Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nova Marches on to FINAL FOUR!!!

Final Score: #3 Villanova 78, #1 Pitt 76

Player of the Game: Scottie Reynolds - 15 points, game winner

Recap: Villanova pretty much had the game in the bag, then committed one of the most boneheaded passes ever, and it seemed like we were heading for overtime. Then with 5 seconds left, Scottie Reynolds made one of the greatest plays in school (and NCAA Tournament) history. He just said, "Pack your bags fellas, we're going to Detroit now!" and drove the ball straight to the rim, took contact, and still made the shot. Just an unbelievable play to cap off an epic game. I was one of the most most optimistic Villanova fans at the start of the season, but even I did not anticipate this team making the Final Four. But here we are... and we're not done yet!

Jay Wright: Great Coach, or Greatest Coach?Myself and others were critical of Jay Wright throughout the season for him favoring his upperclassmen over the more talented sophomores. Jay stuck to his guns however, opting for the more experienced group. And it was experience that enabled the players to keep their composure after the bad pass and run the same play that they've ran hundreds of times in practice to win the game. There isn't another coach in the entire country I'd rather have leading this team and representing the university than Jerold Taylor Wright Jr.

One word to describe Jay Wright's defense: pesky. All of Nova's defenders are in their man's face, constantly slapping at the ball, trying to force turnovers. It is visibly irritating to their opponents. Also to make up for their lack of size, Jay has them playing excellent help defense, always switching, double-teaming, and recovering. Jay may not be the best coach in America at drawing up in bounds plays, but the man can sure run a defense. And as the saying goes: "Defense wins Championships".

God I Love Dwayne AndersonDwayne is not the best shooter or ball handler, and at a skinny 6'6, he often times winds up playing against much bigger power forwards, but no one I know plays with more heart. He has that Kyle Lowry gene (or is it a sickness?). He might be that guy who took dodgeball in gym class way too seriously, or was a little too competitive when playing Scrabble with his family, but dag nabbit, there's not another guy in the world I'd rather have diving for loose balls on my basketball team. He saved the best scoring performances of his career for the NCAA Tournament (15 ppg), and he continues to make big play after big play. He knocked down a big 3-pointer, then came up with a crucial steal leading to the and-1. I don't know how we're going to replace him next year.

Big Shot ReynoldsScottie instantly altered his Villanova legacy in a mere five seconds with one spectacular shot. Sure he's had two 40-point games, but he has been underwhelming in his NCAA Tournament career. Now, no matter what happens from here on out, Scottie Reynolds will go down as one of the all-time Villanova greats.

Shane Clark!?!?!?!Where did this kid get the guts start jacking up threes all of a sudden, in the biggest game of his career? He hit three big 3-pointers early in the game to help Nova get off to a strong start. Also for once in his career he didn't lead the game in pump fakes; that feat belonged to Pitt's Sam Young.

Reggie's RedemptionI like how Jay Wright defended Reggie Redding in the postgame interview by saying it took guts to try that full-court pass, but yeah, it wasn't the smartest play. You have to give Reggie credit for keeping his cool and making a good inbounds pass to Cunningham on the next play. He stuffed the stat sheet as usual: 5 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals.

Fisher Price
Corey Fisher was at it again. The jumpers weren't falling for him in the first half, so he did what he does best and took it to the rack in the second half to score 9 points. He's made dramatic strides in his free throw shooting: he's 24/27 in the NCAA Tournament so far. Fisher was a perfect 7/7 shooting clutch free throws down the stretch against Pitt.

Corey "Strokes"Stokes brought that scoring punch off the bench, hitting some big shots. He sank a big 3-pointer, and also showed some versatility by driving to the basket to score.

Humble PenaAntonio Pena played some solid minutes in relief of Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark to eat some fouls in the post. Most young players would be sour about not just losing their spot in the starting five, but almost falling out of the rotation completely. However, when Jay Wright calls Pena's name he is ready to play. This is a testament to his class and the attitude Jay Wright instills in his players.

Valiant EffortI have to give credit to Pitt; after all it, takes two to play one of the best college basketball games ever. I have a ton of respect for DeJuan Blair; he plays tough and always has a smile on his face. We had no answer for Sam Young and his pump fakes as he dropped 28 points. Finally, Levance Fields is a fierce competitor; hitting two clutch free throws, then almost nailing the full-court heave.

Well I guess that's about it... What's that, I forgot somebody? Oh yeah, that guy.

Dante Cunningham has been so consistently great all season that it's almost boring. What can I say that hasn't already been said about DC. Four years, 4 NCAA Tournaments, 100+ victories, 1 Sweet 16, 1 Elite 8, 1 Final 4, and he's been a valuable player on every one of those teams. The dude is simply a winner. He had 14 points, 5 rebounds, and a block in this one to set his 2009 Tournament averages at 17.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. It's almost impossible to lead your team to the Final Four with numbers like those and not be drafted to the NBA.

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