Saturday, February 28, 2009

G-Town Wins Defensive Battle

Final Score: Georgetown 56, Villanova 54

Player of the Game: Chris Wright - 13 pts, 5 ast, 4 reb

Recap: This was a classic Big East battle; low scoring and dominated by tough defense on both ends. It was a wild back-and-forth affair that saw more turnovers than field goals made. Villanova had 20 turnovers (made 15 field goals), while Georgetown turned it over 23 times (made 22 field goals).

I may have jinxed Corey Fisher with my recent column, praising his play over the 13 games since the Seton Hall win. He had his worst game since then, going 2-8 from the field to score just 6 points. He also had zero assists and 3 turnovers. Corey Stokes was also cold, going 1-7 from the field and 1-5 from downtown, including a forced three with plenty of time still left on the clock to find a better shot.

You would hope that a bad game from Fisher equals a good game from Scottie Reynolds, but that was not the case. Scottie had an even worse shooting day (2-10 fg, 1-6 3-pt). He did finish with 12 points, 4 assists, and 4 steals, but had a dooming 6 turnovers. When Fisher and Reynolds are both cold offensively, it's nearly impossible for Nova to win, but they almost did pull it off.

FYI: Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher played a total of 14 minutes together. The only extended stretch they were on the court at the same time was for 8 minutes early in the second half, a span during which Villanova outscored Georgetown 12-10. After the nine and a half minute mark in the second half, Fisher and Reynolds played a total of ten seconds together. How the team's two best guards can't see more than ten seconds together during the most important nine and a half minutes of the game, I cannot understand. I also don't understand why Jay chose Anderson and Redding over Fisher for Nova's crucial possession with 35 seconds left. I know Fish wasn't having the best game, but you need your best shooters and playmakers in that situation, not your best defenders.

Dante Cunningham had the defensive play of the year with a block from behind on a Chris Wright breakaway layup. I thought that would have been a game-changing moment, but Nova was unable to capture the lead afterwards. Dante had a pretty good game, just missing a double-double with 13 points and 9 rebounds. I thought Nova could have gone to their leading scorer more often in this game, as he only had seven field goal attempts.

Reggie Redding and Dwayne Anderson played great. They did everything they were supposed to; aggressive defensive and rebounding, and chipping in offensively when open. They combined for 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists. Villanova's bread and butter is the combination of the swarming defense of Anderson and Redding and the scoring punch of Reynolds, Fisher, and Stokes. However, only one element of the formula was working on this day.

Part of the credit for Nova's poor shooting goes to Georgetown's defense, but there was more to it than just that. The Hoyas executed better down the stretch, and with their NCAA Tournament hopes on the line, they seemed like they wanted it more.Hopefully this game serves as a wakeup call for Villanova to finish the season strong because they still have an outside chance for a top-4 seed in the Big East Tournament. Assuming they take care of St. John's and DePaul, I think this win should put Georgetown into the Big Dance. They'd be finishing with an under .500 conference record, but they played a brutal schedule and beat some marquis teams without losing to any horrible ones.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nova Hosts Georgetown Saturday

Foe: Georgetown Hoyas (14-12) (5-10)

Recent History: Villanova and Georgetown have a storied history, highlighted by "The Perfect Upset" in the 1985 NCAA Championship game. Georgetown leads the all-time series 38-27. Jay Wright is 5-6 vs. Georgetown, but the Hoyas are currently riding a four game winning streak against Nova. Last season Georgetown played Nova once in the regular season and once in the Big East tournament, with Nova losing both times. The regular season game at Georgetown ended on the controversial foul call on Corey Stokes, 55-53. Scottie Reynolds had a game-high 24 points, while Georgetown was led by Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace. The Big East Tournament game was a 82-63 blowout, fueled by seventeen 3-pointers made by the Hoyas. Georgetown lost Hibbert and Wallace to graduation, but added the highly talented 6'11 freshman, Greg Monroe. This year's team is balanced with four players averaging double figures in scoring: DaJuan Summers (13.6), Greg Monroe (12.9), Chris Wright (12.9), Austin Freeman (12.3). Senior guard Jessie Sapp is also a player to watch. He's only averaging 6.6 points per game, but he had 23 points against us last year in the BET on 6-9 shooting from downtown.

Best Win
: 74-63 at UConn

Worst Loss
: 65-60 at Seton Hall

Famous Alumni: Basketball: Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutumbo, Sleepy Floyd, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert
Other: Bill Clinton, Jim Gaffigan, Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight), a lot of politicians

Fun Facts
  • 5 Final Fours, 1 National Championship (1984)
  • 7 Big East Tournament titles, 4 Big East regular season titles
  • Nickname is derived from the Greek and Latin chant, "Hoya Saxa", which translates to "What rocks".
Complimentary Youtube Video:

Final Verdict: This has been a surprising and disappointing season for Georgetown. They were ranked seven spots ahead of Villanova in the preseason coaches poll at #18. I criticized that ranking at the time, and because of the losses of Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Patrick Ewing Jr., Jeremiah Rivers, I wasn't as high on this team as most of the rest of the national media. Ironically, now after they have struggled through the Big East season, I am not as down on Georgetown as most of the national media is. They really don't have any horrible losses, and they do have some signature wins (#2 UConn, #8 Syracuse, #15 Memphis). Georgetown has the #1 toughest strength of schedule, which needs to be taken into consideration. Memphis is considered a lock for the tournament right now, and not only did Georgetown beat them, but I doubt Memphis would do much better than 5-10 playing Georgetown's Big East schedule. And there are plenty of other "Memphis's" out there being considered over Georgetown. Villanova's next opponent, Notre Dame is in the same situation. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but if Georgetown can win a couple more games, I think they deserve an at large bid. This all makes Saturday's meeting a very important game for Georgetown. I think Jay Wright and his players understand Georgetown's situation, and therefore will not overlook this game. I say Nova wins in a close game.

TV: 12:00 PM on ESPN

Links: Game Notes, AP, VUH, IBBW, VBTN, LGN, VV

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Something Smells Fishy

A lot of fans, myself included, have been petitioning for Corey Fisher to receive more playing time. Listed at only 6'1, Fisher can be liability on defense when paired with the generously listed 6'2 Scottie Reynolds. For that reason I could see why Jay Wright favors the bigger and better defenders, and I agree with that decision to a certain extent. A lot of fans would like to see more Fisher at the expense of Reggie Redding, Dwayne Anderson, and Shane Clark because Fisher's offensive game is superior to those players in every aspect, and the numbers prove it. I won't talk about them because defense is difficult to measure statistically. However, when I dug deeper into the statistics, I discovered something a bit surprising. Since the January 6th overtime win at Seton Hall, when Reynolds dropped 40 points and Fisher dropped zero, Corey Fisher has actually been better than his fellow point guard.

Here's a look at their per game numbers over the 13 games since Seton Hall:

Fisher: 56/96 FG (58%), 12/28 3PT (43%), 40/54 FT (74%), 12.6 pts, 2 reb, 2.5 ast, 2.0 to, 22.6 min

Reynolds: 54/135 FG (40%), 20/69 3PT (29%), 63/78 FT (81%), 14.7 pts, 2.5 reb, 3 ast, 2.8 to, 29.5 min

As you can see, Fisher has made more field goals, despite taking 39 less attempts than Reynolds. Fisher is shooting 18% better from the field and 14% better from 3-point land, an area that most consider Reynolds to be far superior. Fisher has a better assist to turnover ratio and a similar rebound rate. The most alarming stat is the 7 minutes per game less that Fisher has averaged over that span. If you adjust Fisher's stats to the same number of minutes as Reynolds, his scoring would jump past Reynolds to about 17 points per game. The only area Scottie has a big advantage is free throw shooting, where he gets to the line more often and shoots a better percentage than Fisher.

Another highlight of Reynolds' game is his "clutch" factor, or ability to take over at the end of games. Scottie displayed his aptitude in this area most recently in the DePaul game. However, if you saw Corey Fisher go head to head with Johnny Flynn towards the end of the Syracuse game, you know that he's capable of filling that role as well. The final difference is experience. As a junior, Reynolds had the edge there, but as we're winding down towards the end of his sophomore season, Fisher is basically an upperclassman now. He understands his role now and it's reflective in his improved statistics.

So what does this all mean? It's certainly not a knock on Scottie Reynolds. Defenses focus much more of their effort on him than they do Fisher, which could explain some of the disparity in their shooting percentages. I don't necessarily believe that Fisher should get more time at the expense of Reynolds because frankly, they are the two best guards on the team. Neither do I believe it is imperative for Fisher to start because he is valuable as a sixth man. What I am simply saying is Fisher should be getting more playing time, period. At the expense of who? Well, that's for Jay Wright to decide. Finally, the team has won nine of its last ten, so change isn't a priority. The bottom line is Corey Fisher is too good to be sitting on the bench for 12+ minutes a game.

Nova Escapes DePaul With Win

Final Score: #12 Villanova 74, DePaul 72

Player of the Game: Scottie Reynolds - 18 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl

Recap: Villanova escaped Chicago with a win over DePaul in a game that was a lot closer than anyone predicted. The scoring was a bit erratic, with DePaul jumping out to 7 point lead, then Nova coming back to take a 5 point advantage, and DePaul closing out the first half up by 8 points, 33-25. Nova appeared to have their act together in the second half, coming back to take a 12 point lead, but a late DePaul charge pulled the Demons to within 2, until Scottie Reynolds took over and helped seal the deal.

A win's a win, and I'll take it, especially on the road in the Big East. However, almost losing to a winless Big East team is alarming. Nova had trouble with DePaul's 6'10, 255 lb. center, Mac Koshwal. He had a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, and he caused Cunningham and Clark to get into some foul trouble. He exposed one of Villanova's greatest weaknesses, their undersized and undermanned frontcourt. Their other weakness is perimeter defense, which Will Walker exploited in this game, hitting 6 of 11 threes to score 23 points. Although, Nova did a better job containing DePaul's other perimeter threats, Dar Tucker and Jeremiah Kelly, holding both to poor shooting percentages (3-18 3PT combined). Nova needs to sharpen up in those areas quickly because talented big men (Greg Monroe, Luke Harangody) and sharpshooters (DaJuan Summers, Kyle McAlarney) are lurking on the horizon.

Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham co-led the team with 18 points. The two Coreys had good games off the bench (Fisher-12 points, Stokes-10), but both could have seen more time on the court. (More on that later...) Reggie Redding had another solid all-around game: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists. Reggie's not a big scorer, but his good rebounding and assist rates probably make him Nova's player with the best chance to record a triple-double. Starters Shane Clark and Dwayne Anderson both struggled, scoring 2 points each. Anderson may have been riding too high off of his 22 point outburst; he was 0-6 from downtown in this one. Clark, the offensive rebounding specialist, had zero o. boards. Villanova's starting 3-man frontcourt was actually out-rebounded by the starting 2-man backcourt, 15-13. Antonio Pena rounded out the rotation with a decent 3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in 14 minutes off the bench.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nova off to Chi-Town to face DePaul

Foe: DePaul Blue Demons (8-19) (0-14)

Recent History: Last season Villanova lost its Big East opener at DePaul 84-76, but they avenged that with a 76-69 win at the Pavilion to split the 2007-2008 season series. Corey Fisher led Nova with 23 points in the loss, while Scottie Reynolds had 21 in the win. Draelon Burns killed Nova in both games, but DePaul lost him to graduation. Sophomore Dar Tucker is the clear leader of this year's squad, averaging 18.4 points per game. Center Mac Koshwal averages around a double-double at 13.3 and 9.8, and Will Walker chips in about 13 points a game.

Famous Alumni:
Basketball: George Mikan, Mark Aguirre, Rod Strickland, Dave Corzine, Terry Cummings, Tyrone Corbin, Kevin Edwards, Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons, Steven Hunter, Andre Brown, Wilson Chandler

Other: Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy), Ray Manzarek (The Doors), John C. Reilly

Fun Facts:
  • The University is named after St. Vincent de Paul, a 17th century French priest.
  • With 24,300 students, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the U.S.
  • Won NIT in 1945
  • Went to Final Four in 1979
  • From Wikipedia: "In 1900, when the first athletic team to represent DePaul University was organized, the monogram "D" was selected for the uniforms. From this originated the nickname "D-men" which evolved into "Demons.""

Complimentary Youtube Video: I hate that it happened against Nova, but this is probably the sickest dunk I've seen live in the Pavilion...

Final Verdict: DePaul is having a rough season. They're still looking for their first Big East victory. They're not just losing games, they're losing by 20 points at home to teams like Seton Hall. I doubt many fans will show up to see an 0-14 team, so the crowd shouldn't affect Nova too much, especially since they were able to overcome the Dome crowd. The only thing I'm remotely worried about is if Dar Tucker goes off, similar to what Da'Sean Butler did for West Virginia. But WVU's team is miles ahead of DePaul, so I really don't see any way Villanova loses this game.

TV: WPHL 8:00 PM


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nova Sweeps Syracuse

Final Score: #14 Villanova 89, #25 Syracuse 86

Player of the Game: Dwayne Anderson - 22 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal

: Nova survived a late collapse to complete the season series sweep of Syracuse. (Whoa, that was a lot of S's.)

Oscars Edition

Best Picture:This picture of Dwayne Anderson best captures the emotions of Nova's win. Just a few days after I praised him for being the unheralded guy who does all the dirty work, Dwayne comes out and scores a career-high 22 points. He was hot early, hitting 4 of 6 from downtown. When Anderson gives you that kind of offense, Villanova is tough to beat.

Best Actor: Shane Clark
Shane Clark's career is similar to Mickey Rourke's in The Wrestler. Rourke played a struggling washed up wrestler who tries to make a comeback in the ring. Clark has struggled with injuries most of his career at Villanova, and it seemed like he wouldn't be a factor this season. Shane proved the doubters wrong with another great game: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists. With his extra-long arms, he is proving to be the team's best offensive rebounder. He had 5 in this game, and 42 of his 93 rebounds this season have come on the offensive end.

Best Supporting Actor: Corey Fisher
Just like Heath Ledger stole the show with his portrayal as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Corey Fisher stole the show when he came off the bench in this game. Fisher had a very efficient 16 points (5-6 fg, 1-1 3pt, 5-7 ft) and added 2 assists, a steal, and only 1 turnover. He went head to head with Johnny Flynn, who was caught dropping f-bombs on TV, and Fisher Price came out on top.

Other Notes
Dante Cunningham flirted with a triple-double (12 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists), and he might have gotten it if he didn't have to sit out for a few minutes after picking up his fourth foul. This was his eighth double-double of the season.

Reggie Redding did just about everything you can expect from him. He had 11 points, a career-high 7 assists, and the defensive specialist had 6 steals, also a career-high.

Scottie Reynolds had 10 points and 2 assists, but he almost cost Villanova the game. He had 5 turnovers, several of which came in the final minutes when he carelessly dribbled into trouble and traveled trying to break Syracuse's press. Syracuse had a couple good looks to tie the game, but luckily Scottie's mistakes didn't come back to haunt Nova.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nova Travels to Carrier Dome for Rematch with Cuse

Nova sailed to a 102-85 victory over the Syracuse Orange in the season's first meeting between these two teams at the Wachovia Center on February 7.

Last season Nova and Cuse split the regular season series with a rare away team sweep. This year I wouldn't be surprised if they split again, but this time with the more conventional home team wins. Since they last met, Syracuse lost at UConn 63-49 and beat Georgetown at home in overtime 98-94. The Dome is always a tough place to play, but considering how well Nova played them last time, I like our chances. Look for Corey & Corey to have another big game.

TV: CBS, 1:00 PM

Links: VUHoops, IBBW, VBTN, Villanova Viewpoint, Let's Go Nova

Foye Sets Career High; Lowry's Debut

Randy Foye scored a career high 36 points last night in a 112-105 loss vs. the Indiana Pacers. Here's a look at his stats from the game: 38 minutes, 13-23 FG, 5-8 3PT, 5-7 FT, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 5 turnovers, 36 points. His previous career high was 33, which he set just ten days ago. Randy has been averaging 20 points a game for the past two months since moving to the shooting guard position, with Sebastian Telfair at the point. Foye has bumped his season averages up to 16.6 points per game and 4.6 assists per game. With Al Jefferson out for the season, Randy Foye is now the focal point of the offense, so you can expect to see more scoring outbursts like this over the next couple months.

In other NBA news, Kyle Lowry had 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 15 minutes in his Houston debut. He also had 4 turnovers, but that's to be expected in his first game in a new system with new teammates. As you can see in the picture, Lowry has chosen 7 as his new jersey number. He wore #13 his freshman year at Villanova, then switched to #1 for his sophomore season, and he continued to wear #1 in Memphis for two and a half seasons.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nova Gets Past Rutgers

Final Score: #14 Villanova 82, Rutgers 72

Player of the Game: Scottie Reynolds - 21 pts, 6 ast, 2 stl

Recap: This was one of those sloppy games where you kept waiting for Villanova to pull away, but it didn’t happen until late in the second half. Now for a special NBA All Star Weekend edition of post-game awards.

The Michael Rapaport in the Celebrity Game Award for Excessive Fouling

Frank Tchuisi got the first start of his career on senior night and responded by committing 2 fouls in 40 seconds. It's understandable, he was probably a little nervous. But anyway, thanks to Frank for his four years committed to the program. He never played much, but from what I hear he always works hard in practice and his positive attitude helps his teammates.

P.S. Rapaport was whistled for 8 fouls in that game.

The Kobe and Shaq Award for Co-MVPs of the Game

... Goes to Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham. This inside/outside combo have been the MVPs all season long and this game was no different. Scottie had a game-high 21 points and 6 assists. He did most of his work at the free throw line where he was 10-11. Dante had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night (5-17 FG), but he still had 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. You really can't say enough about the progess he's made during his career at Nova, and it was nice to honor him and his classmates' achievements on Senior Night.

The Kevin Durant Award for H-O-R-S-E Champion

If this team played H-O-R-S-E, I would put my money on Fisher Price. He's one of the most creative finishers around the basket I've ever seen, and he has a solid outside shot. Corey put all of his skills on display in this game to score 14 points, using teardrops, double-clutchers, and 3-pointers. He only missed one shot the entire night (4-5 fg, 2-3 3pt, 4-4 ft). His assist to turnover ratio has really improved the past few games; it was 3 ast/0 t.o. last night.

The Daequan Cook Award for 3-Point Shooting

Corey Stokes was in a groove hitting 5 of 7 shots from downtown to score 17 points. His five longballs were the most he's had in a game since December 4 vs. Houston Baptist. He added 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist. His only other basket came on a breakaway dunk.

The KryptoNate Robinson Award for Slam Dunk Champion

Shane Clark had a sick left-handed put-back dunk early in the game. He surprised me with one of these a few games ago, but maybe I shouldn't be so surprised anymore. He seems to have regained his athleticism and is finally fully healthy. It's just a shame it had to come at the end of his career here. He had 6 points, 2 rebounds, and an assist on Senior Night.

The Dwayne Anderson Award for Being Dwayne Anderson

I can't forget about our fourth and final senior, Dwayne Anderson, on senior night. He might have tried to do a little too much to make this night special by taking some extra shots (3-11 fg, 0-4 3pt), but that's okay, he desrves to be a little selfish. He's been the unheralded guy all four years at Villanova, willing to do all the little things to help the team win. He sacraficed his offense to focus on defense and rebounding, and last season, when Jay Wright called on him to be a starter, he delivered. Despite being a thin 6'6, he has battled in the post with power forwards and usually comes out with the rebound. His stats are rarley eye-popping (8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal last night), but attitude and toughness usually doesn't show up in a box score. Hopefully our younger players and recruits are watching and learning from Dwayne because there'e a lot more to being a great player than just scoring points.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lowry, Thomas Traded

Two former Villanova Wildcats were moved today at the NBA's trade deadline.

Kyle Lowry was involved in a three team trade between the Grizzlies, Rockets, and Magic. Lowry will be going to Houston with Brian Cook, Rafer Alston will go to Orlando, and Memphis will receive the Magic's first round pick. Lowry has seemingly been involved in trade rumors ever since the Grizzlies drafted Mike Conley in 2007. Frankly, I'm glad to see him get out of Memphis, a franchise going nowhere. Even with Tracy McGrady out for the season Houston is a playoff contender, and I've always believed Lowry would be more effective on a better team. He will be sharing point guard duties with Aaron Brooks and Luther Head. Kyle will also be reuniting with former Nova assistant coach Brett Gunning. Lowry made his return from an ankle injury Tuesday night. He is averaging 7.6 points and 3.6 assists on the season, with highs of 25 points and 12 assists.

Tim Thomas was traded from the New York Knicks, along with Jerome James and Anthony Roberson, to the Chicago Bulls for Larry Hugues. This is the second time this season Thomas has been traded, and it is the second time of his career that he's been traded from the Knicks to the Bulls (first in 2005). Tim is averaging 9.6 points and 3.5 rebounds on the season, with highs of 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Senior Night vs. Rutgers

Foe: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-15) (1-11)

Recent History: The all-time series has been a little lopsided; Nova leads 23-8. However, Rutgers is on a one game winning streak after their 80-68 win at the RAC last season. The Scarlet Knights were led by Anthony Farmer and Mike Coburn who had 23 points each. Villanova was led by Malcolm Grant who also had 23 points. The loss was the first of five in a row, representing the low-point of Villanova's season before they bounced back all the way to the Sweet 16. This year Rutgers is led by freshman Mike Rosario (17 ppg) from St. Anthony. He is the only player on the team averaging double digit scoring, but they have a few players, including Farmer and Coburn, who are capable of stepping up. Rutgers has two of the top shot blockers in the nation: Greg Echenique and Hamady N'Diaye, both averaging 2.5 blocks a game.

Best Win: 75-56 vs. DePaul

Worst Loss:64-63 vs. St. Bonaventure

Famous Alumni: Basketball: Quincy Douby, Eddie Jordan, David Stern, Jim Valvano
Other: Marc Ecko, Bill Bellamy, James Gandolfini, Joe Borowski, David DeJesus, Tom Emanski

Fun Facts:
  • Rutgers made the 1976 Final Four.
  • Rutgers was one of the first four schools (Yale, Columbia, Princeton) to participate in intercollegiate athletics.
  • Last year 786 Rutgers students broke the Guinness World Record for "Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Ninja Turtles".

Complimentary Youtube Video:

Final Verdict: Rutgers is 1-11 in the Big East, which means two things: 1) they are not very good, 2) they are hungry for a win. Villanova should take them seriously for that second part, and also keep in mind that they are a young team capable of getting better as the season progresses. With that said, it is senior night in the Pavilion, and I don't see any way Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, and Frank the Tank Tchuisi lose this one.

TV: ESPN2 9:00 PM

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Unlucky Night for #13 Nova on Friday the 13th

Final Score: West Virginia 93, #13 Villanova 72

Player of the Game: Da'Sean Butler - 43 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast

Recap: Lost in hype surrounding Villanova's recent scoring surge was the fact that they gave up an average of 87.3 points the past three games, over 20 points more than their season average. The defense allowed a season-high 93 points vs. WVU and the suddenly cold offense couldn't match. Nova scored only 3 points in the first 7 minutes of the first half. Da'Sean Butler on the otherhand was red hot: 43 points, 12-23 FG, 6-13 3PT, 13-15 FT. After enjoying a couple of 40 point games from Scottie Reynolds the past couple years, it felt weird being on the other side of one. Devin Ebanks was also impressive with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. He had a couple of high-flying dunks, reminds me of Josh Smith.

Dante Cunningham got called for two questionable offensive fouls in the first three minutes of the game. This caused him to sit for the remainder of the first half, while WVU built a lead that was too large to overcome in the second half. Villanova is just not the same team without D.C. Jay should have rolled the dice with him when the game was starting to get out of hand in the first half.

Scottie Reynolds scored 12 points in the first half, but went scoreless in the second and almost scored two for WVU on a deflection. He was 3-11 from the field, had 5 turnovers, only 1 assist, and fouled out in 28 minutes. His scoring has been up lately, but Scottie's had more t.o.'s than dimes over the last six games.

Dwayne Anderson was back in the starting lineup after his knee injury against Marquette. He looked okay (6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals), but lost his touch from behind the arc where he was 0-3.

The lone bright spot of the game was the stellar play of the two Coreys. They helped the bench to score the same amount of points as the starters (36). Corey Stokes had 15 points and 5 rebounds, hitting 3 of 6 from downtown. Corey Fisher had a team-high 17 points and added 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Fisher Price had one of the most spectacular double-clutch finishes I've seen all year. The other day on Mike Francesa's radio show, Jay Wright mentioned that Corey Fisher is the most creative finisher around the basket since Kyle Lowry. I completely agree.

I guess it's always flattering when an opponent's fans rush the court on you after a game; it means you are a great team and an upset was unexpected. A 21 point loss to an unranked team may seem like an embarrassing loss, but WVU is a much better team than they are given credit for. They are 6-6 in conference play, but they've had a rough schedule so far (Pitt twice, UConn, Louisville), but it gets much easier from here for them. West Virginia is a NCAA Tournament team.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Mountaineers

Foe: West Virginia Mountaineers (16-8) (5-6)

Recent History: Villanova is 20-17 all-time vs. West Virginia, but is 3-5 against the Mountaineers during the Jay Wright era. Nova has had an especially hard time playing in Morgantown, where they haven't won since 1999. Last season Nova won 78-56 at the Pavilion in the only meeting between the two teams. Nova was led by Dwayne Anderson's 17 points, who is unlikely to play because of the knee injury, Corey Stokes' 16 points, and Corey Fisher's 6 assists. WVU was led by Joe Alexander's 11 points, but he has since bolted for the NBA. WVU went through a transformation last year when coach John Beilein left for Michigan and Bob Huggins returned to his alma mater. Huggins did a commendable job with Beilein's players considering the different systems they run. This year Huggins has his own recruits and it's a promising class consisting of Devin Ebanks (8.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Kevin Jones (5.6 ppg), Darryl Bryant (10 ppg), and Cameron Payne. Returning players Da'Sean Butler (17.3 ppg, 6 rpg) and Alex Ruoff (16.3 ppg, 3.5 apg) have found ways to excell in the new system.

Best Win: 75-58 at then #14 Georgetown

Worst Loss: 54-43 vs. Kentucky (their only loss to an unranked team)

Famous Alumni: NBA: Joe Alexander, Hot Rod Hundley, Jerry West
Other: Cheryl Hines, Marc Bulger, Chris Henry, Chuck Howley, Sam Huff, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Jerry Porter, Billy Mays

Fun Facts:
  • Won 1942 and 2007 NIT
  • From Wikipedia: "The Mountaineer was adopted in 1890 as the official school mascot and unofficially began appearing at sporting events in 1927. The new Mountaineer is selected each year by the Mountain Honorary during the final two men's home basketball games. Candidates must have at least a 2.5 GPA, write an essay about why they want to be the Mountaineer, attend an extensive interview process and garner the most cheers during the home basketball game. The successful candidate is awarded the formal title of "The Mountaineer of West Virginia University." The new Mountaineer receives a scholarship, a tailor-made buckskin suit with coonskin hat, and a period rifle and powder horn for discharging when appropriate and safe. There is always a backup Mountaineer, to step in when needed."
Complimentary Youtube Video: The man, the myth, the legend...

Final Verdict: I think this is the year Villanova finally gets a win at the WVU Coliseum. They are riding a hot 6 game winning streak and the offense is clicking (94, 102, 102 points in last 3 games). Nova will have to focus their defensive efforts on Butler and Ruoff, two great permiter scorers. I think Dante Cunningham will be the player of the game, but Corey Stokes could be the x-factor. He will need to play a bigger role with Anderson out.

TV: ESPN 9:00 PM

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Foye Scores 33

Randy Foye scored a career-high 33 points in a 110-102 loss to the Raptors Tuesday night. Here's a look at his stat line: 11-22 FG, 3-6 3PT, 8-8 FT, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 33 points, 40 minutes. His previous career-high was 32, which he's had twice. This comes in the T-Wolves' first game without center Al Jefferson who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Jefferson was the centerpeice of the team, and now without him Foye will have to pick up the slack. Foye said, "It was different because when I was driving the ball, usually like he's right there to hand it off. Usually we're always looking for him, usually he's our bail-out." I think we will see a lot more big games from Randy in the second half of the season.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We're Going Streaking!

Final Score: #13 Villanova 102, #12 Marquette 84

Co-Players of the Game: Scottie Reynolds - 27 pts & Corey Fisher 21 pts, 4 ast

Recap: Villanova extended its winning streak to 6 overall and 26 in the Pavilion with a win over the Golden Eagles. I predicted a very close game, and I've never been so happy to be wrong. It was tight during the first half, but Nova led the entire second half and pulled away late in the game. Marquette's big 4 combined for 75 points, but Nova's high-octane offense was too much for the Golden Eagles. Villanova scored 102 points for the second straight game after putting up 94 on Providence... I guess Jay Wright is borrowing Mike D'Antoni's playbook. With all the 3-pointers being made and Dominic James' alley-oop, it looked like NBA All-Star weekend came a few days early.

Dante Cunningham has been the anchor of the team all season, and he held it down tonight with 15 points and 4 rebounds. But this game was all about the Reynolds and Fisher show. Scottie shot down my "Road Warrior" theory by exploding for 27 Points (10-17, 5-11, 2-5) in front of the home crowd. Corey Fisher tied his season high by making four 3-pointers to score his 21 points. Fisher and Reynolds played extended minutes together, something Jay Wright has been hesitant to do this season, and it help both excel in their specialties. Fisher ran the point and dished out 4 assists, while Scottie did what he does best: shoot and score. Fisher has been instrumental to Nova's winning streak. He seems to understand his role and has been confident and aggressive on both ends of the floor.

Shane Clark proved that the Syracuse game was no fluke by having another great game. Tonight Shane was perfect from the field (6-6 FG, 3-3 3PT) to score a season-high 16 points. He also added 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block.

Dwayne Anderson got out to a hot start, scoring 10 points in 13 minutes, but then went down with a knee injury and never returned. Not sure of the extent of the injury or how much time if any Dwayne will miss. Hopefully he is ok.

Reggie Redding had a rough shooting night (0-4, 0-3, 2-4), and only scored 2 points. Likewise, Corey Stokes had a quiet shooting night with 6 points, and oddly he didn't even attempt a three. However, both players found other ways to contribute, combining for 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Stokes' 5 assists were a career-high. We've come to expect the defense, rebounds, and assists from Redding, but Stokes has usually been purely a shooter. It's great to see him developing other areas of his game.

Antonio Pena had another low-key night: 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 4 fouls in 11 minutes. I didn't expect Pena to play a big role in this game, figuring Jay Wright would go small to match up with Marquette's guards. He did make some strong plays under the basket while he was in. Pena got into some trouble by picking of a technical foul for jawwing with Hayward after a hard foul.

With 20 wins and sitting towards the top of the Big East standings, most bracketoligists will probably now move Villanova into lock status for the NCAA Tournament. There were high expectations for this team preseason, and they are now looking like they could possibly improve on that Sweet 16 appearance from last season.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Marquette: Rematch

Preview: Villanova will look to win its 6th straight game, and 26th consecutive in the Pavilion, Tuesday night vs. Marquette. Of course this is the second time the teams will meet; Marquette won the first game 79-72. Since then Marquette went on a tear through the Big East, getting out to a 9-0 start, but that ended this past weekend when they were upset at South Florida 57-56. Nova fans should remember that South Florida is a scrappy team at home, so I won't take too much away from them for that loss. Marquette has not played any of the big three teams (UConn, Pitt, Louisville) yet, but they are for real. Nova and Marquette are similar teams, both guard-oriented, and Marquette has had the advantage recently because of their experience. However, the two Coreys are maturing by the day and Redding, Anderson, and Clark have made strides since the first meeting. I'd be extremely surprised if this isn't a very close game. I think the Pavilion crowd will help Nova squeak by with a W.

TV: ESPN2 7:30 PM

Links: 1/1 Preview, 1/1 Recap, VUHoops, AP, IBBW, VBTN, LGN

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Nova Juices the Cuse

Final Score: #16 Villanova 102, #20 Syracuse 85

Player of the Game: Dante Cunningham - 31 pts, 10 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk

Recap: Nova came out strong from the start, perhaps motivated by Johnny Flynn's pregame quotes, and were in control all of the game. Nova dropped 102 points, their second highest total of the season. Nova has now won five in a row, with a rematch against Marquette coming up next. At 7-3 (5th place) in conference, Villanova has put itself in a good position to challenge for one of the top four seeds in the Big East Tournament.

Restoring Balance to the ForceVillanova was firing on all cylinders and saw great balance from their top seven in both minutes and scoring. The only odd man out was Antonio Pena who fouled out in only 9 minutes.

Dante's InfernoDante Cunningham had one of his best games of the season, tying his career-high of 31 points. The ten rebounds gave him his eighth double-double of the season. He was automatic from the mid-range, going 12-15 from the field. He's undersized for the 4 in the NBA, but scouts have got to be taking a close look at him with these numbers he's putting up.

Shane Clark is back! He had his best game of the season with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists. He was an absolute beast on the offensive glass, where he grabbed 6 of his rebounds. The loudest of those was a emphatic one-handed put-back slam. Shane's had games like this in the past, but for whatever reason (injuries, illness, unknown...) he has struggled at times during the past two seasons, causing members of the fanbase to turn against him. It's great to see him come out and have a game like this because with Nova's thin frontcourt, Shane Clark is a valuable player to the team.

The Coreys CornerBoth Coreys were great sparks off the bench. Fisher was unstoppable driving to the basket to score 14 points. More impressive were his 6 assists, which tie his season high. Stokes broke out of his mini-slump with 16 points. He hit three 3-pointers and got fouled on a couple more. He also had season highs in rebounds (9) and assists (3), which is great to see because sometimes he's too one dimensional with his shooting.

Road Warrior?Scottie Reynolds had a relatively quiet night, going 3-11 from the field, scoring 10 points and dishing 3 assists. He seems to have his best games on the road: all four of his 30+ point games have come on the road. In Big East play Scottie's averaging 10.2 at home, compared to 21.4 ppg on the road. Not sure what this means, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Dwayne Anderson and Reggie Redding took care of business. Anderson had an Anderson-like performance, full of blocks (1), steals (3), and rebounds (4). Redding chipped in 8 points, including his first 3-pointer in five games.

This was an all-around great effort, and in some ways a statement win, proving to the rest of the league that they are one of the elite teams.

Friday, February 6, 2009

#20 Syracuse vs. #16 Villanova

Foe: #20 Syracuse Orange (18-5)(6-4)

Recent History: Syracuse holds a slight 34-28 advantage in the all-time series, but Villanova has won five of the past seven. Last season Nova and Cuse met three times, with Nova winning the first 81-71 at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse winning the second 87-73 at the Wachovia Center, and Nova winning the rubber match 82-63 in the Big East Tournament, a crucial game in which the winner would likely make the NCAA Tournament. Nova went on the NCAAs, while Cuse had to settle for the NIT. Syracuse lost leading scorer Donte Greene to the NBA, but have Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins back from injury this season. The key match-up for the game will likely be Scottie Reynolds vs. Johnny Flynn in the backcourt. Flynn averaged 21 points and 4 assists in the three games against Nova last season, while Reynolds averaged 20 points and 3 assists. Flynn is averaging 17 points and 6 assists this year to lead five Orangemen averaging double figures in scoring: Devendorf (15.2), Harris (13.0), Onaku (11.5), Rautins (10.0).

Best Win: 72-65 at Memphis

Worst Loss: 72-69 vs. Cleveland State

Famous Alumni: NBA: Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Coleman, Donte Greene, Rony Seikaly, Hakim Warrick
Other: Joe Biden, Marv Albert, Matthew Berry, Bob Costas, Ian Eagle, Ted Koppel, Sean McDonough, Mike Tirico, Jim Brown, Tom Coughlin, Dwight Freeny, Marvin Harrison, Donovan McNabb, Art Monk, David Tyree, Dick Clark, Taye Diggs, Frank Langella, Jerry Stiller, Vanessa Williams
Fun Facts:
  • Syracuse won national championships in 1918, 1926, and 2003.
  • Syracuse has had an NCAA record 38 consecutive winning seasons.

Complimentary Youtube Video:

Final Verdict: Like Nova, Syracuse has 6 Big East wins, although Cuse's best win is probably vs. Notre Dame, currently on a 6-game losing streak. They will still be a tough team to beat, even with a home court advantage. Syracuse fans usually fill up the upper deck at the Wachovia Center, which might be why they've had some success there. I think the x-factors in the game will be Corey Fisher for Villanova and Paul Harris for Syracuse, who dropped 28 on Nova at the Wach last year. These teams match up well and it should be a close game, but I think Villanova will prevail in front of the home crowd.

TV: ESPN 12:00

Links: VUHoops, AP, IBBW