Can't Script October".)

All of the following classic dramatic elements were present:
victory over Georgetown, 24 years ago, today... It is but one of the greatest ironies that it took place on April Fool's Day....
  • The metaphor of David vs. Goliath;
  • Clear villains in John Thompson and the Hoyas;
  • Clear heroes in Rollie Massimino and the Wildcats;
  • Not one, but two ailing Villanova fixtures - the first being Jake Nevin (who features prominently in The Perfect Upset) and also Alexander Severance, the founding father of Villanova basketball, who died during the Final Four but before the championship game (surprisingly, his passing is not mentioned during The Perfect Upset)...
  • A small, private, academically prominent school winning the national championship;
  • The first time that school had ever won the national championship;
  • An astoundingly high level of play in the game itself - shooting 78.6% from the floor (22/28 overall), including 9/10 in the second half;
  • the end of an era - it was the last tournament without a shot clock;
  • the beginning of an era - it was the first year of the 64-team field.
That's only a partial list... Had Hollywood come up with a script for a basketball film, that incorporated all of the above elements, it clearly would have been rejected, as too unrealistic and sentimental - the audience would be unable to suspend its disbelief for a story like Villanova's.

But truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and the story really did take place according to the legend. It's all true...

If you haven't seen the outstanding1986 film Hoosiers (or if you haven't seen it recently), you really should go see it. Although its story stems from the true tale of a high school team in 1950s Indiana, the parallels between its plot and the saga of the Villanova Wildcats of 1985 are unmistakable. (I speculate that the script had probably already been written before the 1985 tournament, but it's possible that elements of it might have slipped in.) When telling the story of the 1985 Wildcats to those who are not familiar with it, it's often illustrative to liken it to Hoosiers..   (spoiler alert: don't keep reading, if you haven't seen it...)

Worth noting: The climax of Hoosiers, when the Hickory team coached by Gene Hackman upsets the powerhouse in the Indiana state title game, and in which he dramtically illustrates that the court's dimensions are the same size as back in Hickory, was filmed at the home venue of Butler University - which, as we all know, is located in Indianapolis, the site of this year's Final Four.  25 years after Villanova's upset, and 24 years after the release of Hoosiers.  Amazing...

Another aspect to keep in mind, is the distortion of retrospection. We all know the happy ending, about the eventual Villanova victory. In order to truly appreciate the stunning nature, though, we have to put ourselves in the frame of mind of those players, coaches, reporters, broadcasters, fans, etc., who were watching the events as they unfolded. It has to be remembered how improbable it was that Villanova had even reached the Final Four, let alone winning the entire tournament. Moreover, it had been highly improbable, that the Wildcats even reached the Sweet 16, having to play #9 Dayton on its home floor, and then top seed Michigan in the second round.

And as great as this year's team has been - and even if it does capture Villanova's second national crown - it can never match 1985. This year's team is a #3 seed, that had the further advantage of playing two rounds at home. And while North Carolina and either UConn/Michigan State are fine teams, they are not the juggernauts that the 1985 Hoyas were.

Villanova's 1985 championship is too difficult of an act to follow.

In the 24 tournaments since then (including this one), no lower seed has won the championship, or reached the title game. In 2006, as I (along with virtually all of America) rooted for George Mason to further shock the world by winning the national championship, I recognized that there would be one downside to the miracle - it would partially eclipse Villanova's feat. George Mason was an even bigger underdog, from a far less prominent conference, with a lower seed.

But of course, I was pulling for them, because it would have been a great feat on behalf of all the little schools in America, those who don't have the good fortune to play in power conferences or in great facilities or frequently on television. It would have underscored Villanova's triumph, not replaced it.

Although the 1985 team's accomplishment was certainly fully recognized at the time, the legend has only grown in the last two dozen years. As the big public schools, concentrated in the power conferences, continue to gobble up national titles, Final Four appearances, (and most alarmingly) an even greater share of NCAA tournament invitations, the achievement of the 1985 Wildcats has only glimmered that much brighter. Every year that goes by, without the miraculous event being repeated, simply adds to its luster.

So those are my thoughts on this April Fool's Day...

In the meantime...
You can also take a look at the other Villanova blogs included in Various Viewpoints on the right sidebar, for their takes...

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged. Also, you can e-mail

Go Wildcats!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Villanova Season Review in Comments Threat in Previous Post

To the Wildcat faithful-

I wanted to call everyone's attention to the fact that we have an excellent comment thread, on the St. Mary's recap below, in which we discuss at length the various factors, that led to the Wildcats' subpar performance down the stretch, in the Big East tournament, and in the NCAA tournament.  Commenter Seamus and two anonymous commenters have been contributing, big time... so please look at the comment thread not on this post, but the game recap of St. Mary's...

Go Wildcats!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gael and Farewell: #10 Saint Mary's Stuns #2 Wildcats in NCAA 2nd Round, 75-68

To the Wildcat faithful-

Gael and Farewell, to the 2009-10 Season.

The Gaels of Saint Mary's ended the 90th season of Villanova basketball on Saturday afternoon, as the #10 seed shocked the second-seeded Wildcats, 75-68, in the first game of the second round of the NCAA tournament, in Providence, Rhode Island.

For Villanova, which started the season 20-1, the loss was the culmination of a series of setbacks, which began in February.  The Wildcats, residents of the Top 5 nationally for most of the season, lost in their opening game of the Big East tournament, and required overtime to defeat a gallant, #15 Robert Morris squad on Thursday.  The subpar play continued today, as the listless Wildcats fell, in a stunning upset.  After winning all but one of their first 21 games, Villanova ended the season by dropping seven of their 11 last contests.  The Wildcats wound up with a record of 25-8, far lower than what would have been anticipated at the 20-1 mark.

For the Wildcats, accustomed to making deep NCAA runs under Jay Wright, it was an unsettling ending, to what once seemed such a promising season.

Obviously, we'll have many opportunities, to figure out just what went wrong down the stretch.  But in the meantime, congratulations to both Robert Morris, who came up just a little short, and to Saint Mary's, which did not.  And good luck to the Gaels, the rest of the way.  They were the better team today, facing a team far more talent-laden and deeper than their own...


So, just what went wrong? 

Looking at the numbers:

Certainly, Scottie Reynolds's final game as a Wildcat, turned out to be one that - as much as both we and he will remember his career - both we and he will like to forget.  His shot simply didn't make the trip up to Providence, in either the win over Robert Morris and this loss to Saint Mary's.

Against Saint Mary's, Reynolds finished with just eight points, on 2-11 shooting from the floor, and 1-3 from three-point range.  The eight points represented his lowest total since January 20 - it was the first time he hadn't reached double figures, since that victory against Rutgers.  Against Robert Morris, Reynolds still managed to score 20 points, because he got to the foul line often, and made those trips count - he was 15-16 from the line.  On Saturday, in contrast, he was just 3-3, from the line.

What proved fatal to the Wildcats' tournament dreams, was the fact that Corey Fisher also had an atrocious scoring game: 3-13 from the floor, 1-3 from beyond the arc, 2-2 from the line - and just nine points.  Villanova could absorb simultaneous bad games from Reynolds and Fisher on Thursday, and still escape in overtime; however, they couldn't pull it off for the second time, in three games.

In Villanova's 33 games this season, there were only six occasions, when Fisher had not scored in double figures.  And before the NCAA tournament, it had happened only once, since January 2.  But two of the six were over the last three days.  The Wildcats couldn't overcome the deficit of offensive firepower, from its two most reliable scorers.

Corey Stokes tried to carry the standard for the Villanova cause.  The Bayonne Bomber, playing his final game as a junior, led the team with 15 points on 5-9 shooting, including 3-6 from three-point range, and also added five rebounds, three of them on the offensive end.  It was one of his finest games of the season.  Down the stretch, with the exception of the Robert Morris game, Stokes had been firing well, a rare bright spot during the team's swoon in its final five games...

Off the bench, freshman Maalik Wayns provided a huge offensive spark.  Other than Stokes, Wayns was the only Wildcat to reach double figures, with 10 points on 5-9 shooting, plus three rebounds and three assists, in just 18 minutes of action.  It was the first time Wayns had reached double figures, since the victory over Notre Dame on January 27.  With the loss of two guards in Reynolds and Reggie Redding, Wayns will likely see a great deal more playing time, next season.

Speaking of Redding, his final game as a Wildcat was characteristic of his four years at Villanova - modest scoring, decent all-around numbers and effective defense.  While he shot just 2-7 from the floor and scored just five points, he collected four rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, in 26 minutes.

One mystery was what happened to Antonio Pena, in the NCAA tournament.   No injury or disciplinary issue was made public, and he was not in foul trouble in either game.  But he played a total of 21 minutes in both games, after serving as Villanova's most reliable inside option all season.  He didn't even start, against Saint Mary's.

Against Robert Morris, Pena did not score in nine minutes; on Saturday against Saint Mary's, he played a dozen minutes, and was effective, coming off the bench.  The redshirt junior was 4-6 from the floor, scoring nine points and garnering two rebounds.

Pena's playing time, instead, went to Mouphtaou Yarou, who really emerged as a vital inside force down the stretch.  After being the lead Wildcat scorer against Robert Morris, Mouph was inserted into the starting lineup against Saint Mary's.  He logged 17 minutes, but was just 1-4 from the floor and 2-2 from the line, scoring four points.  He did pull down four rebounds, three on the offensive end.

Isaiah Armwood did not play against Marquette in the Big East tournament, or in either game during the NCAA tournament.  This key freshman defender, who had been a key cog in the rotation, throughout the season, did not see the floor at all.

Dominic Cheek saw some of Armwood's time, playing 19 minutes.  The freshman really brought it on the glass, with seven rebounds, to go with five points.

Taylor King, after an offensive outburst against Robert Morris (10 points), did not have the same impact: in his nine minutes: three points, one rebound, and one steal.

Finally, rounding out the rotation, Maurice Sutton saw eight minutes, in which he did not score, had one rebound, and one turnover.

One of the great ironies was that despite the fact that the individual Wildcats' numbers were so undistinguished, was the fact that a couple of the team statistics actually looked pretty good.  The Wildcats were a perfect 11-11 from the foul line.  They committed just seven turnovers.  Both teams, coincidentally, were 7-19 (32.8%) from beyond the arc.  Saint Mary's won the rebounding battle by just one board, 32-31.

For Saint Mary's, of course, the big gun was Omar Samhan.  Villanova simply had no answer for him in the paint.  Simply put, Samhan had one of the best games that any Villanova opponent has ever had in the NCAA tournament: 32 points in 32 minutes, on 13-16 shooting, seven rebounds, and a pair of blocks.  (If he hadn't picked up three fouls, he might have done even better.)

There were two other standouts for the Gaels, both of whom played all 40 minutes.  One was Mickey McConnell, who scored 15 points on 3-6 shooting, including 3-6 from beyond the arc, had three assists and no turnovers.  The other was Matthew Dellavedova, who scored 14 points on 4-11 shooting, was 2-5 from three-point range, 4-4 from the line, and had four rebounds and two assists.

I continue to add content... please check back for updates...

Go Wildcats!

E-mail: villanova.viewpoint-at-yahoo-dot-com

Friday, March 19, 2010

Comprehensive Villanova / St. Mary's Preview, Part 2 - #2 seed vs #10 seed - NCAA 2nd Round - The Gaels

To the Wildcat faithful-

In Part 2, I'm going to analyze the Gaels' players as individuals, and speculate about what we might expect Saturday afternoon, with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery calling the game for CBS.  You can read Part 1 of the Villanova / Saint Mary's Preview by clicking here.

Before I begin, one historical note: this will be the third meeting, all-time, between Villanova and Saint Mary's.  The two teams, from opposite coasts, played a home-and-home series in the early 1990s.  On December 12, 1992 (the first year under the helm of Steve Lappas, the predecessor of Jay Wright), Villanova lost in overtime, to the host Gaels, 65-64.  The following year, at the Pavilion, Villanova won 89-78, on December 18, 1993; that team would go on to win the NIT.

Another note: When St. Mary's triumphed over Richmond, 80-71, it was quite a milestone for the Gaels; it was the school's first NCAA tournament victory since 1959.  The team had made the tournament five previous times since that year, but had always fallen short in the first round.

That single NCAA victory had come on March 14 of that year, against Idaho State, 80-71.  There were only 23 teams in the field, and Saint Mary's reached the Elite Eight due to that victory.  But it took another half-century for Saint Mary's to triumph once more in the NCAA tournament. 

Here's what Wright told the Saint Mary's Sports Information Office, on the Gaels:
“You just can’t go, they look like a team you could just go get and guard them one-on-one and these guys shouldn’t go by you, but you can’t play them that way. They’re so good, they’re so quick, even though they don’t look quick. They’re really ball quick, meaning they catch and pass quickly, and make decisions quickly. Their handles are quick and they get low on their drives. We’re going to have to adjust to their personnel. A couple of guys are great off the dribble, a couple guys are great shooters and passers.”
Certainly, having watched the first-round victory that Saint Mary's had little trouble achieving against #7 Richmond, the obvious distinction with this team is the prolific number of Australians, who have headed to another hemisphere, to play for Saint Mary's.  There are three Australians in the starting lineup, and five on the overall roster.

That having been said, the biggest problem facing Wright and the Wildcats, hails from far closer than Down Under: the Californian Omar Samhan.  At 6-11, the redshirt senior had a magnificent performance against Richmond: 29 points on 11-16 shooting, and a dozen rebounds, in only 28 minutes of action.  Samhan was the main reason why Saint Mary's obliterated Richmond on the glass, 40-17.

Samhan, a Wooden Award finalist, enters the game averaging 21.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3 blocks per contest.  For Villanova, the combination of Antonio Pena, Maurice Sutton, and Mouphtaou Yarou will need to prevent Samham from wreaking his customary swath of destruction through the paint.

Saint Mary's is not a particularly deep team, if coach Randy Bennett's rotation against Richmond is any indication.  The five Gael starters played all but 21 of the 200 minutes; in fact, Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova played all 40 minutes.  The other two starters, Clint Steidl and Ben Allen, played Beau Levesque saw 13 minutes; Jordan Page, a half-dozen; Mitchell Young, two minutes.  In their 21 minutes, they combined to score just five points, all from Levesque.

I will be continuing to add content, up until game time, so please check back...

I'll have a full recap after the game.

Go Wildcats!

E-mail: villanova.viewpoint-at-yahoo-dot-com 

Comprehensive Villanova / St. Mary's Preview, Part 1 - #2 seed vs. #10 seed - 1:05 PM, CBS, Saturday

To the Wildcat faithful-

This is Part 1 of a comprehensive, detailed preview of the second-seeded Wildcats' upcoming game with the #10 seed, Saint Mary's, who  with surprising ease - solidly defeated #7 Richmond, in the second half of yesterday's first-round doubleheader in Providence, Rhode Island. 

You can read Part 2 of the Villanova / Saint Mary's Preview by clicking here.

The Viewpoint on the Saint Mary's Gaels - 2009-10 Season Analysis

Saint Mary's finished with a record of 11-3 in the West Coast Conference (WCC), and entered the NCAA tournament with a record of 26-5, to which they have now added a first-round victory over Richmond.

For a school from the mid-major WCC, Saint Mary's RPI and strength-of-schedule are tremendous: a 35 ranking, with a 120 SOS.  In games against NCAA tournament qualifiers, they went 4-3: they lost two out of three against Gonzaga, wins over New Mexico State, San Diego State, and Utah State, and a loss to Vanderbilt.

Saint Mary's opened the season with the pair of aforementioned wins over New Mexico State and San Diego State, as well as the aforementioned loss toVanderbilt, by just two points.  The Gaels then ripped off seven consecutive wins: Cal Poly/San Luis Obispo, the non-Division I California Maritime, @ San Jose State, @ Utah State, @ Pac-10 member Oregon, Portland State, and Pacific.

So Saint Mary's entered the Diamond Head Classic Christmastime holiday tournament in Honolulu, with a 9-1 record, with the only loss being to Vanderbilt.  They extended the streak to nine, with a victory over Northeastern.  The streak was snapped in the semifinals, against Pac-10 member USC, but the Gaels captured third place by defeating the host, Hawaii.  Saint Mary's was now 11-2.

The Gaels then hosted their own holiday tournament, on their home floor in Moraga, CA - the Shamrock Office Solutions Classic; the hosts won by defeating Binghamton and Howard by lopsided margins.  Accordingly, Saint Mary's ended calendar 2009 with a bang: a 13-2 record, with the only losses coming against major-conference competition in Vanderbilt and USC.

Saint Mary's West Coast Conference Schedule

The Gaels tipped off 2010 with a pair of road WCC wins, @ Santa Clara and @ San Francisco.  Saint Mary's hosted the perennial powerhouse Gonzaga, ranked #14 at the time, but lost, 89-82.  The Gaels rebounded from the loss, with another half-dozen wins: Portland, San Diego, @ Pepperdine, @ Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, and San Francisco.

Heading into the rematch with then-#11 Gonzaga, this time in Spokane, the Gaels were sporting a 21-3 mark overall, 8-1 WCC.  But this time, it wasn't as close: the Zags humbled the Gaels by 19 points on February 11.  Two days later, Saint Mary's then stumbled @ Portland, falling in overtime; it was the only time this season they endured back-to-back losses, dropping them to 21-5 overall, 8-3 WCC.

But after that Friday the 13th loss @ Portland, Saint Mary's has gone undefeated.  They swept their three remaining WCC opponents: @ San Diego, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount, finishing the regular season 24-5 overall, 11-3 WCC.  It was good enough for second place in the eight-team WCC; Gonzaga won the regular season title, with a 12-2 mark.  

This second-place finish was important, as in 2003, the WCC changed its format to give the top two seeds a double bye, #3 and #4 a single bye, and have #5 play #8 and #6 play #7 in the first round.  As a result, Saint Mary's needed only two wins on the neutral court in Las Vegas, to capture the WCC automatic bid. 

The Gaels faced #3 Portland for the third time, and won the rubber match easily, 69-55.  And in another showdown with top-seeded Gonzaga, the proverbial third time was in fact the charm: the Gaels pummeled then-#14 Gonzaga, 81-62.

It is probable that given its tournament profile, Saint Mary's would have received an at-large bid, even without the 19-point victory over Gonzaga in the WCC title contest.  But no mid-major feels safe on Selection Sunday without one, and the Gaels undoubtedly celebrated in style.  The strong performance against the mighty Zags, likely influenced the Selection Committee in giving the Gaels a #10 seed.

In Part 2, I'll break down the Gaels and speculate as to what we might expect:

Go Wildcats!

E-mail: villanova.viewpoint-at-yahoo-dot-com

#2 Wildcats Face #10 St. Mary's at 1:05 PM Saturday in NCAA 2nd Round on CBS

To the Wildcat faithful-

At the conclusion of the wild first day and night of NCAA tournament action, CBS announced that the second-round game in Providence, Rhode Island, between the #2 Villanova Wildcats, and the #10 St. Mary's Gaels, would take place at 1:05 PM on Saturday afternoon.  It will not only be the first game of the day, but it also will be seen by the entire nation, as no other second-round games are scheduled for that time window.

I will have a comprehensive preview of Villanova / St. Mary's up, as soon as possible.  Please be patient and check back for updates.

Go Wildcats!

E-mail: villanova.viewpoint-at-yahoo-dot-com

Thursday, March 18, 2010

#2 Wildcats Survive Heart-Stopping Upset Bid By #15 Robert Morris in OT, 73-70; Villanova Rallies From Eight Down With Under 4 Minutes to Play

To the Wildcat faithful-

The headline says it all.  More to come...


What you see below is not the entire game story, as I still have to go back and look at the tape one more time, to chronicle the thrilling Villanova comeback in the last 3:57 of regulation, as well as their ability to hold off the counterattack by Robert Morris in overtime.  So, please enjoy the story you see below, and check back for more content on one of the most remarkable (although not in a positive sense) Villanova NCAA tournament victories. 

Today's game marked the 31st appearance by Villanova in the NCAA tournament, and its 49th victory (against 30 losses).  In this particular case, it's worthwhile to consider what would have happened, if the Wildcats had lost, rather than if they had won.

In 1995, #3 Villanova - with a nucleus of Kerry Kittles (the school's all-time leading scorer), Jason Lawson, Alvin Williams, Eric Eberz, and Jonathan Haynes, entered the tournament as the hottest team in the nation, the first - and thus far, only - Wildcats squad, to ever win the Big East tournament.  But the entire ride came crashing down in the first round, against #14 Old Dominion, in triple overtime.

It might seem unusual, to consider the parallels between 1995 and 2010, 15 years apart.  But the historical consequences of that loss to Old Dominion lasted a very long time - a decade, in fact.  The regime of Steve Lappas, Jay Wright's predecessor, never fully recovered, from the debacle.  (Which is remarkable, given that Lappas-coached teams subsequently reached the tournament in 1996 (a #3 seed), 1997 (a #4 seed), and 1999 (a #8 seed).

But ultimately, while at Villanova, Lappas went just 2-4 in the NCAA tournament, and the albatross of the Old Dominion fiasco was something that he could never shake.  Nor did it help, that all four of the losses came while wearing the white jerseys of the higher-seeded team.

Villanova's program did not fully recover from the defeat for ten years - when Jay Wright's third team reached the Sweet 16, eventually losing to North Carolina in a heartbreaker in that round in Syracuse.

It did not go unnoticed, by me, that in this year's tournament, Old Dominion just happened to be playing - and pulling an upset, in fact - at the same time Villanova was locked in its battle with a tenacious, gutty, and gallant Robert Morris squad.  Was this a sign from the basketball gods?

Would the 2009-10 season - with its promising, magical 20-1 start - be remembered, primarily, for how it ended?  An appalling slump to end the regular season, a single loss in the Big East tournament, and becoming just the fifth #2 seed - ever - to lose to a #15 seed, in the NCAA tournament?  Entering play today, #15 seeds were 4-96 all-time against #2s, since the current format began in 1985.  No #2 seed had fallen since 2001.

Fortunately, all of these questions are merely of historical, speculative interest.  Villanova - somehow - managed to rally from a 55-47 deficit, with 3:57 to play, force overtime, and outlast Robert Morris, 73-70.  CBS analyst Bill Raftery put it best: "Robert Morris only lost on the scoreboard."   It was the inaugural meeting between the two Pennsylvania schools - and I would seriously doubt if Villanova will be scheduling Robert Morris any time in the foreseeable future.

Raft was entirely correct, as he often is.  The Wildcats did not even come close, to deserving to win this game this afternoon.  The basketball gods cruelly tantalized the Colonials, and every player and every member of the Robert Morris coaching staff will wonder, for the rest of their lives, how they managed to let that advantage slip away, in the final 3:57.   In a Providence venue, where they had the majority of the crowd rooting for them as the underdog... (and which, although they were probably not aware of this, Villanova had historically struggled against the Friars...)

Perhaps the most egregious misplay from Villanova, was when Corey Fisher attempted to inbound a ball from underneath the basket, and trying to throw it toward the corner, turned the ball over, when he misfired the ball in that diretion, and the ball itself fell wide left of the line.  (As in not even close; it didn't even hit the line.)

Or perhaps it was when Reggie Redding, with Villanova trying to protect a lead at the end of overtime, inexplicably passed up a certain, absolutely guaranteed layup (no Colonial was within a mile of him), in favor of dribbling the ball for an extra second and a half, in order to be sent to the free throw line, to convert the two points that he could have just laid in without any trouble whatsoever.  (And he then missed one of the two free throws, giving Robert Morris a chance to force another OT, by keeping it a one-possession game at 73-70.)

I do believe, however, that in sports, it is inevitable that you have to win games, that you don't deserve to win.  The nation really should be reading about the remarkable upsets in Providence, about how #15 Robert Morris will be taking on #10 St. Mary's on Saturday.  But fortunately for us Villanova folk, we get to keep playing.  And the bottom line is that under the single-elimination format, all that matters is that we won today (on the scoreboard, or by luck, at least - as opposed to execution, shooting accuracy, rebounding, and the like.

Perhaps the one silver lining is that we probably can't play any worse, against St. Mary's.

The day had gotten off to a highly inauspicious start, when the noon KYW-3  news and the CBS Road to the Final Four both led with the story about how Fisher and Scottie Reynolds would not start due to what Wright termed "a teaching point".  Reynolds was inserted into the game less than four minutes in, and Fisher appeared soon after.  Apparently, according to Raftery and Verne Lundquist, they hadn't read or absorbed a scouting report of Robert Morris,  in accordance with team rules.  (After seeing the Wildcats' performance today, I can totally envision the accuracy of the charges.)

Granted, it probably did not really damage the Wildcats, today.  Fisher and Reynolds don't play anywhere near every minute, anyhow; the four minutes they sat out were more than made up for by the extra energy they had later.  But it was still a distraction, and it's very disconcerting when two of your most experienced players aren't fully prepared for NCAA tournament play.

Reynolds had one of the worst shooting days of his career: 2-15 from the floor, and 1-8 from beyond the arc..  Ironically, he made up for it by draining 15-16 from the line, finishing with 20 points (off the bench), leading the Wildcats.  He now needs 29 points to tie Kittles as the school's all-time leading scorer, but he's fortunate that he has additional games in which to draw closer to the mark.

But the big story was Mouphtaou Yarou.  Mouph came up big, with a stellar performance, easily the best of his young Villanova career.  Mouph was unstoppable in his 26 minutes: 17 points on 5-6 shooting, 7-7 from the line, eight rebounds, a pair of assists, and three blocks.  He was clearly the most valuable Wildcat, today.

The Wildcats also received a big boost from King, who seemed to be back to his old self: 10 points in just 15 minutes off the bench.

I will have a full preview of the second-round game against St. Mary's, up as soon as possible.

Go Wildcats!

E-mail: villanova.viewpoint-at-yahoo-dot-com

CBS: Reynolds, Fisher Not to Start Today Due to What Wright Describes As A Minor Teaching Point

To the Wildcat faithful-

Both KYW-3 and Greg Gumbel on CBS's national Road to the Final Four, announced a few minutes ago that both Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher will not start in today's game, due to what Jay Wright described as a "minor teaching point."  This is of great concern, particularly in light of the fact that Taylor King's benching was also described with the same euphemism.

However, they have not been benched.  The Road to the Final Four reported that they will both play, and enter the game at some indeterminate point in the first half...

UPDATE:  Reynolds entered at 16:07, Fisher at the under-16 timeout.

Please check back for developments...

The Ultimate #2 Villanova / #15 Robert Morris Preview, NCAA Tournament, First Round, South Regional, Providence, RI - Part 2

To the Wildcat faithful-

In Part 2 of the Robert Morris Preview, I'm going to break down the Robert Morris Colonials, and what we may be able to expect in the game today.  You can read Part 1 of the Robert Morris Preview by clicking here.

The game will tip off at 12:30 PM, as we have the honor of being one of the first games of the tournament to get things under way.  I was pleased to learn that calling the game for CBS, from the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, RI, will be Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery.  ("Send it in!")

The Philadelphia Connections

There are a surprisingly large number of connections, between Greater Philadelphia, and the Robert Morris Colonials.  Chief among them:
  • Head coach Mike Rice, although from Pittsburgh, was an assistant coach from 2004-06 at St. Joseph's University, under Phil Martelli.
  • One of Martelli's sons, Jimmy, is now in his third season as an assistant to Rice, after playing for Dickinson from 2001-05.
  • Assistant coach Andrew Toole played three seasons at the University of Pennsylvania, under Fran Dunphy, now the coach at Temple.
  • Sophomore guard Velton Jones is from Philadelphia, having played at soon-to-be-closed North Catholic High School, in Northeast Philadelphia.
  • Sophomore forward Russell Johnson is from Chester, PA, having played at Chester High.
  • Junior guard Khalif Foster is from Philadelphia, having played at the Academy of the New Church in Montgomery County.
  • Freshman forward Lijah Thompson is also from Philadelphia, having played at Monsignor Bonner in Drexel Hill, PA.
  • Senior forward Dallas Green - although from Indianapolis, IN - shares his name with the legendary Philadelphia Phillies manager who led the team to its first world championship back in 1980 (well before the Colonial player was even born).
With so many Philadelphia ties on the coaching staff, it's easy to see how Philadelphia players represent a disproportionate share of the recruited players.  I actually had written this section, before I saw this piece by jhulax22 of The Nova Blog.... but check out their version on the many Philadelphia connections...

The Robert Morris Colonials Starters, in Order of My Perception of Their Importance

# 4 Karon Abraham, 5-9, Freshman, Combo Guard, But Primarily Shooting Guard

Robert Morris returned three starters from the team that won last year's NEC tournament championship and went to the NCAA tournament.

Accordingly, prior to the season, Rice was not anticipating that a 5-9 freshman such as Abraham, would be leading the Colonials in the following categories:
  • points/game (13.4);
  • field goal attempts (294);
  • three-point field goals (80), attempts (181), and percentage (44.2%)
  • free throws (122), free throw attempts (143) and percentage (85.3% - and in this latter category, he leads the NEC).
But Abraham has done so.  Compare the numbers above, with the official quote Rice gave on Abraham, in the Robert Morris media guide:
"Physically, Karon is ready to come in and play right away because of how quick and athletic he is and because he'll bring a change of pace.  He'll come off the bench and provide an instant spark.  He'll play a little bit at point guard, but mostly he'll see time at the two guard.  He really has the ability to create his own shot because of his speed.  He can be isolated on the wing and create a high percentage shot for himself.  He needs to be a sponge and continue to improve, but I think he could be successful in our program."
Rice was prophetic: Abraham has been more than successful in the Robert Morris program.  Instead of the sixth man, coming off the bench for offensive sparks, he's arguably the best player on the team.  Of the team's 34 games, Abraham has started 23, and he's second on the team in minutes with 26.6/game.  

Abraham's accolades include a unanimous selection as NEC Rookie of the Year, and was MVP of the NEC tournament.  During Robert Morris's run through the tournament, Abraham averaged 17.7 points, shot 54.5% from the floor, and 50% (8-16) from three-point range.  In the championship against top-seeded Quinnipiac, Abraham scored 16 points to lead the Colonials to victory, with four rebounds and three steals (the four rebounds are particularly good for a 5-9 player)

After Robert Morris got off to a 4-7 start, Rice inserted Abraham into the starting lineup for the first time.  Since then, the Colonials have gone 19-4.  Although the 4-7 record was against tougher, non-NEC competition, for the most part, the sudden soaring was not a coincidence.

How Jay Wright Will React: Senior Reggie Redding, who at 6-3 has a considerable height and experience advantage, usually draws the assignment of guarding the opponent's best player.  Let's expect to see him on #4.  Also, due to Abraham's size, he could be guarded by Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, or even Maalik Wayns.  Wright may decide to just use waves of fresh defenders on Abraham.

# 2 Mezie Nwigwe (6-4 Senior) - Shooting Guard(Pronounced Mez-e-A new-WIG-way) 

Nwigwe is a savvy senior, and a stout defender - he was named NEC Defensive Player of the Year, and is second on the team in steals with 44.  His role will be to stop Reynolds and Corey Fisher from filling it up from the outside.  He averages 8.2 points and 4.3 rebounds/game, and can hoist a three every once in a while (19-55, 34.5%).  At 74.3%, he is a superb free throw shooter.  (He actually is very similar to Redding.)

Nwigwe came off the bench for his first three seasons at Robert Morris, but has started all but one game this year, averaging 26.7 minutes/game.  According to the media guide:
Scoring guard with the ability to take the ball to the basket in a variety of ways... Also has the ability to knock down the mid-range and long jumpers... Arguably the most physically-gifted athlete on the Robert Morris roster...Became a playmaker... consistently finding the open man.
# 1 Rob Robinson (6-8 Senior) - Power Forward - 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds per game, 22 blocks

Robinson has started every game this season, and is Rice's main option in the paint.  Robinson has been named All-NEC second team for the second straight season, and was named to the NEC All-Tournament Team as a junior.  (As a junior college transfer, he has been at Robert Morris for just two seasons.)  He's the team's top rebounder, and second-leading scorer.  However, he has two considerable weaknesses: foul trouble and the foul line.

Robinson committed 106 fouls in the 33 games in which he played, over 3.2 per contest, and he plays just 26.2 minutes/game, probably for that reason.  He's fouled out of seven games.  In addition, he is a dreadful free throw shooter - he made just 38.7% of his attempts.  This is a significant decline from his junior year, when he shot 50%.  With Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton each bringing five fouls to the table, Robinson may be fouled a lot.  But primarily, the task of neutralizing him will fall to Antonio Pena.

The Robert Morris media guide on Robinson:

Length continually poses problems for opponents in the paint... Possesses an uncanny ability to block shots... Extremely active on the glass on both ends of the floor... One of the most magnificent dunkers in school history... A natural scorer with his back to the basket and a solid passer for his position.
# 3 Velton Jones (6-0 Redshirt Freshman), Point Guard, 8.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, 97 assists, 81 turnovers, 50 steals. 

Jones has started 29 games this season at the point, averaging 24.8 minutes/game, while leading the team in assists and steals.  For a point guard, he is a poor free throw shooter, making just 58.3% of his attempts.  He is also an inaccurate perimeter shooter, converting just 27.9% of his triples.  Villanova will likely leave him uncovered beyond the arc, and dare him to start dropping threes.  A partial qualifier, he practiced with the team last season but could not participate in games, retaining four years of eligibility.

The Robert Morris media guide quotes Rice, describing the Philadelphian:
"The one thing we've lacked we have in Velton Jones, and that's a pure point guard who penetrates to pass... Velton is an aggressive penetrator who has an ability to create shots for others..." 
In his player profile, the media guide states further that Jones "is not afraid to take the open shot", which may account for the poor three-point shooting percentage. 

#24 Dallas Green (6-8 Senior) Forward - 6.5 points, 4.9 rebounds per game. 

Green heated up in the NEC tournament, averaging 10 points and 4.3 rebounds, in the three Robert Morris victories.

Rice describes Green, thus:
"Dallas is the ultimate glue guy.  He's really comfortable with the role he plays.  He knows where to get his shots and where to get his rebounds.  He's a guy who understands how we want to play basketball at both ends of the floor, and he's a big reason why we've been successful the last two years [now three years].  Dallas thrives in his role, and he does so in a very efficient manner."
Off the bench, Rice has some options: 6-6 redshirt freshman forward Russell Johnson (the Chester native); 6-3 junior guard Gary Wallace, and 6-8 senior forward Josiah Whitehead.  It appears that Robert Morris largely uses an eight-man rotation. 

How Villanova Could Lose to Robert Morris 

It's no secret that the Wildcats stumbled badly down the stretch.  Of course, Villanova is bigger, deeper, and more talented than Robert Morris.  The Wildcats are comparable to Big East rivals Syracuse and Pitt, both of which crushed the Colonials on their home floors.  But this isn't the Pavilion; this is a neutral court in Providence, Rhode Island, and while there will be some of the 'Nova Nation there, there will also be a lot of the crowd rooting for the #15 seed.  (The Wildcats do have the advantage of being familiar with the Dunkin' Donuts Center, the home of Big East rival Providence.)

Robert Morris takes a lot of free throws, and if the Wildcats continue to foul recklessly, and give the Colonials many opportunities for free points, they could stay in it.

In addition, Rice preaches defense above all else.  Robert Morris averages 68.5 points/game, while giving up 65.7; the Wildcats average 82.5 points/game, while yielding 72.9 points.  Robert Morris, like most underdogs, will try to shorten the game, hold the ball for long possessions, and try to get fouled.  In contrast, Villanova will try to press and trap, get baskets in transition, and try to get a big lead early.  (Robert Morris has not come back from any deficit larger than 10 points, all season; if Villanova can take a commanding lead in the first half, it may deflate morale.)

I continue to add this to this preview, so please check back for more content...

Don't forget to fill out your brackets, before the deadline closes this morning.

Go Wildcats!

E-mail: villanova.viewpoint-at-yahoo-dot-com