Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nova and USF in the Olympics

That was exactly what Villanova needed to break their 2-game losing streak, a good old fashioned Pavilion smackdown. Nova beat South Florida 74-49 for their 37th consecutive win at the Pavilion, although it wasn't as easy as the final score would indicate. The Bulls cut Villanova's lead down to six in the second half before Villanova pulled away for good.

With the Winter Olympics in full effect, it got me thinking. How would Nova's players do if they pursued an Olympic sport instead of basketball.

Maalik Wayns - Speed Skating
With the way Wayns jets from coast to coast on the hardwood, I'm sure he could challenge Apolo Ohno and Shawnee Davis for some gold medals.

Antonio Pena - Hockey
With his intimidating size and strength, I think 'Tone would make a good hockey goon. Pena had a handful of monster jams in the game, finishing with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

Corey Fisher - Freestyle Skiing
Fisher Price uses aerial improv skills when trying to avoid taller defenders for layups, making for a perfect transition to the aerial moves needed for freestyle ski jumps. A few of Fisher's signature lay ups that usually drop took some unlucky bounces last night, resulting in a poor FG% and just 7 points.

Isaiah Armwood - Ski Jumping (Long Jump)
He has the ups to jump over his own coach, plus he has the slender frame for longer hangtime.

Reggie Redding - Curling
Like Redding's game, curling isn't the flashiest or most athletic sport, but it requires smart decision making, strategy, and precision. Redding had an inconspicuous final Pavilion game on Senior Night, just 2 points and 2 assists and limited by foul trouble. However, the more observant will realize Redding played a major role in limiting Dominique Jones, one of the Big East's best scorers, to 12 points on 2-10 shooting.

Corey Stokes - Biathlon
Nothing goes together quite like guns and skiing. Stokes has the necessary combination of speed and long-range shooting accuracy. Stokes had 11 points, knocking down multiple threes for the first time in five games.

Taylor King - Snowboard Halfpipe
King is from Huntington Beach, California, so he probably knows how to surf, which will make for an easy transition to the snow. He just needs to grow his hair out to fit in with Shaun White.

Mouphtaou Yarou, Maurice Sutton, Jarrid Famous, and Augustus Gilchrist - Bobsled Team
Hey, if Jamaica can have a bobsled team, why not Benin? Okay, they probably wouldn't be any good, but I would just love to see a bunch of 6'10 and 6'11 guys try to fit into a little bobsled.
After a good showing against UConn, I was surprised to see Mouph only play one minute at Pitt. Then Jay rewarded the big man with a season high 24 minutes against USF, and he didn't disappoint. He is still raw offensively, scoring just 4 points, but he had 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals.

Dominic Cheek - Alpine Skiing
Downhill racing requires speed, athleticism, fearlessness, and luck... Kind of like the lucky no-call on Cheek's put-back dunk that was probably offensive interference. Let's just hope Cheek doesn't start playing drunk like Bode Miller.

Scottie Reynolds - Figure Skating
Before you laugh, wait a minute and hear me out. Figure skating is the most popular event at the winter games. The skater is under intense pressure to deliver a flawless routine in front of huge crowds. You need to be precise and crafty performing jumps, flips, loops, axles, and spins. Most importantly, you need to be clutch and calm under pressure, which coincidentally are two of Scottie Reynolds' greatest attributes. Naturally Scottie would also spice up the event like Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory.

Last night was Scottie's final game at the Pavilion, and he put on a show for the fans with some spectacular shots en route to his game-high 21 points. It may have been his last time playing in the Pavilion, but I'm sure we'll be seeing that #1 jersey hanging up in the rafters sometime in the near future.

Russell Wooten and Jason Colenda - Doubles Luge
The student section showed some appreciation to the walk-on Wooten on Senior Night, and although he's no longer on the team, we can't forget about the other senior walk-on, Jason Colenda. Now it's time for them to pass the Olympic torch to the next Villanova walk-on.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nova in the Pitts

Villanova lost back-to-back games for the first time this season after a 70-65 loss to the 19th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers. This is no time to panic; the Big East schedule is grueling, and the Petersen Events Center is always one of the toughest places to play in the country. However, there have been some discouraging trends in Villanova's losses that must be addressed for continued success.

The most alarming stat from each of Villanova's losses has been the free throw differential.

Pitt (26-34), Nova (11-16)
UConn (35-44), Nova (16-20)
Georgetown (34-50), Nova (17-23)
Temple (12-17), Nova (9-11)

In every loss, the opponent has made more free throws than Villanova attempted. Conspiracy theorists will blame the referees, and they might have a case, but the bigger issue is likely due to Villanova's interior defense. Penetrating guards are able to get to the basket, and Nova's undersized front court has no option but to foul them. Ashton Gibbs got to the line 12 times, and scored 21 points. Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson had a field day in the paint in the game before. Villanova would love for Mouphtaou Yarou to step up and be a defensive stopper in the paint, but judging by his minutes in the Pitt game (1), Jay Wright doesn't believe he is ready to fulfill that role yet. For now, Nova will have to execute better help defense to prevent opposing guards from getting to the basket.

Scottie Reynolds scored 20 points and Corey Fisher scored 12, but no other Villanova player scored in double figures. Scottie and Fish have been the team's best players all season, and they have played great even in Nova's losses. For the team to win Nova needs another another player to step up offensively. Antonio Pena has been the Cats' number three scorer recently, and he had another solid game against Pitt with 8 points and 9 rebounds, but you can't expect him to score much more than 10 points a game. Maalik Wayns, Taylor King, Corey Stokes, and Reggie Redding were consistently lighting up the scoreboard at different points earlier in the season, but they have all struggled lately. Taylor King has failed to score in double figures for 10 straight games. His 3-point shot has been off, which may be the result of tired legs. The 6'6 King has been forced to play out of position at power forward against players much bigger and stronger, yet he has held his own on the boards (5.8 rpg).

After missing the first ten games of the season due to suspension, Reggie Redding returned with a vengeance, scoring 10+ in 6 of his first 7 games, all wins, but he hasn't scored 10+ points since. Redding was never a big scorer, so it may have been unrealistic to expect him to keep up that pace. Redding also expends a lot of energy on the other end of the floor guarding the opposing team's best scorer. Corey Stokes has been the most wildly inconsistent scorer on the team all season. He scored 20 points in the first game of the season, then scored 1 point in the third game, and he has scored everywhere in between since. Stokes, the team's top 3-point threat, has shot just 28% from long range in Nova's losses. Big East Freshman of the year candidate Maalik Wayns may be the biggest offensive x-factor for Villanova. Wayns is averaging 10 points per game in Big East wins, but just 5 points in Big East losses. Wayns' minutes have been jerked around a bit lately, (16 vs. Georgetown, 3 vs. West Virginia, 14 vs. Providence, 7 vs. UConn, 15 vs. Pitt) which may be effecting his confidence. The bottom line is as good as Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher may be, they need some help from one of these players for the team to win.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Midseason NNBEPP

I haven't been able to post for the past few days, so let's make up for lost time with a mid-season Nova News Big East Power Poll. I am overdue for one, anyway. Scroll down to Providence and UConn for specific thoughts on Nova's recent games against those teams. And DePaul fans scroll at your own risk... you might break your mouse trying to get down to my thoughts on the Blue Demons.

1. Villanova (22-3, 11-2)
Sure, I'm biased, but I think Villanova deserves the top spot. Mainly because...

2. Syracuse (24-2, 11-2)
I'm not completely sold on the Orange. For some reason I can't get the words Moyne and Le out of my mind. Nevertheless, the February 27 showdown at the Carrier Dome should be awesome with a capital Dickie V.

3. West Virginia (19-5, 8-4)

I'm surprised Deniz Kilicli has the time to juggle playing college basketball while promoting his new movie The Wolfman.

4. Georgetown (18-6, 8-5)
I was feeling pretty good about Nova's loss to the Hoyas, until they lost to the mess that is Rutgers basketball.

5. Pittsburgh (19-6, 8-4)
I'm not sure why, but the Panthers have all the looks of a team that will get upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a 5/12 or 6/11 game.

6. Louisville (16-9, 7-5)
After watching last week's episode of "Inside Villanova Basketball with Jay Wright" (There's not much better than Jay Wright up close in HD), I stuck around after to catch some of Jim Boeheim's show, and he said something to the effect of, "Louisville will be one of the best teams in the conference when the season's over". I know what you're up to Boeheim. Talk up the competition so that when you lose to them at home, it doesn't look as bad.

7. Connecticut (15-11, 5-8)

I had to bump up UConn a few spots after Monday night's upset. They are much better than their record would indicate. I can't believe this team has lost so many games, perhaps it was due to Calhoun's absence. The Huskies have two of the best guards in the country in Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker, and they have a deep front court full of long athletic players. Plus they have a balanced combination of youth and experience. They don't even have any horrible losses. They've really just been victims of a brutal schedule, which happens when you play in the best conference in the country. Couple the win over Villanova with their win over Texas, and UConn has beaten two of the best teams in the country. I'd be shocked if UConn doesn't make a late season run and make a case for an NCAA Tourney bid. Meanwhile, Boeheim just called me a hypocrite.

UConn is a good team, but it didn't help that the Huskies saved their best game of the season for the Cats. Nova had difficulty with UConn's size, getting killed in the paint (out-rebounded 36-26 and a 44-20 free throw differential). Pena, Sutton, and Stokes all fouled out. Nova especially needed Pena to combat UConn's size, but although he scored 10 points, he grabbed just 3 rebounds in 18 minutes. Mouphtaou Yarou got some extra playing time against UConn's front court, and he showed some flashes of his sky-high upside. Mouph had 6 points, 5 boards, and 3 blocks in just 13 minutes. Extended that over a full game, and Yarou could become a double-double and shot-blocking machine in the future. While Yarou is taking steps forward in his development, Taylor King has taken a giant step back. King has gone ice cold shooting 1-16 over the last 3 games. Though, to his credit, he has grabbed 16 rebounds over that time as well. Scottie Reynolds had a rare game where he played better in the first half (14 points) than the second (4 points).

Kemba Walker showed just how good he can be with a career-high 29 points. Walker got to the line 16 times and his back court mate Jerome Dyson got there 14 times. It's hard to believe that a team with those two guards playing together has lost so many games. Both are capable of putting up a triple-double any given night... the good kind of triple-double, not the kind Stanley Robinson nearly had Monday night (10 points, 7 rebounds, 7 turnovers). Finally, Isaiah Armwood made Dante Cunningham proud with the Villanova dunk of the year so far, not counting Armwood's dunk over Jay Wright at Hoops Mania.

8. Marquette (16-8, 7-5)
The Golden Eagles will likely end the season with the honor of being the only Big East team to lose to DePaul.

9. Cincinnati (15-10, 6-7)
I'm eager to see Lance Stephenson in action, but why do I get the feeling he will have his best game of the season against us.

10. Notre Dame (17-9, 6-7)
Dear Big East coaches,
Please do not vote Luke Harangody Big East Player of the Year. That is all.
Thank you.

11. Seton Hall (14-9, 5-7)
Naturally, one game after scoring 32 points on Nova, Jeremy Hazell scores just 2 points at Pitt.

12. South Florida (16-9, 6-7)
Villanova will have their hands full trying to contain Dominique Jones. His 46 points against Providence are the third most in a NCAA game this season. Arkansas' Rotnei Clarke is number one with 51 points against Alcorn State.

13. Providence (12-13, 4-9)

Once again, Scottie Reynolds steps it up in the second half to lead his team to victory. Corey Fisher also had 22 points, and in Reynolds' shadow, Fisher is quietly putting together an incredible season. Nova fans know how good he is, but I think Fisher Price is underrated nationally. Speaking of underrated, Antonio Pena had 15 and 12 for his sixth double-double of the season. The future looks bright for Friars freshman Vincent Council who had 21 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds.

14. St. John's (14-10, 4-8)

Anthony Mason Jr. needs to start shaving words and designs into his hair like his father used to. I guarantee it will improve his play.

15. Rutgers (14-12, 4-9)
I still don't understand how Rutgers beat Georgetown with Mike Rosario shooting 3-16. Maybe their win over Division II powerhouse Caldwell College in their previous game gave them the preparation and confidence they needed.

16. DePaul (8-17, 1-12)
You know things are bad when you start offering scholarships to 12 year olds.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nova Mauls Mountaineers

That was Villanova's most impressive game of the season. Coming off a tough loss at Georgetown, to go into a hostile environment like Morgantown and control the game from start to finish shows just how great this team is.

Fisher Price was single-handedly dominating the Mountaineers, until the zebras took him out of the game by calling him for a ridiculous fourth foul with 14:21 remaining. There were more charges called in this game than at a bull fight. Fisher finished with 17 points and 3 assists, including a beautiful cross court zip pass that set up Maurice Sutton for a jam.

Luckily for Nova, when Fisher stepped out, Scottie Reynolds stepped up. After scoring just two points in the first half, Scottie went off for 19 in the second. You've probably heard about Scottie's trip to the game last weekend on a train full of Georgetown fans. The problem with being this good for four years is that opposing fans get to know you a little too well. The signs and chants get more creative; I can only imagine the kinds of things Scottie's sees and hears on the road.

I've been having nightmares about Da'Sean Butler since he dropped 43 points on us last year, but thankfully he did more to hurt his team than help in this game. He was just 2-12 shooting from the field and had 4 turnovers. Reggie Redding and Corey Stokes deserve a lot of credit for shutting Butler down.

Antonio Pena just missed another double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds. He had about three or four wide open dunks under the basket. Pena's strong play was encouraging because WVU has a strong front court with Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones.

It was like a game within a game watching Taylor King and ...pause for spell check... Deniz Kilicli battle in the post. King was ice cold shooting the ball (0-6), but he pulled down 8 rebounds and blocked 3 shots.

Isaiah Armwood had 8 points and 4 rebounds off the bench. Once he puts on some more muscle and learns to finish stronger around the basket, he could become a force. I already like how active he is on defense and the boards.

No wonder Wellington Smith had zero points in 17 minutes, with that name he sounds more like an English butler than a basketball player.

Dominic Cheek provided a nice boost in the first half, scoring 7 points in 6 minutes, but he only played 2 minutes in the second half. Maalik Wayns didn't play at all in the second half after playing three minutes in the first. Mouph Yarou didn't play at all, but it's unclear if it is health related.

Apparently there was a blackout in the locker room when Truck Bryant got dressed before the game. Did you see those blue shoes?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Sloppy Snowy Weekend

The weekend saw a series of unexpected events: Washington DC got covered in three feet of snow, Georgetown scored 100+ points for only the second time in school history, Villanova committed 16 first half turnovers, Georgetown attempted 27 more free throws than Villanova, and the New Orleans Saints won their first ever Super Bowl. Villanova dropped their first Big East game of the season 103-90 to the Hoyas, ending their 11-game winning streak. Nova certainly didn't play their best game of the season, but you can't hang your head in shame after losing on the road to the 8th ranked team in the country. Georgetown is a very good team, and there might be a rubber match in the future for these two Big East rivals. Below are more thoughts on the game, and on that other game from Sunday night.

You Can't Beat Perfection
Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees was an outstanding 32/39, throwing 2 touchdowns, and completing 18 of his final 19 passes. Jason Clark played the game of his life and seemingly couldn't miss from downtown. He made six of seven 3-pointers to score 24 points. Nova was so busy trying to stop Greg Monroe inside, that they continually left Clark wide open on the perimeter. Oh yeah, and they couldn't stop Monroe either (19 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists).

Great Players, Bad Turnovers
Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks ever, but he threw an interception on the Colts' final drive, securing the loss. Scottie Reynolds is one of the best players in the country, and you might look at the 24 points and 6 assists and think he had a great game. However, he had six costly turnovers, four of which came in the first half when Nova dug itself into a 23-point deficit.

Coaching Gambles
Sean Payton made a risky decision to open the second half with an onside kick and it paid off. John Thompson III faced a tough decision when his point guard Chris Wright picked up his fourth foul early in the second half. He put Wright back in with around 10 minutes left, and Wright later fouled out with about 5 minutes left, but ultimately none of it mattered as the Hoyas maintained a double digit advantage throughout the second half. Villanova fought til the end and technically won the second half 59-53, but I thought the Cats could have played much better considering Georgetown played most of the second half without a point guard.

And You Thought Those Fans Were Rowdy
Who Dat Nation was partying all night on Bourbon Street, but wait until you see the West Virginia fans tonight. Villanova better bring some helmets to wear while their sitting on the bench.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Nova Sinks Pirates into Davy Jones' Locker

Villanova survived a scare from the hot-shooting Jeremy Hazell to defeat the Seton Hall Pirates 81-71. The game sparked some meaningful questions, which I will attempt to answer below.

Is Scottie Reynolds the greatest Villanova Wildcat of all time?
Scottie scored 15 points, and in the process reached the 2,000 career point milestone. Regardless of whether or not he catches Kerry Kittles (2,243), Scottie is certainly in the discussion for the best Wildcat of all time. It's always difficult comparing players from different eras, but Scottie has a big edge in Tournament success. If he can somehow lead his team all the way, like Ed Pinckney in 1985, it would be hard to argue for anyone else in a Villanova uniform being better than Reynolds.

Why won't Nova lose in the Pavilion?
Villanova extended its Pavilion win-streak to 36 games in front of someone else who knows a thing or two about long streaks, Cal Ripken Jr. Villanova has only one more game in the Pavilion this season, February 24 against South Florida. The Bulls have Dominique Jones, a scorer that I fear even more than Hazell, but I like Nova's chances to carry the streak into the 2010-2011 season. So why is the team so dominant in its on campus home?
1. The Campus Food - They never have to worry about playing on an empty stomach with the all-you-can-eat buffets at the Pit and Spit.
2. The Proximity - No planes, trains, or automobiles. They can just roll out of bed and walk to the game.
3. The Banners - I bet the team gets a little extra motivation when they look up to the rafters and see the 1985 Championship banner, the 2009 Final Four banner, and all the retired jerseys.
4. The Student Section - It's always difficult for opponents to focus in the second half when they have to deal with this behind their basket:

5. The Quality of Opponent - It's no secret Villanova plays most of its bigger games at the Wachovia Center. Many of the wins have come against easier opponents, but the streak is impressive nonetheless.

Has Antonio Pena turned a corner?

Pena followed up his double-double against Notre Dame with 16 points and 8 rebounds, but I think it has more to do with the quality of the opponents. Seton Hall only had one player over 6'6 (Herb Pope) play more than 3 minutes, and even he is only 6'8. Pena has proven he can dominate average big men, but he has struggled against the elite in the Big East like Greg Monroe, Samardo Samuels, and Mac Koshwal.

Is Jeremy Hazell an NBA player?

He may get drafted, but I don't think Hazell's game will translate to the next level. He reminds me of Adam Morrison, in that he is an elite college scorer, but is a one dimensional player. He is the star of his team and excels by taking lots of shots (12-23 for 32 points last night). In the NBA he won't be the best scorer on the team, and he won't have the luxury of chucking it up every time he touches the ball.

Is Villanova the deepest team in the country?
Nova certainly has the deepest back court in the country. Jay Wright had 10 players log over 10 minutes in the game. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher seem to be the constants, but Redding, Pena, Stokes, Wayns, King, and Cheek are all capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Aside from Pena, it was Stokes who stepped up in this game. When Seton Hall was making a run in the second half, Stokes hit three dagger 3-pointers and scored 11 points to help bury the Pirates.

Are there actually any pirates in New Jersey?

Surprisingly, yes. Famous pirates such as Blackbeard, Captain Morgan, and Captain Kidd patrolled the waters between Sandy Hook and New York City during the 17th and 18th centuries. According to legend, Kidd buried treasure somewhere in central Jersey. Rumor has it season two of "The Jersey Shore" will have the cast members searching for the treasure.

What the hell is going on in Lost?
Sorry, I've got no answers for that one.