Saturday, March 20, 2010

St. Mary's Stuns Nova

This was not the top-10 Villanova Wildcats team I've watched all season. Literally. After a very successful season where Antonio Pena and Taylor King anchored the front court, Jay Wright decided it would be a good time to tinker with a new look by throwing two freshmen, Maurice Sutton and Mouphtaou Yarou, on the floor to learn on the fly in high-pressure NCAA Tournament games. On top of that, he gave two more freshmen, Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns, some of the most minutes they've seen all season. I like all four of the freshmen, and in Wayns and Cheek's cases, I've been calling for more playing time for them all season. However, now is not the time to make major lineup changes. These freshmen needed to get their reps in the regular season so they could handle this situation.

Scottie Reynolds - Seriously. What happened? I think he reenacted the movie "Freaky Friday" and switched bodies with his mother. He looked slow and hesitant, like the previous 2-15 game was still in his head. He followed it up by another horrid 2-11 shooting day, and at the end of the game with Nova down three, when Scottie normally steps up and takes control, he passed away the ball immediately like it was a hot potato. He wound up falling 21 points short of Kerry Kittles' Villanova scoring record, and it's really a shame. These past two games are a black eye on what was a spectacular career from Scottie Reynolds. I really feel for him because as disappointed as I and other Villanova fans may be, Scottie must feel that much worse. When the dust settles, he should hold his head high because Scottie Reynolds had one of the all-time best collegiate careers that anybody in a Villanova uniform has ever had, and hopefully years from now when we think of Scottie Reynolds, we will remember the "shot" that sent Nova back to the Final Four and the 40 point games, and his poor 2010 Tournament will just be an afterthought.

Corey Fisher - I see your 2-11 and raise you a 3-13. You can handle one player having an off-game, but when both of your two best players can't buy a bucket you're in big trouble. Fisher seemed to get frustrated that he wasn't getting any foul calls around the basket, so he started settling for too many jumpers. Nova was a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line, by the way, but St. Mary's attempted 16 more free throws, making 20 of 26.

Omar Samhan - Samhan made six of the Gaels' free throws, as Villanova made him look like Kareem Abdul-Jabber. The 6'11 big man scored 32 points on 13-16 shooting. Jay Wright waited way too long to start double teaming him.

Mickey McConnell - He must still have the luck of the Irish with him from St. Patrick's Day. I know he shoots over 51% from 3-point range, but come on... he's even making bank shot threes? Watching that shot go in must have made Scottie feel sick. Or sick"er".

Matthew Dellavedova - I was really hoping Scottie would punch that guy in the mouth. You're just asking for it with a flamboyant mouthpiece like that. Seriously though, as bad as Nova played, you still have to give a ton of credit to St. Mary's. Those kids played hard, and deserved to win. Who knew there were so many good basketball players down under?

Antonio Pena - He had a band on his leg, and for Jay Wright's sake, I hope 'Tone was injured. If he was fully healthy, then it's completely unacceptable how little Jay played Pena in these two Tournament games. Pena and King averaged over 45 minutes per game all season, yet they played just a combined 20 minutes in this game. Meanwhile Cheek, Wayns, Yarou, and Sutton combined for 61 minutes in this game, despite averaging about 54 minutes per game all season. Pena was the team's leading rebounder and the only proven low post scorer all season. If you double his minutes to the 26 that he normally plays, that's potentially 18 points, 4 rebounds, and probably a Villanova victory. It was no surprise to me that Nova made a run and reclaimed its first lead since the beginning of the game while Pena was on the floor late in the second half.

Isaiah Armwood - Was he even in Providence? Armwood
was really coming on at the end of the season, and Jay Wright was trusting him with more and more playing time, and he doesn't even touch the floor in either NCAA Tournament game. Jay Wright's lineup decisions were perplexing. It was like how Avery Johnson and the #1-seed Dallas Mavericks botched the 2008 NBA playoffs versus #8-seed Golden State by overreacting and adjusting his lineup to match up with the Nellie-ball Warriors. You don't change your philosophy when you're the favorites. You're supposed to make them adjust to you. Villanova was succeeding with a 4-guard lineup all season, then Jay Wright starts playing Sutton and Yarou together, and it's no surprise that they struggled to figure out how to play together.

Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns - They were the only two Wildcats to show up for this game. Stokes drained three 3-pointers for 15 points, and Wayns added 10 off the bench. However, Wayns made a lot of freshmen mistakes by trying to force too much on offense. But again, based on his role all season, Wayns wasn't prepared to take over in that situation.

Reggie Redding - Villanova's other senior didn't have a good final game either. He's not known for his scoring, but the defensive specialist did not get it done on the other end of the floor, as both McConnell and Dellavedova lit it up from the perimeter. Like Reynolds, Redding still had a great career at Villanova. Look no further than the team's success during their four years here.

Bill Simmons and Barack Obama - I should have known Nova was doomed when, not only the Sports Guy, but the Commander-in-Chief jinxed the Cats by picking them to go to the Final Four.

I hate to come off so critical of Jay Wright (I wish Pete from would come out of retirement to give his thoughts on Jay's coaching job in the Tourny). Jay has done wonders for the school, and there's no other coach in the country I'd rather have running the program, but he has made some questionable decisions overs the past few days, from the "teaching point" benchings to the radical lineup adjustments. I'll close by saying congratulations. The Tournament results were disappointing, but Jay Wright and crew still had a great season: they won 25 games, tied for second place in the Big East, made the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year, and won an NCAA Tournament game for the third year in a row. So let the loss sink in, look back at all the highlights from this season, then finally, start looking forward to next year. We have some great players returning and more great recruits coming in.

3 comments: said...

Yes, this was a stunner, but Saint Mary's really earned the win. Villanova played like garbage in this year's tournament and was fortunate to even be in the second round. Congrats to the Gaels!

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