2/26/2009 01:14:00 AM
#12 Villanova: 23-5 (11-4 BE)
DePaul: 8-20 (0-15 BE)
Villanova once again played down to the level of its competition in an ugly two-point victory at DePaul Wednesday night.
The Wildcats used a second-half run to build a solid lead, erasing an improbable half-time deficit, before collapsing yet again in the game's final minutes to allow a DePaul comeback.
Despite Dar Tucker's successful heave for three at the end of the game, Villanova was able to emerge with the slim victory.
A win is a win, right? Well I'll take it, but it wasn't pretty. Conceding that it's great Villanova managed to escape with the win, let's look at what went wrong that kept the game so close.
Jay Wright inexplicably continued to keep the Coreys on the pine tonight. Fisher and Stokes combined for just 43 minutes, despite playing very well. By contrast, the hopeless duo of Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark (4 pts on 1-8 shooting) combined for 45 minutes.
With Reggie Redding already in there for defense, does Jay Wright think that giving Anderson and Clark more minutes than the two electric sophomores is a good idea? I sure don't. I think it almost cost us a game against 0-15 DePaul.
And how good was the defense, anyway, allowing such a poor shooting team to score 72 points? And it would have been much more, too, if DePaul had made more of its wide-open threes.
When a team ranked #10 in the nation barely escapes with a 2-point win after trailing for most of the game to a team that has lost 15 consecutive games, something is wrong. And I would argue that something is Jay Wright's ham-handed substitution tactics.
Case in point: The Wildcats scored just 25 points in the first half, a horrible output. The only Villanova player with the slightest offensive pulse in the first period was Fisher, who scored 9 points in limited time.
So does Wright start Fisher to begin the second half? Of course not. In fact, Fisher languished on the bench until the 12-minute mark in the second, when Wright finally brought him off the bench...only to yank him from the game 5 minutes later. Fisher played just eight minutes in the second half. Eight. Was Fisher really 50 percent worse in the second half than the first (16 min)?
It's the same story with Corey Stokes. With Villanova scoring just 25 in the first half, was Dwayne Anderson (0-6 from the three in 29 minutes) really 53 percent better than Stokes (3-7 in 19 minutes)? Of course not. So why did Stokes receive 53 percent less playing time?
Face the facts, Nova Nation. Wright is so ingrained in his ways, stubborn to the core, that he simply refuses to make the in-game adjustments needed to consistently win games against NCAA-caliber opponents.
It's a very frustrating time to be a Villanova fan. On the one hand, you have to be thrilled with winning eight of the last nine games, and being in the driver's seat for a #2 or #3 seed in the NCAA tournament.
On the other hand, you have to be very concerned with some of the warning signs that this team might not last long in the NCAAs. Barely beating Rutgers and DePaul, two of the worst major-conference teams in the country, is one such warning sign. Allowing teams to come back from the dead with shots to win the game (Syracuse, DePaul, among many others) is another bad sign.
But the worst thing of all is simply the lack of trust in the head coach experienced by some fans. Yes, Wright coached his way to a two-point victory over DePaul, underperforming the Pomeroy prediction by a whopping 14 points.
But what happens when his refusal to make in-game adjustments comes into play against a team that isn't a pushover? What happens when his poor handling of end-game timeouts and offense-defense substitutions runs into a team that can take advantage of those opportunities?
It feels like a ticking clock, and Villanova's luck with Wright at the helm is bound to run out at any time.
In NCAA and BET seeding news, it was a good night for Villanova. Marquette lost to UConn, which will enable Villanova to earn a double-bye in the BET with some more Wildcat wins and/or some help from Marquette.
If Villanova goes 3-0, a double-bye is guaranteed for the Wildcats, except in one outlandish instance.
Villanova can go 3-0 and still lose the double-bye if all of the following happens:
- Nova beats G'town, Notre Dame, and Providence. (going 3-0)
- Marquette beats Louisville and Syracuse. (going 2-1)
- Louisville beats SHU and West Virginia. (going 2-0)
- Pitt beats Marquette, UConn, and SHU. (going 3-0)
- UConn loses to Notre Dame. (going 0-2)
Otherwise, as long as Marquette loses to Pittsburgh, any other combination of Wildcat wins and Marquette losses totaling at least four will clinch the double-bye for Villanova. Any combination of Villanova wins and Marquette losses equaling five or more clinches the double-bye for Villanova regardless of the outcome of Marquette-Pitt.
If Marquette beats Pitt and the number of Marquette losses plus Villanova wins equals four, Marquette gets the better seed. Thanks to the Big East's obscure tiebeaking rules (PDF), in that scenario, Marquette gets the higher seed with equal records, equal-head-to-head, equal wins vs. Pitt, but a win over either Louisville or West Virginia, who both beat Villanova. However, if Marquette beats Pitt and Villanova wins out, that will catapult Villanova ahead of Pitt, so Villanova gets the double-bye anyway.
Clemson also lost tonight, which will let Villanova jump over the Tigers on the NCAA S-curve if the Wildcats keep winning.
Finally, URI upset Dayton tonight on a spectacular buzzer-beater, which improves Villanova's RPI.
Congratulations to an anonymous reader for most closely predicting the game's final score.
On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.
- Reggie Redding (S, 35 min)
Redding played another good game tonight. He shot 4-5 to score 9 points, and he led the team in rebounding, with 9. Redding also led the Wildcats with 5 assists. He added 1 steal, 1 block, and 3 turnovers. Redding choked big-time at the end of the game, missing the front end of a crucial one-and-one. Aside from that, It was a well rounded game for Redding, who earned his team-leading 35 minutes tonight. I am not saying Redding should be getting 35 minutes per game; if he gets less in order to get Fisher or Stokes in there more, that is something I'd be for.
- Scottie Reynolds (S, 32 min)
Reynolds struggled for a good portion of the game before really turning it on in the closing minutes to help win the game for the Wildcats. He had one drive and layup that was so spectacular I was surprised it did not make the Sportscenter top plays. He shot 5-11 to score 18 points, but was cold from the three at 1-4. He was very good from the line, shooting 7 of 8. Reynolds pulled in 6 rebounds and grabbed 2 steals. He did not pass the ball well, notching just 1 assist. He had 2 turnovers.
- Dante Cunningham (S, 31 min)
Cunningham led the team in field goal attempts, again, and I guess I can't begrudge him his shots this time, since he put them in at a reasonable rate against DePaul (7-13). Oddly, missing jumpers wasn't a problem tonight; it was several missed layups that hurt his shooting percentage. Cunningham did not do very well on the boards, grabbing just 5 rebounds. He was listed, once again, as a forward in the box score. The best part of Cunningham's game tonight was his 4-4 free throw performance, including two big ones in the endgame. He co-led the team in turnovers, with 3, and added 1 block,
- Dwayne Anderson (S, 29 min)
As hot as Anderson was against Syracuse, he was that much colder at DePaul. He shot terribly, inexcusably bad. Anderson was 1-7 from the field and a ridiculous 0-6 from the three. Like I said the past two games, Anderson needs to keep shooting when they're going in, and stop shooting when they're not. After going 0-3 from the three, maybe it's time to focus more on his well regarded hustle game, instead. Is it possible Anderson got a little taste of the glory that comes with leading the team in scoring last time, and got a little carried away? In any event, Anderson should be able to contribute in other ways if the shot is not falling. He did grab 6 rebounds tonight. He also had 2 steals to go with his 1 assist and 1 turnover.
- Corey Fisher (24 min)
Is there some secret rule Jay Wright is abiding by that says Corey Fisher can only play 24 minutes? This is the second straight game that Fisher has topped out at 24 minutes, missing a full 40 percent of the game, despite playing at the highest level. Fisher overcame his limited playing time -- did I mention eight minutes in the crucial second half? -- to play a very good game. He shot an excellent 5-8 from the field, including 1-2 from the three. He had 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers. Two of his assists came on spectacular long passes into the paint. One thing that doesn't show in the box score is the increased energy of Villanova's offense when Fisher is running the show. Get him more time.
- Corey Stokes (19 min)
Stokes still struggles to see the court as much as the bench, but he is clearly the best shooter the Wildcats have. Against DePaul, Stokes shot 3-7 from the three to score 10 points. He was not able to get much else going in his limited time, notching 0 assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks. He did avoid any turnovers, which was nice. I'd like to see Stokes taking more long-range shots, especially when Anderson is cold.
- Shane Clark (S, 16 min)
Clark was not all that effective in his 16 minutes. Still, I think 16 minutes is more reasonable for his game, so I'm not complaining. He missed his only shot from the field, but was 2-2 from the foul line to score 2 points. He added 2 rebounds, 1 turnover, 0 assists, and 2 steals. The 2 steals were nice for a forward in limited time.
- Antonio Pena (14 min)
Pena's playing time nearly tripled tonight after he mysteriously saw just 5 minutes against Syracuse. Pena didn't do all that much, but did have one really nice basket on the assist from Fisher that also drew a foul. He shot 1-2 and was 1-1 from the free throw line to score 2 points. He added 3 rebounds and 2 assists, but committed 2 turnovers.
- Incomplete grades: None.
- Did not play: Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD), Russell Wooten (CD), Maurice Sutton (RS).