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30 January 2008

Grant rides pine as 'Nova drops 3rd straight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/30/2008 09:54:00 PM

Pittsburgh 69
Villanova 57
(box score)
(ESPN video highlights)

#21 Pittsburgh: 17-4 (5-3 BE)
Villanova: 13-6 (3-5 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: vs. Syracuse, 02/02 at the Wachovia Center.

For an instant, six minutes into the second half, it seemed like Villanova was poised to finally get things back on track.

It seemed that perhaps Jay Wright had addressed the fans' growing concerns. After all, slumping junior Shane Clark did not appear in the starting lineup, and only received three minutes of playing time.

Sure, stellar freshman Malcolm Grant was still pinned to the bench, but at least Villanova had overcome its customary first-half deficit to take a 38-37 lead over the #21 Pitt Panthers, in Pittsburgh no less.

The hope was short-lived.

Villanova fans watched as the team fell apart before their eyes. Over the next 8.5 minutes, the Panthers outscored the Wildcats by a ridiculous 19-3 margin.

The Wildcats could not score. The Wildcats could not defend. And still, Malcolm Grant, arguably among the team's best scorers and defenders, languished on the bench.

Watching the game at a neighborhood watering hole (thanks, Comcast!), I sent the following text message to a friend, when the 'Cats trailed by seven and showed no signs of getting back in the game:

Can't wait till we get down 15, so Grant can legally come in.

It was supposed to be a joke, but it turned out prescient. Indeed, Jay Wright finally pulled the trigger on Grant the instant Villanova fell down by 15.

This is becoming a disturbing trend.

Let's play a hypothetical. Say your team is struggling to score in the second half of a crucial conference road game. Say you had a one-point lead, but watched it turn into a five-point deficit, and then a 10-point margin.

As the clock ticked down, under 10 minutes to play, and then under eight, would you sub in a player who torched your current opponents for 22 points, and led your team to victory against them just three weeks ago?

Apparently for Jay Wright, the answer is no. Wright did not turn to Grant until the 'Cats were down the full 15 and under five minutes to play.

Though it was by then far too late to make a difference in the game's outcome, Grant promptly drained a three pointer that gave Villanova fans just enough false hope to let the loss sting a bit extra.

Grant wound up playing just four minutes in each half, and the Wildcats were (yet again) blown out for their third straight loss. Villanova had not lost three straight in nearly four years.

The 'Cats have lost four of their last six, and are now in the preposterous danger of missing their own conference tournament after being nationally ranked for much of the season.

This site's drumbeat will continue: why is Malcolm Grant not getting minutes?

We exhausted all the familiar theories last time, and most of us remained unconvinced.

Tonight, LetsGoNova.com contributor NovaFan09 posted in a comment thread that he'd heard Grant was secretly injured after the Cincinnati game on Jan. 12.

A fan on Villanova's Rivals message board said he knew Grant had been injured at Cincinnati, but that the injury was no longer an issue and did not affect him for recent games.

This seems to make sense. After all, the DePaul rematch was just four days after Cincinnati, and Grant played 22 minutes in that game. Grant also looked just fine last week at Rutgers when he scored 17 points in just over two minutes, notching 18 minutes on the night.

After considering that evidence, and just by simply watching Grant run up and down the court, it seems unlikely Malcolm is bothered by a health problem.

Even so, if Grant is indeed saddled by a secret injury, Villanova should release it to the public, as it has with center Casiem Drummond.

At least that might quiet the cacophony of fan outrage over Grant's lack of playing time, a cauldron of concern that nearly spilled into outright fan mutiny this weekend, when students chanted for Grant's insertion into the Notre Dame game on Saturday.

Barring an unknown and unlikely disciplinary issue, the only other option, it would seem, is that Wright simply believes the team plays better with Grant on the bench.

The numbers, however, say otherwise.

In the last three losses, Villanova was outscored by a margin of 239-205, an average of 11.33 points per game. In those three games, Grant has played a total of 36 minutes. In those 36 minutes, Grant shot 9-19 from the field and scored 34 points.

Not bad for a single box score, but unfortunately for the 'Cats, those numbers were spread across three losses where Grant saw a paltry 12 minutes per game, on average.

Compare Grant's numbers to those of his freshman teammate, Corey Stokes. In the last three losses, Stokes played a total of 70 minutes. During that time, Stokes shot 7-22 to score 20 points.

You could argue that Wright played Stokes twice as much as Grant in that stretch for defense, or for chemistry, or for height, or because Stokes's horoscopes were more promising, or for any reason you'd like. The fact is, Villanova was blown out the past three games, so it hasn't worked.

I am not even saying that Stokes deserved fewer minutes. Stokes appears to be progressing, and 23 minutes per game seems reasonable, if not a little on the high side.

But at this time, right now, Stokes is nowhere nearly as skilled as Malcolm Grant in any facet of college basketball, and Grant should be getting double Stokes's minutes, not half.

Need some more numbers? Let's take a look at Grant's minutes in Villanova's eight conference games:
  • Depaul: 15 min. LOSS

  • Pittsburgh: 27 min. WIN

  • Cincinnati: 8 min. LOSS

  • DePaul: 22 min. WIN

  • Syracuse: 10 min. WIN

  • Rutgers: 18 min. LOSS

  • Notre Dame: 10 min. LOSS

  • Pittsburgh: 8 min. LOSS

Now, I am no statistician, but even I can see a pattern in those numbers. In Villanova's three conference wins, Grant has averaged 19.67 minutes per game. In the five losses, his minutes drop down to 11.8.

In fact, Malcolm has played 59 minutes total in all of Villanova's wins and all of Villanova's losses. The problem is, there are five losses and only three wins.

I am actually being conservative, too, by keeping this analysis inside conference play. If you look at the entire season, as was pointed out on a message board, Villanova is 7-0 when Grant plays at least 19 minutes, and is 6-6 when he does not.

If you'd like, you can even forget all of the statistics. Forget the numbers. Just look at how Grant has played. He single handedly pulled out miracles at home against LSU and Pittsburgh, and nearly completed the hat trick with his furious barrage at Rutgers.

It's pretty clear that while this Villanova team needs to improve in several areas, one of the biggest is for Malcoln Grant to see more minutes.

O.K., this signals an ends to tonight's Grant Rant, the longest yet. I reserve the right to be even longer winded should Villanova lose another game with Malcolm on the bench.

Congratulations to reader "Matadorm83" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is a home rematch against the Syracuse Orange at the Wachovia Center on Saturday.

On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 36 min)

    Reynolds looked to be back in form tonight, playing a spectacular game in the loss. Scottie scored a game-high 26 on good 9-15 shooting, including a decent 3-7 from the three. The one weakness in his offensive game tonight was a shaky 5-8 performance from the foul line, 62.5 percent. Reynolds led the team in assists, with 4. He was also good for 6 rebounds, second-best on the team. He committed 4 turnovers and had 1 steal. If Reynolds can keep up his hot hand on offense, the 'Cats might be able to break their losing streak against Syracuse.
    Grade: A-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 34 min)

    Pena has really emerged this season and now seems to be the Wildcats' best player underneath. He notched the minimum double-double tonight, leading the team in rebounds, with 10. Pena scored his 10 points on terrible 4-15 shooting, however. That is not a typo: he was 4-15 from the field, as a forward. His dominance of the glass is encouraging, and Pena usually shoots far better. He has been one of t he few bright spots for the 'Cats during this losing streak.
    Grade: C+

  • Corey Fisher (S, 27 min)

    Fisher really could not find the basket tonight. He shot 2-10 from the field, including 0-3 from three-point land. Fisher could use a boost from the three lately, as his shot is better than recent results. Fisher finished with 4 points, 2 assists, 4 turnovers, and 2 steals. He did show some stretches of spectacular ball-handling, and his future looks bright on the Main Line.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (23 min)

    Anderson was given 23 minutes of court time after a lackluster performance against Notre Dame, and he really didn't deviate from that result tonight. Anderson scored 4 points on 2-5 shooting, and was 0-2 from the foul line. What's worse, his trip to the line was at a crucial junction, and neither free throw was even close. He rounded out his line with 3 boards, and 1 each of steals, turnovers, and blocks. It is a little disconcerting to see Anderson play 23 minutes at the wing and notch 0 assists.
    Grade: C-

  • Corey Stokes (22 min)

    Stokes missed tonight. A lot. He missed from short, and he missed from long. He missed while he was covered too closely to even shoot, and he missed when he was wide open. Stokes was 0-5 from the field, and 0-3 from the three. He scored no points in 22 long minutes. He had 2 rebounds, an assist, a turnover, and a steal. The only thing saving the grade from an F is that he didn't shoot more, and he kept turnovers down. I may be being too kind, however, since Stokes was hopeless on offense.
    Grade: D-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 22 min)

    Cunningham was ineffective tonight. It seems like the junior is regressing this year after a breakout season during his sophomore campaign. Dante scored 2 points on 1-3 shooting, and was a ghost down low, grabbing just 3 rebounds. He had no turnovers, no assists, 1 block, and 1 steal. Dante has got to get back to his early-season form, especially on the glass, if 'Nova is to break out of this slump.
    Grade: D-

  • Reggie Redding (18 min)

    Redding got the starting nod tonight and put in a typically solid but not spectacular performance. He shot a good 3-6 from the field to score 6 points. He did not grab any rebounds, which is unusual for the tall, athletic Redding. He rounded out the night with 2 assists, 1 turnover, and 1 steal.
    Grade: C-

  • Malcolm Grant (8 min)

    Grant needs to get more minutes. Period. Tonight he was 1-2 from the field to score 3 points in just 8 minutes of play, 4 per half. Why Jay Wright plays such an energetic, streaky guard in such a fractured manner is beyond me. Grant also found time to grab 1 rebound and make 1 spectacular assist. He had 1 turnover, but made up for it on the same play when he took a charge on the resultant fast break. I'll say it again: more minutes for Malcolm.
    Grade: B

  • Casiem Drummond (7 min)

    Drummond returned to the Wildcat lineup after missing long stretches this year with an injured ankle. He did not look solid in his return. Drummond shot 1-2 from the field to score 2 points, and did not come up with any rebounds in his 7 minutes. He also picked up 3 quick fouls. Clearly Drummond is not all the way back from his injury and needs to work himself into his rhythm.
    Grade: D, with a grain of rehabilitation salt

  • Incomplete grades: Shane Clark (3 min).

  • Did not play: Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD).

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29 January 2008

'Nova looks to end skid at Pitt rematch

posted by NovaFan09
1/29/2008 06:00:00 PM

Villanova Wildcats (13-5, 3-4 BE) at
#21 Pittsburgh Panthers (16-4, 4-3 BE)

Date: Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Location: Petersen Events Center (Pittsburgh, PA)
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPNU

Pittsburgh coverage: Pitt Blather || Post-Gazette

Official game notes (PDF): Villanova.com

Villanova returns to action Wednesday night looking to snap its two-game losing streak. The 'Cats will travel across Pennsylvania for a rematch with the Pittsburgh Panthers. In the last meeting this season between these two teams on Jan. 6, Villanova edged Pitt 64-63 at the Pavilion.

After a slight identity crisis immediately following the loss of Levance Fields and Mike Cook, the Panthers have gelled together as of late, putting together a 4-3 conference record, despite a surprising loss to Rutgers.

In the last Villanova-Pitt game, it took another dose of Malcolm Grant heroics for 'Nova to come out with a victory. Grant, who went off for 22 points, was once again the catalyst for a Villanova comeback. In what has been an issue all season long, Villanova played flat for most of the game, shooting 34 percent from the field.
Defensively, 'Nova was out-rebounded 43-31, but did force the Panthers into committing 22 turnovers. Not only is this game a must-win from a record standpoint; the 'Cats must also win to revive the disappointed fan base and avoid a mental slump in a crucial stretch of the season.

Keys to the game

Contain Young and Blair:
If the Notre Dame game was any indication of how sorely missed Casiem Drummond is, one must look no further than the stat line Luke Harangody put up: 25 points and 10 rebounds on 8-14 shooting, including 9-13 from the line. In Villanova's one-point victory over Pitt, DeJuan Blair dominated the 'Cats inside to the tune of 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Sam Young added an easy 16 points. Villanova cannot afford to have Pena and Cunningham in as much foul trouble as they were in against ND if they are to have any chance of keeping the two Pitt forwards from putting the game away.

Collapse on their guards: Villanova must harass Pitt's ballhandlers and force them to make bad passes. Last meeting, Villanova scored 28 points off 22 Pitt turnovers, and every basket was critical in a one point victory.

Make Pitt keep up: Jamie Dixon's squad did a tremendous job of melting the game clock while methodically slowing the pace of the entire game down last time. Villanova thrives when playing at a faster pace. Villanova's forwards have to execute quick outlet passes to the guards, who in turn must beat the slow defending Pitt guards off of the dribble.


Dante Cunningham:
Dante did not put up his usually solid numbers against Notre Dame, partly because he was in foul trouble most of the night. If Cunningham plays within himself on offense by not forcing shots and allowing the game come to him, he should be good for double-digit points. Defensively, he and the rest of the frontcourt must put a body on Pitt down low.

Final thoughts

This Pitt team is going to give Villanova everything it can handle.

Remember to add your own insights in the comments section below, and to predict the final score in our ongoing contest.

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28 January 2008

Villanova drops from rankings

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/28/2008 02:12:00 PM
Villanova fell completely out of the college basketball top 25 rankings this week in both the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and the Associated Press media poll.

The Wildcats had been ranked #18 in both polls last week.

I was wrong when I predicted Villanova would not receive any votes. Villanova finished the equivalent of 36th in the AP poll and 32nd in the coaches' survey.

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26 January 2008

'Nova extends slide with home loss to Irish

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/26/2008 04:35:00 PM

Notre Dame 90
Villanova 80
(box score)
(ESPN video highlights)

Notre Dame: 14-4 (4-2 BE)
#18 Villanova: 13-5 (3-4 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: at Pittsburgh, 01/30 at the Petersen Events Center.

Villanova was beaten badly by Notre Dame at the Wachovia Center Saturday afternoon.

In a game where the Wildcats had hoped to rebound after a devastating loss to Rutgers, Villanova came out soft and listless, and never really competed with the Irish.

Sure, Villanova unleashed its now-traditional desperate comeback attempt at the end of the game, but it fell far short against the experienced Notre Dame team.

It almost seems like this is becoming Jay Wright's preferred gameday strategy: start out weak, fall behind due to poor defense, trail at the half, fall further behind in the first 10 minutes of the second period, then finally, with the 'Cats down 15 or so, put in Malcolm Grant and mount a furious comeback attempt.

O.K., obviously that is not Wright's ideal script for a basketball game. But it has played out just like this in more than a few Wildcat games this year, and the increasing frequency of the pattern has left many Villanova fans confused.

Why is Malcolm Grant riding the pine? The issue spilled from the halls of Villanova and the tubes of the Internet out into the open of the Wachovia Center on Saturday. Students and alumni alike repeatedly called for Grant in the face of Jay Wright's inexplicable refusal to play him.

Maybe I am forgetting past incidents, but in seven years of watching Jay Wright's Wildcats, I have never heard the student section so explicitly question Wright's substitution patterns with chants and screams during the game -- aside from calling for walk-on players to be inserted into the last minute of blow-out victories.

After serenading the team and Wright with actual booing in the second half, the fans and student section erupted with a chant of "we want Malcolm" until Wright finally called Grant's number in the middle of the second period. The Wildcats, of course, were down 16.

Grant, who scored 17 points in two minutes at the end of the Rutgers game, did not even see the Wachovia Center floor until the 5:44 mark of the first half. Wright yanked Grant from the game just two and a half minutes later, and he did not see the court again until 12:29 in the second half.

Grant also inexplicably lost his spot in the starting lineup Saturday afternoon, which was a real slap in the face to several 'Nova fans who blamed the Rutgers loss on Grant's absence from the court. Meanwhile, Shane Clark continues to start, though Wright did sub him out after three and a half minutes after Clark gave up two easy baskets with almost no defensive effort.

There are lots of theories floating around regarding Grant's lack of playing time, ranging from an emphasis on height or defense to an unknown team discipline issue.

To me, the height and defense arguments make little sense: what good is height when the team is trailing and can't score? It's also not as if the Wildcats' defense has been solid without Grant; in the past two games with Grant on the bench, Villanova's defense has been atrocious. Grant even looks to be the best defender of the three scoring point guards on the team, superior to Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher.

As for other reasons Grant might not be seeing the floor, this site does not deal in speculation. We do not have access to the inside of the huddle, so who knows why Jay Wright has decided to sit Malcolm until the team falls irrecoverably behind.

It's almost as if Let's Go Nova has become Let's Go Malcolm, with the amount of time and text we spend on the subject. But the issue is valid. It is a mistake for Grant to be sitting during these crucial stretches, and it appears that Wright hardly realizes it.

With the loss to Notre Dame, Villanova drops to 3-4 in the Big East and is squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.

Officially, (and now, humorously) the Wildcats are still ranked #18 until Monday afternoon when both polls come out.

Not only will Villanova plummet into the unranked abyss on Monday; if the Wildcats receive even a single vote for the top 25 this week, it will be because the voter hasn't been paying attention to the past week of basketball.

Congratulations to reader Jameson for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is a trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday for a rematch with the Panthers as the 'Cats attempt to stave off a three-game losing streak.

The last time Villanova lost three games in a row was nearly four years ago, on Feb. 28, 2004, when the 'Cats dropped a heartbreaker by one point in overtime to UConn. The 2003-2004 Villanova team did not make the NCAA tournament and was beaten in the NIT by -- you guessed it -- Rutgers.

The Panthers are fresh off an upset loss themselves at home against Rutgers. The Panthers' loss was detrimental for Villanova; the Wildcats' (2008) loss to Rutgers now looks slightly more palatable, but the Jan. 6 win over Pittsburgh becomes much less impressive.

Comcast customers should stake out a chair at a sports bar, because the game is once again airing on that channel no one actually gets, ESPNU.

Let's move on to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Corey Fisher (S, 33 min)

    Fisher did not shoot the ball very well, but did score 13 points on 5-15 shooting. He was good from the three, going 2-3. The rest of Fisher's line in the box score was solid. He grabbed 4 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, and had 3 steals. He committed just 2 turnovers in 33 minutes, and generally handled the ball well. This was a huge bump in playing time for Fisher, who saw just 15 minutes in the loss for Rutgers. Fisher is one of the Wildcats' best players and should be seeing 25-30 minutes per game.
    Grade: B-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 32 min)

    Reynolds played very well inside the three-point line, shooting 5-8 on 2-point field goals, and going 3-4 from the foul line. Unfortunately, Reynolds was 0-5 from beyond the three-point arc. He finished with 13 points on a reasonable 5-13 from the field. He had 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal, and committed only 1 turnover. This was definitely an off-game for Reynolds from outside, as he just couldn't find twine from long-range. Obviously, Reynolds will not shoot 0-5 from the three in every game, so I don't think any adjustment is needed on the offensive end.
    Grade: B-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 29 min)

    Cunningham played a below-average game, by his standards. He shot 3-8 to score 7 points, and he grabbed just 5 rebounds. He rounded out his line with 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 block, and 1 steal. Look for Dante to reassert himself in the paint if the 'Cats are to break out of this losing streak.
    Grade: C-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 26 min)

    If there was one unqualified positive aspect of Saturday's debacle, it was Antonio Pena. Pena put forth a dominating inside performance, scoring a team-high 17 points on ultra-efficient 8-9 shooting. He just missed his double-double, collecting 9 rebounds, again tops on the team. He passed for 3 assists, committed 3 turnovers, and notched 1 block and 1 steal. If Pena can sustain this level of play while Cunningham and the guards find their marks, Villanova is going to be a dangerous team to defend.
    Grade: A-

  • Reggie Redding (25 min)

    Redding got huge chunks of playing time after a less-than-stellar performance at the RAC. He did better against the Irish on Saturday, but I am not sure if he deserved 250 percent of Malcolm Grant's minutes. Redding shot 3-6 from the field to score 7 points. Redding grabbed 6 rebounds, had 3 assists, and picked up 2 steals. He committed only 1 turnover. His defense was what ostensibly earned him his playing time, and I have no complaints on that end, as his minutes presumably came at the expense of Shane Clark, whose defense was much worse. But the problem is that Redding is not much of a threat on the offensive side. Redding is a decent defender and a good "glue" guy, grabbing loose balls and not committing many turnovers. On the offensive end of the court, however, Redding does not have to be guarded all that closely, and teams are free to roam away and harass Villanova's scoring threats, mainly Scottie Reynolds. I know Redding works diligently on his jump shot, and if that shot can ever go in reliably, there will be much less of an offense-defense trade-off with Redding.
    Grade: C+

  • Corey Stokes (22 min)

    Wright continues to stick with Stokes as he has all season, and it appears to be paying a few dividends now. Stokes played another decent -- albeit imperfect -- game. He scored 11 points on 4-8 shooting, and he finally may have found his stroke from the three, where he went 3-6. He grabbed 4 rebounds and had 2 assists. He did struggle, however, with handling the ball, committing 2 turnovers and several "near misses." His defense was what I would classify as below average, which could be due to his ongoing learning of the system. Stokes also seems to lack a "clutch factor": he had a wide-open look at a three with 1:00 to go that would have put the surging 'Cats within 5, and I don't think I was the only one in the building who just "knew" it wasn't going to find the bottom of the rim. That said, Stokes is clearly improving, and I think he is now at the point to justify 20-plus minutes per game. Stokes's offense, when everything starts clicking, could be the missing piece the 'Cats needs to take some burden off the three scoring point-guard, especially when opponents key their defense against them.
    Grade: C+

  • Shane Clark (S, 14 min)

    It's quite painful to chronicle Clark's descent into mediocrity, especially as a huge fan of Clark's athletic ability. Clark is, nonetheless, mired in a funk, and nothing changed Saturday. Clark was flat-out bad against the Irish, especially in the first half. Clark's first-period box score was as follows: 0-2 shooting, 0-1 from the three, 2 rebounds, and 2 turnovers. That doesn't even tell the story of his porous defense, either. Clark allowed the first two Irish baskets on plays where he was exceedingly slow on getting to his man. Clark did not do much better in the second half, either. He finished with 2 points on 1-4 shooting. He did have 5 rebounds, which was something of a plus, but it does not make up for his total breakdown on the defensive end and his complete ineffectiveness on offense. Playing just 14 minutes is a vast reduction in time for the starter Clark, but his minutes should probably be reduced even further, at least until he emerges from his shooting cold streak and repairs his frequent defensive lapses.
    Grade: F

  • Malcolm Grant (10 min)

    Most of what I have to say about Grant has been said above and in previous posts. In my opinion, Grant is one of 'Nova's two best players, and playing him for just 10 minutes against the Irish is complete and utter folly. Grant managed to score 8 points on 2-7 shooting, despite playing only 10 minutes and despite being unceremoniously yanked from the game after playing just 2 minutes in the first half. Grant did not exactly replicate his usual heroics, scoring "only" 0.8 of a point per minute of playing time on Saturday, compared to 1.28 PPM against Rutgers and 1.13 vs. LSU. What do these numbers mean? I'll leave that up to the reader, but allow me to make a relevant connection with the ever-popular world of poker. As the "mad genius" Mike Caro says, if you're averaging a huge profit every time you call, you're not calling enough. Absurd point-per-minute totals like Grant has been putting up lately would not translate if he were given increased minutes, but that is exactly the idea. When you have a weapon like Grant, let him play in the minutes that matter, instead of just relying on him to overcome a hopeless situation at the end of the game. Again, I am not privy to any "inside knowledge" that might explain Wright's baffling benching of Grant, so to me it just appears to be an out-and-out coaching error.
    Grade: B

  • Dwayne Anderson (9 min)

    Anderson played 9 minutes? I guess that I didn't notice at least means he wasn't burned on defense too many times. On the offensive end, Anderson was quiet. He shot 1-2 from the field to score 2 points. He had 3 rebounds, and no other impact on the box score. I am a fan of Anderson and believe he should be getting 5-10 minutes per game, but against Notre Dame he didn't do much of anything.
    Grade: D+

  • Incomplete grades: None.

  • Did not play: Casiem Drummond (ankle), Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD).

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Ott to transfer

posted by Foye's Boy
1/26/2008 03:46:00 PM
Andrew Ott will transfer out of Villanova, the university announced today.

Ott, a 6-10 redshirt freshman forward, saw action in four games, most recently last Saturday in Villanova's 81-71 win at Syracuse. He averaged 0.8 points and 1.3 rebounds per game in a total of 16 minutes of action.

Ott's transfer opens up another scholarship for Jay Wright's recruiting efforts.

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25 January 2008

'Cats look for some luck of the Irish

posted by NovaFan09
1/25/2008 02:00:00 PM

#18 Villanova Wildcats (13-4, 3-3 BE) vs.
Notre Dame Fightin' Irish (13-4, 3-2 BE)

Date: Saturday, January 26, 2008
Location: Wachovia Center (Philadelphia, PA)
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST
Television: WPHL (Philadelphia), MSG (New York), and more regional channels

Notre Dame coverage: Black and Green || BE Basketball Report

Villanova looks to get back on track in a Saturday matinée at the Wachovia Center against Notre Dame, one of the Big East's toughest teams.

If anything, Coach Wright and fans alike are looking for consistency from the Wildcats, a team that no doubt has frustrated everyone following them this year at one point or another. Filled with talent and potential from top to bottom, 'Nova has shown flashes of brilliance, but only to time and time again fall to lesser opponents that managed to capitalize on the weaknesses and shortcomings of these young 'Cats.

I question how much the fans will be into the game tomorrow at the Wachovia Center. On one hand, I hope that having a marquee opponent come into the Wach will be enough to get the Sea of V amped up. As a student, however, I know that getting ready for a noon tip-off, combined with the memories of a thoroughly crushing loss against Rutgers, will make it hard for Villanova's "sixth man" to bring the energy.

I intended to make this game preview more about the state of 'Nova Nation than the game itself. It goes without saying that this Notre Dame team is a force to be reckoned with. With forwards Luke Harangody and Rob Kurz averaging a combined 32.3 points and 17.6 rebounds per game, this frontcourt is as strong as any the 'Cats have faced to date. Similarly, Kyle McAlarney and Tory Jackson shore up the backcourt, bringing with them leadership and superior ball control. This game will be a test for 'Nova's guards as much as for their big men.

Keys to the game

It is my assessment that the Wildcat guards are over-aggressive in their trap defense. If the ballhandler breaks a press or a trap by the 'Cats, more often than not, they are able to find an open man on the wing just salivating for his opportunity to sink a 3-pointer. I would like for the 'Cats to revert to a man-to-man defense at some point this season, but unfortunately the size of the Irish prevents Wright from making that switch. The guards must do their job and not try to do too much by themselves on defense, a defense which has an emphasis on team. If this happens, many more shots will be contested, and the defense will be better as a whole.

Rebounding: After a solid stretch of games, Antonio Pena's production has dropped off some. This game, it is imperative that one of Villanova's forwards get position in the paint to rebound. Harangody has been immovable inside thus far. Look for Cunningham to get on his man and stick with him while the guards try to strip the ball from Kurz when he brings it down low.

Crowd factor: As detailed above, the bandwagon nature of Villanova fans can be disastrous to a young team looking to build on and learn from their failures. 'Nova Nation must bring the noise and show this team it is behind the Wildcats, win or lose.


Bounce-back effect:
Count me among the believers that the younger a team is, the better chance the players have to bounce back and perform after a bad loss. I get the impression that the personalities of Villanova's stars won't allow the players to harp on their own mistakes. I think this team, more than any in years past, has the ability to forget about all the negative press and just go out and play basketball. That, more than anything, will guide the 'Cats to victory Saturday.

This is an important conference game for Villanova in more ways than one, and it will be exciting to see how the game plays out. If you're attending the game as a Villanova partisan, wear your 'Nova Nation shirts, and start the cheers early and often.

Remember to predict the final score and offer your own keys to the game in the comments section below.

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24 January 2008

'Nova embarrassed by winless Rutgers in blowout Big East loss

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/24/2008 02:57:00 AM

Rutgers 80
Villanova 68
(box score)
(ESPN video highlights)

Rutgers: 9-11 (1-6 BE)
#18 Villanova: 13-4 (3-3 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: vs. Notre Dame, 01/26 at the Wachovia Center.

The wheels came off for Villanova tonight.

The Wildcats suffered easily their worst loss of the Jay Wright era, getting blown out by a Rutgers team that was previously winless in conference play, and widely regarded as one of the worst teams in Division 1 basketball.

When all is said and done this year, the loss may rank as the one of the worst in school history.

It's difficult to describe just how bad this loss is. The defeat will no doubt have huge implications for Villanova's NCAA Tournament hopes. The Wildcats can also kiss their #18 ranking in both major polls goodbye, as the team is sure to drop out of the top 25 regardless of what happens against Notre Dame on Saturday.

Granted, Villanova is a young team still trying to come together, and bad losses can be expected to emerge from inexperience. This loss doesn't end the season, and the 'Cats may yet achieve great things in 2008 and beyond. I don't know if anyone, however, thought this team could lose to Rutgers.

Rutgers entered the game on a 6-game losing streak and with an RPI well in the 200s. Previously in the season, Rutgers had lost to teams like St. Peter's, Nebraska, and Rider, with that last loss coming at home. Before giving DePaul a scare in Chicago last weekend, Rutgers failed to score more than 50 points in four of its last five games.

The NJ Institute of Technology, with its 0-20 record and RPI of 335, held Rutgers to just 65 points and a 10-point victory last month. Villanova allowed Rutgers 80 points and lost by 12. NJIT doesn't even have a conference to call home in Division 1 and still outperformed VIllanova against the common opponent.

Villanova started off the game flat, as usual, and fell behind by 14 after five minutes, with the scoreboard showing the ridiculous number of 16-2 at the 15:08 mark.

While Villanova wound up trailing by eight at the half, many Wildcat fans might have expected a come-from-behind victory similar to those against LSU, DePaul, Syracuse, and Bucknell.

The Wildcats, however, had other plans. Villanova showed no signs of life whatsoever until the 5:11 mark of the second half, when Jay Wright mercifully and magnanimously deemed it finally suitable to substitute in Malcolm Grant, with the team trailing by a whopping 18 points.

Grant, who had been benched much of the second half for reasons only known to Wright, proceeded to score 17 consecutive points in just over a two-minute stretch for the Wildcats. Unfortunately, even Malcolm Grant's late-game heroics were too little, too late (this time) to overcome the inexplicable playing-time decisions meted out by his coach.

Villanova went through a scoring drought that lasted 9:45, fifteen seconds short of a full quarter of a game. Can you imagine a team in high school or the NBA getting shut out for an entire quarter? The Wildcats were stuck on the laughable total of 39 points from the 16:12 mark all the way until 6:27 in the second half.

Despite Villanova's complete inability to score during that nearly 10-minute long stretch, Jay Wright thought it prudent to sit Malcolm Grant for all but three minutes of the Wildcat scoring drought.

I must say that while I believe Jay Wright is a good coach who generally has the program going in the right direction, I completely disagree with the way Wright managed his players' court time tonight.

Grant, easily one of Villanova's best scorers, was given just 18 minutes in the game, including a mere seven minutes in the second half. The under-use of Malcolm Grant has become a major theme for this season, and has been chronicled in this space time and time again.

It almost seems as if Jay Wright won't unleash Grant until it's too late for him to make a difference. Grant overcame those odds against LSU and DePaul, but why on earth would Wright sit Grant for 13 minutes in the crucial second half?

Wright even yanked Malcolm off the court after seven minutes in the first half, despite the fact that Malcolm was 1-1 from the field and had accounted for fully one-third of the team's total points.

Wright played Grant just 18 minutes while giving the thoroughly ineffective Shane Clark 24 minutes tonight. Wright also decided to give Corey Stokes, at this point a major project, 26 minutes and Grant's starting spot to open the second half.

Reggie Redding got just three minutes less than Grant despite scoring 23 fewer points and shooting a combined 1-6 from the field and foul line.

If you look at the box score, you might note that Malcolm Grant fouled out, and think that perhaps that was the reason he only saw 18 minutes. Think again. Four of Grant's fouls came with under four minutes to play in the game, and three of his fouls were committed under the two-minute mark, as the Wildcats were forced to try to get back the ball.

All in all, it was a terrible loss for the Wildcats and a poor performance by Jay Wright, who was in my opinion outfoxed tonight by his former assistant, Fred Hill. The 'Cats looked ill-prepared for the game, and did not seem to exhibit any hustle whatsoever on the defensive end.

Villanova's perimeter defense was poor, its offense was anemic, and its heart nowhere to be found outside of Malcolm Grant. The team really only played the last five minutes of the game, but by then, it was too late.

I would say it is time to move on and focus on Notre Dame for Saturday, but this is the type of loss that cannot be forgotten, even with a good victory later in the week.

A win over the Irish would be a good start to get the Wildcats back on track, but make no mistake about it, this loss sets the team and perhaps even the program back immeasurably.

"Congratulations" to reader Tony for most closely predicting the game's final score. Tony's guess was a total of 20 points off the final score, and still was the closest prediction for the game.

Next up for Villanova is Notre Dame, Saturday at noon at the Wachovia Center.

Let's move on to the player grades, which tonight are not for the faint of heart. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 37 min)

    Reynolds struggled mightily from the field tonight, shooting a comical 5-19, including 1-9 from the three. Can you really blame him, however, for taking all those shots when the rest of the team was equally inept on offense, and the one player who might have bailed him out was languishing needlessly on the bench for most of the game? It was a below-average effort for Scottie, though, without a doubt. Reynolds seemed unable to break free of a Rutgers defensive scheme that keyed on the sophomore guard. Scottie finished with 16 points, second best on the team. A bright spot for Reynolds tonight was his free-throw shooting, where he went 5-6. Another positive were his 3 steals, tied for tops on the team. Reynolds grabbed 2 rebounds and committed 2 turnovers. He gets a C- for carrying most of the scoring load while Grant was on the bench, but that might even be a tad generous.
    Grade: C-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 32 min)

    Cunningham was mostly ineffective tonight despite shooting a decent 4-8 from the field to score 9 points. Cunningham was denied on the boards, picking up just 4 rebounds, including only two offensive caroms in a game where the Wildcats shot a dismal 36.7 percent. Cunningham rounded out the box score with 2 turnovers, 2 blocks, and 3 steals. His grade would no doubt be higher with those same stats had the 'Cats not lost to probably the worst team in the all of the BCS conferences tonight.
    Grade: D+

  • Corey Stokes (26 min)

    Stokes actually played one of his best games of the season, which regrettably is not saying much. Still, the freshman managed to shoot relatively well from the field (3-7), including 3-4 from the three to score 9 points. He also grabbed 7 rebounds, but committed 2 turnovers. On the downside, Stokes looked a step slow on defense, and still cannot handle the ball very well out on the perimeter. Stokes also shot one of the worst looking balls I have ever seen, air-balling a layup from point-blank range that missed the rim by perhaps five feet. Nonetheless, this has to be considered a positive game for the freshman project. It's too bad that Stokes's best game to date had to come in one of the worst losses in school history, but perhaps Stokes can build upon this performance going forward.
    Grade: C

  • Shane Clark (S, 24 min)

    Clark put forth a dismal performance tonight, one of the worst by a Wildcat in recent memory. Clark shot 0-4 from the floor, including a miss on a crucial, wide-open three as Malcolm Grant attempted to rally the team very late in the game. Despite playing for 24 minutes for what can only presumably be his size, Clark grabbed just 2 rebounds. As bad as his offensive night was, his defense was far, far worse. Clark was slow getting up the court and slow getting back down. He gave his assignment on the perimeter all day to shoot the ball, and the Rutgers backcourt lit up the 'Cats for 46 points. I can see no justification as to why Clark played 4 minutes tonight, much less 24. Clark is a junior, a captain, and a leader on the team, but sometimes being a leader means taking a reduced role for the greater good. Here is that hoping Jay Wright realizes this before it's too late. In this writer's opinion, it is time for a drastic reduction in Clark's minutes.
    Grade: F

  • Antonio Pena (S, 22 min)

    Pena rebounded well tonight, grabbing 8 for the most on the team, but that's about it. He was blanked from the field, shooting 0-6 for 0 points. He also committed a ridiculous 6 turnovers. Pena has shown flashes of brilliance, especially on the offensive end, but did not play well tonight.
    Grade: D-

  • Reggie Redding (15 min)

    Redding could not get anything going tonight, and it shows in the box score. He shot 0-3 from the field and just 1-3 from the line to score a single point. He had just 1 rebound, and he had a steal. Redding played 15 ineffective minutes tonight, but I do feel like the 15-to 18 -minute range is appropriate for Redding going forward, as he generally is a much better contributor than he was in the RAC.
    Grade: F

  • Corey Fisher (15 min)

    Fisher struggled offensively tonight despite shooting 3-4 from the field. In a game where the Wildcats desperately needed scoring from any source, Fisher was uncharacteristically quiet. Fisher scored just 6 points. He added 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, just 1 assist, and no steals. I do think that he probably should have seen more than 15 minutes of playing time tonight, however.
    Grade: D+

  • Malcolm Grant (S, 18 min)

    Grant has already been the comeback hero of the two games this season, and he came achingly close to pulling off what would have been his biggest miracle to date. Grant scored a ridiculous 17 straight points in a 2:15 stretch late in the second half. To put that in perspective, at that impossible pace Grant would have scored 302 points in 40 minutes. Much of the above of tonight's post has been dedicated to asking why Grant didn't see more court time, so let's just focus on what he did do in his 18 minutes. Grant shot 6-10 from the field, including 6-7 from the three to score 23 points. Grant made his first 5 attempted threes, and completed another 4-point play in the midst of his one-man rally. A few of Grant's late-game threes were heavily contested NBA-length shots, as well. Grant was 5-6 from the foul line. He had 1 rebound and 3 turnovers, and did not have any assists. To be fair, to whom was he supposed to pass the ball? No one else could find the rim tonight with a pair of binoculars and a GPS. It seems strange to give a player an A in one of the worst losses a team will ever experience, but there it is. Malcolm Grant should get at minimum 30 minutes per game going forward, and if he does not, expect a growing outcry from Villanova fans.
    Grade: A

  • Dwayne Anderson (11 min)

    Anderson wasn't altogether terrible tonight but did not accomplish much, either. He was 1-1 from the field to score 2 points, and added 2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 turnover. I do think Anderson has earned the right to play 8-10 minutes per game, but he couldn't really get the job done tonight in this awful loss.
    Grade: D+

  • Incomplete grades: None.

  • Did not play: Casiem Drummond (ankle), Andrew Ott (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD).

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22 January 2008

'Cats head to RAC for Rutgers

posted by NovaFan09
1/22/2008 07:00:00 PM


#18 Villanova Wildcats (13-3, 3-2 BE) at
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (8-11, 0-6 BE)

Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Location: Rutgers University (Piscataway, NJ)
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPNU

VBTN preview: Villanova at Rutgers
Rutgers coverage:
The Star Ledger || Official site

Villanova travels to New Jersey on Wednesday night in hopes of continuing its winning streak at the expense of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who own a sorry record of 0-6 in the Big East.

Statistically speaking, the Knights defend quite well, allowing under 67 points per game. The main reason Rutgers has struggled to an 8-11 start however, lies in its offense. Averaging a paltry 62.2 points per game, Rutgers has been held at or under 50 points a staggering four times in conference play. Additionally, the only game in which the Knights scored over 60 points came against DePaul, which has defensive issues of its own. Not one Scarlet Knight averages over 2.2 assists per game. This should be especially troublesome against the Wildcats' inconsistent but ever-improving trap defense, which should cause problems for Rutgers' ball handlers all game.

From a personnel standpoint, Rutgers is led by JR Inman (14.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Anthony Farmer (11.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Highly touted freshman Corey Chandler is averaging 11.4 points in 23 minutes of action per game, but has folded offensively, shooting 29% in conference play. The Scarlet Knights also fail to capitalize on their missed shots, as they don't rebound well as a team. I fully expect 'Nova to outrun, out-hustle, out-rebound, and ultimately outscore Rutgers on its home court.

"READ MORE" below for the keys to the game and x-factors. If you'd like to predict the final score in our ongoing contest, or offer any insight on Villanova basketball, please do so in the comments section.

Keys to the game

First half play: The RAC is regarded as one of the loudest basketball venues in all of the Big East, and the students should be fired up to see the Knights take on a regionally prominent program in Villanova. 'Nova has relied on second-half comebacks far too often in conference play, and it would be nice if the 'Cats avoided stumbling out of the gate for two reasons:
  • Crowd Factor -- If the visiting team can silence the home crowd, it goes a long way in helping the visiting team win. After 'Nova went up for good against Syracuse, the Carrier Dome crowd silenced, as did the Orange.
  • Added confidence for Rutgers -- The longer the Scarlet Knights stay in the game, the more belief they will have that they actually can win the game. Rutgers is still looking for its first conference win, so denying the Knights any extra motivational factors is key
Contain Inman: JR has been Rutgers' main offensive threat much of the season, but he has struggled in Big East play. The one game in which he did produce, with 22 points on 9/13 shooting against DePaul, the Knights played their most competitive and balanced game of the season. Simply put: stop Inman and the rest of the anemic Rutgers offense will follow.

Get Shane on track: Offensively, Clark is experiencing shooting woes like never before, and one has to wonder if he is having confidence issues or if this is just another bad streak. His familiarity with tough conference games will do nothing but help the underclassmen when he is on the floor. Additionally, Reynolds has averaged 26 points over his last three games and Cunningham has put up 4 double-doubles this season. Going forward, Villanova would benefit if Clark can shoulder some of the offensive and rebounding burdens.


Bench players:
This may be a game that Coach Wright can afford to give big minutes to Grant, Redding, Stokes, and Anderson, given the strength of the Wildcats' opponent. As we have seen in games such as the 'Cuse-G'town grinder on Tuesday, experience plays a huge role in conference games, so it is important these 'Cats get on the court and log some solid minutes.

Casiem Drummond: No word yet on how soon Casiem will be back in the lineup. Villanova.com lists his injury as day-to-day after Drummond tested it out in limited action versus DePaul. According to the same press release, his DNP in the Syracuse game is not an indication of a re-aggravation, but instead of continued monitoring with a side of caution.

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21 January 2008

'Nova up to #18 in both polls

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/21/2008 03:25:00 PM
Villanova gained significant ground in both major college basketball top 25 polls this week.

After notching wins over DePaul and Syracuse, Villanova is now ranked #18 in both the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and the Associated Press writers' poll.

Villanova moved up three spots in the coaches' survey, from #21 to #18.

The Wildcats got an even bigger jump in the media poll, rising all the way to #18 from #25. Villanova is tied with #12 Texas for the largest leap in this week's poll, seven spots.

Several teams in the top 25 lost this week, including previous #1 North Carolina and previous #4 UCLA. Memphis is now atop both polls, with undefeated Kansas at number two.

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Reynolds is Big East player of week

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/21/2008 03:04:00 PM

Villanova's Scottie Reynolds earned Big East player of the week honors today, the conference announced in a press release.

Reynolds averaged 23.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals in a pair of Villanova wins over DePaul and Syracuse last week.

Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell was selected as the conference rookie of the week. Hazell led all Big East scorers last week with 25.5 points per game in the Pirates' two wins over Louisville and South Florida.

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20 January 2008

Villanova tops 'Cuse

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/20/2008 11:58:00 AM

Villanova 81
Syracuse 71
(box score)
(ESPN video highlights)

Syracuse: 13-6 (3-3 BE)
#21 Villanova: 13-3 (3-2 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: at Rutgers, 01/23 at the RAC.

Villanova took down Syracuse on Saturday for its first Big East road win. The 'Cats improve to 3-2 in conference play.

The 'Cats used yet another second-half comeback to take the victory, though this one was not nearly as dramatic as past come-from-behind efforts. Villanova trailed by just five points heading into the locker room, and the Wildcats were able to outscore Syracuse by 15 in the second half.

Scottie Reynolds led all scorers with 25, and should receive several votes for the Big East player of the week.

Due to widespread carnage in the top 25 this weekend, expect Villanova to move up several spots in the rankings.

Congratulations to reader "J.A." for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is a trip to the dreaded RAC Wednesday night to face Big-East cellar-dweller Rutgers.

Let's get right to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 36 min)

    Reynolds is back in a big way, and is now pretty much the most dangerous scorer in the Big East. Scottie scored 25 points Saturday on 6-14 shooting, including an excellent 4-7 from the three. He was outstanding from the foul line, shooting 9-10. He also was third on the team in rebounds, with 6. Reynolds added 4 steals, tops on the team, and 2 assists. He committed 4 turnovers. It was a spectacular outing for Scottie, who seems to be hitting his stride as the perfect time of the year.
    Grade: A

  • Shane Clark (S, 32 min)

    O.K., Clark played 32 minutes and Villanova got its biggest win of the season. Based on the results, some might say you can't fault Clark for his performance or Jay Wright for sticking with him. But the truth is that Clark played an awful game against Syracuse. He scored just 2 points in 32 minutes on an atrocious 1-9 shooting effort, including 0-3 from behind the arc. But it wasn't just the lack of offense; Clark's defense was tremendously poor, especially along the perimeter and on help assignments. Clark was slow to contest shots and literally let penetrators go right by him unmolested. The two bright spots for the game were his 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Clark also committed 2 turnovers. I suppose Wright called upon Clark so much against 'Cuse for his size, but what good is size when the player is struggling on defense and offense, and can't handle the ball to boot? I think a significant reduction of Clark's minutes is warranted if he can't break out of this slump on both ends of the floor.
    Grade: D-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 28 min)

    It was another efficient game for Dante Cunningham, who scored 14 points on 6-8 shooting. Cunningham also led the 'Cats in rebounds, with 8. His defense was solid, and he handled the ball a lot better than in previous efforts. Cunningham passed for 2 assists and, more important, committed 0 turnovers.
    Grade: B+

  • Dwayne Anderson (21 min)

    Anderson bounced back from a lackluster performance against DePaul to put out a good game Saturday. His offense looked a lot better, and for once he was not afraid to take open shots. Anderson shot 3-4 from the field and hit a pair of big three pointers to score 9 points. He did struggle from the foul line, however, shooting 1-4. His defense was good. Anderson added 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 turnovers.
    Grade: B-

  • Reggie Redding (21 min)

    Redding found the court once again Saturday after being virtually ignored in the DePaul game. Though he struggled a bit on offense, scoring just 5, Reggie's on-the-ball defense earned him the minutes against the Orange. Redding shot 1-3 from the field and a mediocre 3-6 from the stripe. He played a good all-around game with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks (!), 3 steals, and just 1 turnover.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 19 min)

    Pena shot well from the field against the 'Cuse, going 3-4. He was only 3-6 from the foul line, however, and finished with 9 points. He grabbed 4 rebounds and had 2 steals, but clearly struggled handling the ball, committing 5 turnovers. The redshirt freshman continues his development and has earned his starting spot.
    Grade: C

  • Corey Fisher (15 min)

    Fisher came off the bench and promptly put up 15 points in 15 minutes. I still think that Fisher is being used far too little of late. Corey did not shoot particularly well (2-8), but did drill 2 three pointers in 3 attempts. He was excellent from the foul line, shooting 9-10. Fisher added 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 turnover. In my opinion, we need to see more of Corey Fisher and Malcolm Grant, and less of Corey Stokes and Shane Clark, no matter what the size implications are.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Stokes (12 min)

    Stokes struggled on Saturday after making progress in the Pavilion against DePaul last week. Corey shot 1-5 from the field, including 0-4 from the three. Wherever Corey Stokes's three-point shot went after high school, I sure hope he finds it. Stokes grabbed 2 rebounds but committed 2 turnovers. He was not a factor at all on offense, but his defense was passable.
    Grade: D

  • Malcolm Grant (S, 10 min)

    I do not understand Jay Wright's substitution philosophy for Malcolm Grant at all. Grant is clearly one of the team's best players, yet Wright yanks him from the lineup the second he misses a few shots. Give him a chance to get going. Grant is obviously a high-energy, streaky scorer. What good is starting him when he gets pulled and benched after missing a few baskets? Grant only saw 10 minutes of court time on Saturday and was 0-3 from the field, scoring 0. He had 1 rebound, 2 assists, and 0 turnovers. Who knows what he could have contributed if he had seen more floor time. I think that Grant should be averaging at least 25 minutes a game. With Shane Clark, Corey Stokes, Dwayne Anderson, and Reggie Redding all getting dozens more minutes each than Grant in various games, there is plenty of time to go around, it seems. Play Malcolm more, in my opinion.
    Grade: C

  • Incomplete grades: Andrew Ott (3 min).

  • Did not play: Casiem Drummond (ankle), Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD).

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18 January 2008

'Nova looks to keep momentum vs. 'Cuse

posted by NovaFan09
1/18/2008 01:55:00 PM

#21 Villanova Wildcats (12-3, 2-2 BE) at
Syracuse Orange (13-5, 3-2 BE)

Date: Saturday, January 19, 2008
Location: Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPN

Syracuse coverage: CuseAdelphia || Orange Basketball

Villanova might hope its strong second half against DePaul propels the 'Cats to another Big East victory this Saturday, when Villanova travels to Syracuse to take on a young but talented team.

Decimated by season-ending injuries to guards Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf, Syracuse is led by two freshmen who make up one of the strongest recruiting classes in all of college basketball: Donte Greene (18.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.9 apg) and Jonny Flynn (14.5, 2.4, 5.4). Add the talented sophomores Paul Harris (13.6, 9.2) and 6'9" Arinze Onuaku (13.6, 7.7), and Syracuse has four double-digit scorers capable of taking the game over offensively on a team that averages more than 83 points a game.

Like Villanova, 'Cuse lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats in Ohio, do in large part to its inconsistent defense. Although the Orange easily built a big lead in the game's opening minutes, Syracuse was unable to hold it, and ultimately lost. It is in this aspect of the game that many parallels and similarities can be drawn between these two teams. Both are at times able to score at will, but it is their lack of experience that allows more veteran-laden -- albeit less talented -- teams to win, a la Cincinnati and DePaul.

"READ MORE" below for the keys to the game and x-factors. As always, you may try to predict the final score and offer your own keys to the game in the comments section.

Keys to the game

Villanova Press:
It is important that Villanova continually pressures the Syracuse's ball handlers. Once the Orange gets into its offensive sets, it is very hard to contain Syracuse's scorers. 'Cuse is extremely balanced offensively, with scoring options both in the post and on the wing, so it is imperative that 'Nova force turnovers and harass the young guards.

Tempo: Jim Boeheim traditionally runs a 2-3 defense with his teams. Because this year's edition is still learning to play cohesively at the collegiate level, however, many times Coach Boeheim reverts to man-to-man defense. Villanova's offense should dictate which defense Syracuse will primarily play, forcing the Orange to react to Villanova's offense.

Rebound: The 'Cats out-rebounded DePaul 40-18, yet still only managed to win the game in the last few minutes. If the 'Cats still refuse to play perimeter defense and allow teams to stay dangerously close, each defensive rebound will be especially important to keep Syracuse from scoring on second chances.


Shane Clark:
His athleticism and long arms will prove to be valuable against Syracuse's big men in Greene and Onuaku.

Antonio Pena: 'Tone is riding a wave of confidence over the past few games and is beginning to look like another viable scoring option. Get him the ball and let him go to work down low.

This game may prove to be a high-scoring and exciting affair, and I, for one, look forward to watching two explosive teams play to their potential Saturday morning.

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17 January 2008

Villanova exorcises its Demons

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
1/17/2008 02:19:00 AM

Villanova 76
DePaul 69
(box score)
(ESPN video highlights)

DePaul: 7-9 (3-2 BE)
#21 Villanova: 12-3 (2-2 BE, 3-0 B5)

Next game: at Syracuse, 01/19 at the Carrier Dome.

In many ways, Villanova's comeback win against the DePaul Blue Demons tonight was unusual. After DePaul defeated the 'Cats in Illinois two weeks ago, tonight's rematch tipped off in the Pavilion after 9 p.m. The late start seemed to energize the student spectator section, which was more raucous than usual.

Jay Wright also debuted a radically altered starting lineup tonight, benching Corey Fisher and Reggie Redding in favor of Malcolm Grant and Antonio Pena. A strange substitution pattern quickly ensued, with Wright yanking Grant after three minutes for the little-used Corey Stokes, who eventually played 25 minutes. Fisher and Redding, who together average 47.4 minutes per game on the season, combined for just 9 minutes tonight.

The Wildcats also overcame some questionable officiating by the three-man crew of Jamie Luckie, Karl Hess, and Brian O'Connell. Jay Wright seemed to vehemently disagree with many of the calls made tonight. In my opinion, the officiating was bad on both sides: Villanova suffered from some extremely unlikely fouls and violations, but got away with a few missteps, as well.

Tonight's win also had some familiar elements: lax defense by the 'Cats to begin the game, large halftime and second-half deficits, a furious comeback fueled by defense, an extended Villanova run (15-0 tonight), and a big jump in heart and energy in the last 10 minutes of the game. Even the official Villanova game recap makes reference to the similarities of tonight's win to other comeback victories this season, most notably the miracle at the Wachovia Center against LSU on Dec. 6.

DePaul's record drops to 7-9, but it is 3-2 in conference play, and coach Jerry Wainwright has a talented team on his hands. Senior guard Draelon Burns dropped a game-high 27 points, though he took 23 shots to do it. The real story, though, was the freshman swingman Dar Tucker, who scored 18 and is supremely talented. Look for Tucker to make noise as a Big East Rookie of the Year candidate, and for DePaul to make it into the field of 65 this March.

Villanova center Casiem Drummond, injured for the past month, returned to the floor for the Wildcats in the first half. Though he was largely ineffective and looked to still be suffering lingering effects from his ankle injury, Drummond's return is a good sign for the remainder of conference play.

Tonight also marked the further emergence of Antonio Pena, the redshirt freshman forward, who played a large role in the Wildcats' second-half comeback. Pena dominated in the post, and showed flashes of a brilliant inside-out game.

Perhaps the biggest personnel-related story, however, is Corey Stokes. Stokes had been completely quiet for most of the season, but came alive tonight and played 25 minutes, one minute short of his career high. It seemed like Jay Wright was determined to get Stokes going tonight, come hell or high water, and this time it appears to have worked.

There are two lingering questions after tonight's win. One is what happened to Corey Fisher and Reggie Redding. Jay Wright discussed his desire for a bigger lineup in the post-game press remarks, but that doesn't seem to tell the whole story. How do two players go from each averaging over 22 minutes a game to seeing under 5 minutes of court time? While size may have kept Fisher on the bench, Reggie Redding is about as big as Stokes and has arguably been more effective all season.

Corey Fisher, on the other hand, is simply too good to see 4 minutes of playing time, period. Though the Wildcats emerged tonight with the victory, I don't think benching Corey Fisher was the answer. There may be an injury issue I am unaware of, but none was mentioned in the post-game quotes. The 'Cats can still keep up a sizable lineup while rotating in the three point guards, who also happen to be Villanova's three best offensive weapons.

As someone calling for more time for Antonio Pena and Malcolm Grant, I was delighted by the starting lineup, but I was not happy to see it at the expense of Corey Fisher. Similarly, while Redding may need to cede his starting spot to Pena or Grant, I don't understand giving Stokes more than 500 percent of Redding's playing time, when they essentially play the same position and Redding has been better.

The other question that one could take away from the game is the health status of Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds was spectacular tonight, scoring 21 points and dragging the Wildcats to victory. Reynolds, however, collided with a court-side photographer late in the game, and seemed to be visibly in pain afterwards. Reynolds played the rest of the game, icing the victory with a late three and free throws, but looked to be in agony. The sophomore could not even complete the traditional post-game ceremony in which the team raises its hands in a v-shape in tune to the school fight song. Reynolds was wincing in pain and quickly jogged to the training room after the song was over.

Reynolds's injury did not look to be anything serious, but we will have to wait and see if his status for Saturday will be affected.

On a recruiting note, the hyper-mega-giga recruit Tyreke Evans was in the house tonight, and stuck around to see the Wildcats complete their comeback. Evans, by far the nation's top unsigned prep phenomenon, is considering Villanova, Memphis, Louisville, Texas, and Connecticut. His presence tonight can be interpreted as a good sign for the Wildcats, but Evans has not yet made a decision as to his future team.

Congratulations to reader "Sorbz" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is a trip to Syracuse on Saturday afternoon.

On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 37 min)

    Reynolds once again bore the bulk of the Wildcat offensive burden. He scored 21 points on an efficient 7-13 shooting, and was 3-8 from the three. He shot a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. Reynolds handled the ball well, dishing out 3 assists and committing just 2 turnovers, even while handling point duties for large chunks of the game. He added a steal and 2 rebounds. You can't ask for anything more from a guard than what Reynolds contributed tonight.
    Grade: A

  • Antonio Pena (S, 32 min)

    Pena cracked into the starting lineup tonight, and showed why he earned it. The Wildcats' best offensive player in the frontcourt scored 17 tonight, including 14 in the second half. It was Pena's powerful dunk that finally gave Villanova its first lead at the 6:23 mark in the second period. Pena shot 5-10 from the field and an outstanding 7-8 from the foul line. He pulled in 9 rebounds, barely missing his double-double. He was a little sloppy with the ball, committing 4 turnovers. He added 1 steal.
    Grade: B+

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 30 min)

    Cunningham came alive in a big way against the Blue Demons after lumbering through a few games where his offensive game was on the shelf. Cunningham scored 14 points on excellent 6-8 shooting. He dominated the boards, coming down with a game-high 13 rebounds, a performance that was sorely needed for the oft out-rebounded 'Cats. Cunningham came up with 1 steal and committed 3 turnovers.
    Grade: A-

  • Shane Clark (S, 30 min)

    Clark struggled from the field, shooting just 1-7, and he was 0-3 from the three-point line. He was perfect, however, from the foul line, going 5-5, including three clutch free throws late in the second half. He also contributed well on the glass, grabbing 8 boards. He was exceedingly sloppy with the ball, however, giving up a team-high 5 turnovers. His defense was not very good; he was late jumping out on several made DePaul threes and looked a step slow all over the court. Clark rounded out his box score with 3 assists and 1 steal.
    Grade: C-

  • Corey Stokes (25 min)

    Stokes showed significant signs of life tonight. He clearly has good basketball instincts, as well. After starting out with a bricked jumper and a pair of misses from the foul line, it looked like it was going to be business as usual for Stokes, who has more than struggled this year. But Jay Wright stuck with Stokes to the tune of 25 minutes, and the McDonald's All-American found some success. He made 2 of his next 4 shots and finished with 7 points. He grabbed 4 rebounds, and notched one of the best assists in transition I have ever seen. Stokes probably earned his 25 minutes on the defensive end, where he played well. While I don't agree that Stokes should be seeing 25 minutes per game while Corey Fisher languishes on the bench, tonight was a solid foundation on which the talented Stokes can hopefully build upon for t he rest of conference play.
    Grade: B-

  • Malcolm Grant (S, 22 min)

    Grant played well in his first collegiate start, though he finished with just 22 minutes. I still think it should be more, but Grant did get into serious foul trouble tonight, as well. Malcolm shot 2-6 from the field, including 1-3 from three-point land, and was a perfect 2-2 from the foul line. He finished with 7 points. Grant led the team in assists, with 4, and dished out some truly amazing passes. He grabbed 2 rebounds and committed 2 turnovers. Starting was a good step forward for Malcolm, whose minutes should continue to go up, whether from off the bench or in the starting lineup.
    Grade: B

  • Dwayne Anderson (12 min)

    Anderson was apparently brought into the game to contain DePaul's big scoring guards, Burns and Tucker. Anderson seemed to have some success on the defensive end, but was not a factor on offense. Anderson scored 1 point on 0-1 shooting from the field. He had zero rebounds, steals, and assists in his 12 minutes, but did commit 2 turnovers.
    Grade: D+

  • Incomplete grades: Corey Fisher (4 min), Reggie Redding (5 min), Casiem Drummond (3 min).

  • Did not play: Andrew Ott (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD).

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15 January 2008

'Cats look to avenge loss to DePaul

posted by NovaFan09
1/15/2008 10:10:00 PM

#21 Villanova Wildcats (11-3, 1-2 BE) vs.
DePaul Blue Demons (7-8, 3-1 BE)

Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Location: The Pavilion (Villanova, PA)
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST
Television: ESPNU

DePaul coverage: Official Web site || The Demons Den

Villanova looks to earn retribution for its previous loss at the hands of DePaul this Wednesday, when the 'Cats host a rematch of two teams seemingly going in different directions. Since January 3, when the Wildcats and Blue Demons first met, 'Nova has experienced a stint of streaky play, going 1-2. DePaul, which carries an overall record under .500, has surprisingly gone 3-1 in the Big East, with its only loss coming to conference-leading Georgetown.

Early-season predictions by fans and college analysts alike had called for 'Nova to have the hot start in the Big East and for DePaul to hover near the bottom. Interestingly, both predictions have been proven wrong, as DePaul, which experienced early season trouble, has found leadership in seniors Draelon Burns (who torched Villanova last meeting) and Karron Clarke.

Villanova, without a senior on the team, seems to be at a loss for experience. One wonders if 'Nova is underachieving with the amount of talent on the roster, or if the 'Cats have been feasting all season against weak competition and are just now coming back down to earth.

Clearly, the injury to Drummond has hurt this team, but I think the issues Villanova is encountering have been there all season, having only been masked by the lack of quality opponents in pre-conference tune-ups. Too many key players are only freshmen and sophomores and do not have the experience to close out games. Additionally, many of the guards are getting exposed defensively, which forces the big men to step out and help, losing their rebound positioning. The good news, however, is that these issues can be fixed, as with each passing game the team becomes a more cohesive and experienced unit.

With that said, on to the aspects of the game necessary for 'Nova to win:

Keys to the game

Defensive rebounding: 'Nova has been getting hounded on the boards in conference play, in some cases being out-rebounded by double digits. If Villanova can reduce the number of put-backs and second chance shots by DePaul, it will go a long way in helping the 'Cats win their second Big East game of the season.

Keep the streak alive: 'Nova is 7-0 at home this season, and the student body is back on campus from winter break. This is a conference game and 'Nova Nation can not be lethargic. Keep the cheers coming and let the team know that we support them.

Shot selection and ball movement: The 'Cats have been settling for threes and outside shots, which have not been falling. Dante needs to stay on the box and Pena must continue his vast improvement in the post game. The guards need to get back to the paint by blowing by their defenders. 'Nova must also get into its offensive sets early and take advantage of favorable match-ups.


Coaching: I am going to go out on a limb and put some pressure on Jay Wright to stick with what works. Recall last game against DePaul, when Coach Wright pulled Fisher at the 3:19 mark with 4 fouls. Villanova had just completed a 10-0 run, and Fisher seemed like the only 'Cat who could score. After that, 'Nova fell flat and lost the game. The staff at 'Nova must find a recipe that gives this team the best opportunity to contend and stick with it, even if that means demoting past starters to a bench role. Change is good.

I have a feeling 'Nova is going to come out on fire in front of the home crowd for this one and put on a clinic at the Pavilion. Remember to predict the score for your chance to be mentioned in a future post, and to offer your own "keys to the game" and "x-factors."

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