Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jay Wright Grabs Another 2010 Recruit

6'9, 225-pound power forward Markus Kennedy has committed to Villanova. He is from Living Faith Christian Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He joins 6'4 shooting guard James Bell as the second commitment for the class of 2010. Villanova is kind of thin up front, so Kennedy should be a nice addition. Dante Cunningham's success last season (and hopefully continued success next year in the NBA) will help Jay Wright in recruiting top big men, not to mention he already has 5-star recruit Mouph Yarou coming in next year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scottie Declares for Draft

Scottie Reynolds has officially declared for the NBA draft, but he has not hired an agent and may still return to school. I can't say I'm not surprised. After the March 5th game against Providence I said this:
With all the hype surrounding the seniors, appreciating their achievements and bidding them farewell, kind of lost in the shuffle is Scottie Reynolds. For all we know the junior standout may have played his last game in the Pavilion. Right now I don't think his NBA draft stock is high enough to leave early, but if he leads Villanova to the Final Four averaging something like 20 points and 5 assists, he could propel himself into a first round pick.
Little did I know that he actually would lead his team to the Final Four, although he averaged just 13.4 points and 2 assists in the Tournament. With experts predicting this to be one of the weaker drafts in recent years, this might be Scottie's best opportunity to get drafted. Reynolds is what he is. I don't think he would improve his draft stock much with another year in school. Scottie's game reminds me of Mike Bibby. I don't know if he will be as successful in the league as Bibby, but he can be a solid back-up point guard (like Kyle Lowry) and bring some 3-point shooting off the bench. I fully support Scottie's decision to test the waters and I hope he does get drafted. He's done wonders for the program over the past three years, culminating in the school's first Final Four since 1985. Finally, with Corey Fisher ready to run the show and Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek coming to town, Scottie wouldn't exactly be leaving the team in shambles.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lowry Prepares for Playoffs

Kyle Lowry ended the regular season on a high note with his best game as a Rocket: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists. Kyle will get his first taste of the NBA playoffs this weekend when Houston plays Portland in the first round. Lowry has played well for the Rockets off the bench, sharing point guard duties with Aaron Brooks. He finished the season with averages of 7.6 points, 3.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.9 steals.

Randy Foye had a great third season, but ran into a few injuries and the Timberwolves decided to shut him down for the final nine games. He averaged career highs in points (16.3) and assists (4.3). Foye scored a career-high 36 points on February 20 and dished a career-high 14 assists on November 23. He was averaging about 20 points per game over the last couple months of the season before the injuries. Randy has gotten better each year in the league, and that should continue next season when he gets back to full health.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

UNC Ends Nova's Run

Final Score: #1 North Carolina 83, #3 Villanova 69

Player of the Game: Ty Lawson - 22 pts, 8 ast, 7 reb, 2 stl

Recap: Well, it was fun while it lasted, but much like 2006's team against Florida, Villanova ran into the one team in the country that they cannot beat. This team just doesn't match up well with the Tar Heels. UNC's size, quickness, and depth were too much to overcome. Plus they have a perfect inside/outside combination. When Nova tried to double Tyler Hansborough inside, he'd kick it out to Wayne Ellington or Danny Green for an open three, and they were making their shots. But when we stuck to them on the perimeter, Ty Lawson penetrated to the rim and Hansborough attacked the basket, both drawing a combined 29 free throw attempts.

Despite UNC's many strengths, they are still beatable... if you make your shots, which Villanova didn't. The Wildcats shot 32.9% from the field and just about everyone had their worst shooting nights of the season, spelling certain doom for Nova. Scottie Reynolds had 17 points, but was 6-18 from the field and only 3-11 from three. Dante Cunningham had 12 points, but was 5-13 from the field. Corey Fisher (13 points) was 5-19, and 0-4 from downtown. Dwayne Anderson never got it going either (2-12 FG, 0-6 3PT). Stokes and Pena both went oh-for from the floor. The only players to have good shooting nights were Reggie Redding (15 points, 5-9, 2-3, 3-3) and Shane Clark (6 points, 3-4).

I don't want to spend too much time focusing on the bad because the fact is these guys played their hearts out all season long and exceeded everybody's expectations by taking Villanova to the Final Four for the first time since 1985. Of course two more wins would have been nice, but this season was a wild success and Jay Wright and his players deserve a ton of credit. A special thanks go out to Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, and Frank Tchuisi: best of luck to them in the future.

Other notes from the game:
  • At least Jay Wright didn't embarrass himself by doing a Guitar Hero commercial in his underwear...

  • Corey Fisher had the sickest move of the season when he dribbled the ball behind his back, then spun it around his back, but, typical of Nova's night, just barely missed the lay-up. Still, with skills like that it's easy to see why they call him Fisher Price.
  • It's not a North Carolina game unless Hansborough gets to the line 10+ times. What happened to no blood, no foul...... oh, yeah.
  • Unbelievably, at one point in the game, Hansborough flopped blatantly and the refs actually held their whistles... that's a first.
That's it for now, but there will be plenty more to come over the offseason including reflections on this season and previews of next season, which should be a lot of fun.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Round 5: North Carolina

Foe: #1 North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels (32-4)

Recent History
: North Carolina leads the all-time series 9-4, with four of those games having come in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova toppled UNC in the 1985 Elite Eight en route to a National Championship. The most recent meeting came in the 2005 Sweet Sixteen when Tom O'Neill made the "travel call that wasn't" against Allan Ray. That North Carolina team was absolutely loaded with NBA talent: Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Marvin Williams, and Sean May. On one hand I was happy that Nova played so well against that heavily favored team, the eventual National Champions. However, that travel call left me bitter for months afterwards, and I was constantly dreaming of what could have happened if A-Ray tied that game up with the and-1.

This year's Tar Heels squad is similar to 2005's. It is a dominant team full of talent and depth at every position. I mean at the start of the season, it wasn't inconceivable to think that this team could go undefeated. Obviously it didn't happen; they lost to BC, Wake Forest, Maryland, and Florida St. (all NCAA Tournament teams by the way). They are led by a starting five that all score in double figures. Ty Lawson might be the best point guard in the country: 16.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 2 spg, 48.5% 3PT. Tyler Hansborough is the reigning National Player of the year: 20.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg. Wayne Ellington is one of the best shooters in the nation: 15.6 ppg, 39.7% 3PT. Danny Green is a versatile Dwayne Anderson-type: 13.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 41.5% 3PT. Deon Thompson (10.7 pts, 5.8 reb, 1.1 blk) would be the #1 big man on most teams in the country, but he stays under the radar playing second fiddle to Hansborough. On top of that, the Tar Heels have the best bench in the country, full of players that could start on any other team. 6'10 freshman Ed Davis (6.6 pts, 6.6 reb, 1.8 blk) might be the best NBA prospect of UNC's big men and he only plays 18.9 minutes off the bench. Booby Frasor (2.7 ppg) and Will Graves (4 ppg) are solid options off the bench. Finally, freshmen Tyler Zeller (3.5 ppg) and Larry Drew II (1.5 ppg) are two former McDonalds All-Americans that can barely even crack the rotation.

Famous Alumni: Basketball: Larry Brown, Vince Carter, Billy Cunningham, Hubert Davis, Brad Daugherty, Raymond Felton, Phil Ford, Rick Fox, Brendan Haywood, Antwan Jamison, Michael Jordan, George Karl, Mitch Kupchak, Sean May, Bob McAdoo, Rashad McCants, Sam Perkins, Kenny Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Donnie Walsh, Marvin Williams, James Worthy, Brandan Wright
Other: Peter Gammons, Lewis Black, Billy Crudup, Andy Griffith, Stuart Scott, John Edwards, Moonlight Graham, Mia Hamm, Chris Iannetta, Marion Jones, Davis Love III, Eddie Pope, Lawrence Taylor

Fun Facts:
  • UNC is the oldest public university in the United States.
  • The nickname "Tar Heels" is a reference to North Carolina's tar production during the 18th century.
  • Final Fours: UNC - 18, Nova - 4
  • NCAA Championships: UNC - 4, Nova - 1

Complimentary Youtube Video: Time for revenge...

Final Verdict: North Carolina is the favorite, but these two teams have arguably been the two most dominant in the Tournament so far. UNC likes to run and score; they average 90 points per game and give up just 72. Villanova doesn't have the depth to run with them, so they will need to try to slow the game down by containing Ty Lawson because he is the engine that makes them go. This same North Carolina team made the Final Four last year, so they are definitely not content just to be there. But I get the feeling our guys are looking for a little something more as well. Can Villanova beat the mighty Tar Heels? Yes, but it will take a near perfect game to pull the upset, and luckily Villanova has some experience in doing that.

TV: 8:47 PM on CBS and