Sunday, February 28, 2010

#4 Syracuse Obliterates #7 Villanova, 95-77, As Saturday Night Showdown Snuffed Out Early

This is the placeholder article, please check back for updates...

For a helpful, Syracuse-centric perspective on the game - and one written with the euphoria of victory, I'd highly recommend the tremendous Syracuse SB Nation blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.... I had exchanged a question-and-answer set with its publisher, Sean Keeley, and his insights were very helpful, as I prepared for the game...  so check out Troy Nunes - it's well worth it...

To the Wildcat faithful-

It was a wild weekend in college basketball, with the #1 and #2 teams (Kansas and Kentucky, respectively) falling, before the Wildcats even emerged, to take their first shootaround at the Carrier Dome.  Undoubtedly, this scenario was wandering throughout the thoughts of every Villanova fan: "If we win tonight, we'll move up a couple of spots."

Naturally, there's going to be a lot of speculation, as to who will take over the top spot on Monday.  Tonight's game offered this clear - albeit, highly unpleasant - certainty, on that question - it won't be the Wildcats...

The #4 Syracuse Orange - backed by the largest on-campus crowd ever to see a college basketball game, 34,616 fans, some of whom could not even remotely see the court - clobbered the #7 Wildcats tonight, 95-77.  The disaster marks the third defeat in the last four games for Villanova - after starting the season 20-1.  The Wildcats have also lost four of their last seven contests.

Villanova might consider itself fortunate, to even stay in the Top 10 after this loss, one which was highly conspicuous nationally, due to the game taking place in prime time, and with extensive hype and publicity about the size of the crowd.

The Ghosts of Syracuse Past were there, in profusion: The Dome Ranger (described on the ESPN broadcast, as an individual who once regularly roamed the sidelines of Syracuse football games back in the 1980s, but rarely seen since), Derrick Coleman (who had a less-than-stellar run in Philadelphia with the 76ers, back in the day), Billy Owens, and John Wallace, to name but a few.  And, of course, the old standby, Otto the Orange, who could been seen gallivanting on the concourse, just above the court, throughout the contest.

The Dome Ranger appeared in an orange Syracuse football jersey with #44 on it, along with an orange cowboy hat and a blue mask for the school colors, and was cheered lustily by the throngs of spectators, as he ran onto the court, prior to tip-off.

Another reason for the surprising loss (or at least the uncompetitive final margin of the loss) was Villanova's strong record at the Carrier Dome, all-time.  Even with this dreadful loss in the books, Villanova is 13-14 all-time in the building, and has won three of its last five visits there.

The only real bright spot for the Wildcats tonight was the performance of freshman Mouphtaou Yarou.  Mouph was in the starting lineup for the first time since November, prior to his contraction of hepatitis, which had sidelined him for several weeks.  And Mouph delivered, big-time, for Jay Wright, on a night when many of the more reliable players did not.

Mouph set a career-high with 13 points on 6-8 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds, plus a pair of blocks (and a pair of assists!) - and he did it all in just 22 minutes...  Considering that against Pitt on Sunday, he played only a single minute, it was a remarkable performance.  I had noticed that Mouph received considerable minutes in the victory over South Florida on Wednesday; clearly, Wright thought that he'd need Mouph against the formidable Syracuse frontcourt (and they were quite formidable tonight).  So, enormous props to Mouph.

Scottie Reynolds had a solid game: 16 points, on 6-14 shooting, including 4-8 from beyond the arc.  As did Antonio Pena - 13 points, half a dozen rebounds, a blocked shot, and three steals... Corey Fisher had a hot start, scoring 10 points in the first half of the first half, but then cooled off.  He would finish with 14 points, but do so on just 3-12 shooting, including missing all five of his three-point attempts.  But he made a lot of plays (six assists against one turnover), plus five rebounds and two steals.

Taylor King saw 17 minutes, and was a rebounding machine, coming up with eight boards.  But his shot was highly erratic: he finished with six points on just 2-7 shooting (all from three-point range), including two air balls.

The irony being, that if we had been told, prior to the game, that Pena and Mouph, out of the "five" spot, would combine to score 26 points on 11-16 shooting, with 14 rebounds and three blocks, all of us would have been very confident of either victory, or an extremely narrow loss.  Instead, we had a lopsided loss.  The rest of the Wildcats really struggled, this evening...

It's hard to believe that the Wildcats not only were ahead in this game, but actually held a significant lead for much of the first half, as much as nine points, in fact - in a game in which Villanova subsequently trailed by 10 points at halftime, and that it ultimately lost by 18 points.

NCAA Seeding Implications - This Loss Was A Complete Disaster

Our hopes of a #1 seed come Selection Sunday, were gravely damaged (and perhaps extinguished) by this defeat.  A couple of weeks ago, when the Wildcats were 20-1, Villanova seemed very well-positioned, to emerge from the high holy day of the hoops year, brandishing one of those coveted top seeds.  Now, at 23-5, 12-4 Big East, it's far less likely.

I would go as far as to say that the only way (now) that we end up with one, is to sweep the last two regular season games (Cincinnati and West Virginia), and - at minimum - reach the final of the Big East tournament (and preferably, win it).  If we reach the final, we'd have a negligible chance, but if we win it, a good chance, particularly if all the victories are over decent teams.  It would also help, if some more teams in the Top 10 started to lose more frequently.

The only good news on that front today, was the aforementioned fact that both Kansas and Kentucky also lost.  It won't take as much to pull a #1 seed now, so we're still in the hunt, but Wright has to get this ship turned around somehow.  Three losses in four games, after a 20-1 start...time to get things back in order, and quickly...

This is the placeholder article, please check back for updates...

Go Wildcats! 

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


Anonymous said...

As I posted on your pre-game notes, we were really hit with a complete game from Syracuse while we didn't do a lot right in front of a huge and hostile crowd. The Orange just hammered us.

We've chosen a bad time to start losing games and three out of the last four haven't gone our way.

BUT, we have won 23 games. That's a hell of a season right there. Two more tough, but winnable games to go, then tournament play.

Need to right the ship, get our confidence back, and see if we can't make it to the BE Final. That might regain a #1 NCCA tourney seed, but if we can't get that, it's essential we not lose our grip on a #2.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Seamus-

Thanks for the comment. I concur with your analysis. This is a team, after all, that had the best start in school history and was 20-1 at one point. Having 23 wins by the end of February is really quite an achievement, even if we were to nosedive the rest of the way.

I also agree that at this point, even a #2 seed isn't guaranteed. This Big East tournament, ironically, is actually going to pretty important for us. Especially with the likely double bye, we're going to need to win at least once and preferably twice to even stay as a #2...

Go Wildcats!