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28 February 2009

Jay Wright blunders away key game

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/28/2009 02:12:00 PM
If there were ever any question about how poor an end-game coach Jay Wright is, that question was answered today, and then some.

Jay Wright made just about every possible end-game error in the final minutes of a close game against Georgetown.

From right off the top of my head:
  1. Failing to make sure his team knew the shot clock was running down in a timeout huddle. What was he doing in there? What is being discussed in timeouts if not the immediate tactical consideration of the current possession? Reynolds was forced to hoist a 30-footer upon realizing at the last second the shot clock was nearly down to zero. Horrendous tactical coaching.

  2. Ridiculous "offense-defense" substitution, yanking both point guards for defense. On a crucial possession, Georgetown point guard Chris Wright was able to blow by Reggie Redding for an easy layup because there was no one quick enough to guard him. This is why point guards typically guard other point guards, especially ones as talented as Wright. Horrible coaching.

  3. Down three with under a minute to go and coming off a timeout, Villanova's offense is routed through Reggie Redding? Is that serious? And Redding just throws the ball away. And this is off a timeout? That's the best you can do, Jay? Terrible coaching.

  4. Down three with under 30 seconds left, Wright keeps Corey Fisher on the bench. Why? Fisher is the team's best penetrator. Clearly, in that situation, there is plenty of time left for a drive to the basket. Just score quickly. Instead, Villanova wastes 10-15 seconds, and Corey Stokes takes a horrible, off-balance, guarded three, which misses. Some of the worst coaching of the year.

  5. Down by five with under 10 seconds to go, Stokes hits a long three to pull the 'Cats within two points with exactly 3.5 seconds left. Wright, properly, calls timeout, and then benches Reynolds and leaves Fisher out. Result? No one on Villanova can even catch Chris Wright to foul him, and the final 3.5 seconds (eternity in a basketball game) tick away with Villanova unable to even give a foul. Off a timeout! And, may I ask, what was Jay Wright's plan if, miraculously, his team was able to get a turnover? His two best scorers were on the bench! If we got a turnover with 2 seconds left in Georgetown's back-court, there was no one to shoot it but Stokes! Was Wright's plan to call a timeout there, with 1 second left? Horrible, horrible, horrible.

I would love to hear any argument that Jay Wright didn't cost the team this game. The five above points don't even go into how lazy, lackadaisical, and unmotivated the team seemed to play the entire game. Len Elmore, calling the game, even said the Wildcats seemed "content" out there while trailing, lacking any hunger to win the game. Embarrassing.

Villanova just lost a game where the winning team scored TWO field goals in the last 9:22 of the game. You read that correctly. It's quite an accomplishment, to lose such a game.

I have been saying for the entire year that Wright's poor end-game tactics would cost this team in a big spot. Well, it doesn't get much bigger than this. Villanova was in the absolute driver's seat for both a double-bye in the Big East tournament, with a double-bye all but guaranteed by winning out. The Wildcats also were in position to land the top-3 seed in the NCAA tournament likely needed to stay in the Wachovia Center.

A lot of good playing at home in the Wachovia Center did today. Thanks to Wright's tactical and strategic blunders, Villanova is now on the outside looking in for both a double-bye, which is unlikely now, and a top-3 seed for the NCAA tournament.

But neither of those tournaments will matter much to Villanova fans if Jay Wright continues to cost his team close games by end-game mismanagement that would make a grammar-school jayvee coach cringe. I know my grammar school coach would not have been happy watching this game.

And neither was I.

A traditional recap with player grades will be up by Sunday night. Forget the grades; you all know how I feel about this game, and most of you disagree with me. Let's move on with the Notre Dame preview.

Feel free to discuss the end-game situation in the comment thread.

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Villanova faces slumping G'town

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/28/2009 03:26:00 AM
#10 Villanova (23-5) vs. Georgetown (14-12)
12:00 p.m., 28 February 2009 at the Wachovia Center.


Line: Villanova -5.5

Villanova faces what may be its most unusual opponent of the season Saturday afternoon with a game against the mysterious Georgetown Hoyas.

Georgetown comes into Philadelphia having dropped nine of its last 11 games, but none of these have been terrible losses. The Hoyas boast wins over two likely #1 seeds, with victories over UConn and Memphis, and a solid win over NCAA-bound Syracuse.

Georgetown has also beaten two NCAA bubble teams, Providence, and Maryland.

Despite all the good wins, Georgetown is not even in bubble consideration for the NCAA tournament, thanks to its recent losing ways. Georgetown has won just two of its last 11 games, beating Big East doormats Rutgers and South Florida.

None of the losses were that bad individually, but when taken in context of one another, they probably will spell N-I-T unless the Hoyas can make a ridiculous run in the Big East tournament, a la Syracuse in 2006.

KenPom predicts a four-point Villanova win, with a 68 percent chance of victory.

Check out the previews on the other 'Nova blogs (linked in the right sidebar), and then predict the game's final score in the comments below.

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27 February 2009

Is 'Nova in a downward spiral?

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/27/2009 02:14:00 AM
GreyCat of Villanova by the Numbers has created an outstanding and informative post called Performance vs. Expectations, tracking Villanova's result in each game against the final margin predicted by Pomeroy.

The results, provided in awesome-chart-form by Greycat, look a little bit like the stock market over the past few years. As in, not good.

Below, I have modified GreyCat's chart in a highly unscientific and inartistic way by marking my approximation of the trend line in a bright-blue paint trail via Seashore.

The trend is certainly not encouraging. Click on the chart for a larger version.
Villanova's performance vs. expectations seems to have peaked sometime near the Marquette game, and has been falling ever since. Though Villanova has won eight of its last nine games, this is definitely not the momentum you'd want heading into post-season play.

As GreyCat remarks:

The blowout of Marquette marked a high point in expectations. If the team had "settled" on a performance plateau, I believe succeeding games would have "declined" toward the X axis. Instead the margins have gyrated widely but largely, below the X axis. Hopefully the Wildcats will refocus for the stretch run in the regular season.

This makes perfect sense, even if you're not mathematically inclined. After the Marquette win, expectations were highest. So if performance had remained level following that peak in expectation, the chart would have settled gently toward the axis. Instead, as Greycat points out, the data points have jumped mostly below the axis, a clear indication of under-perfomance.

GreyCat also notes the correlation between under-performance and being on the road in his excellent analysis. This is a bit troubling, but it is a good thing Villanova has the inside track on playing the first two NCAA rounds in Philadelphia.

Go read his post in full, as it is very interesting work.

What do you think of this decline versus expectations? Please remember, the "expectations" here were not created by a human, but by KenPom's cold and calculating statistical model, so don't just assume expectations were arbitrarily too high.

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26 February 2009

Nova News agrees on Fisher PT

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/26/2009 08:55:00 PM
I have been receiving a lot of heat in the comments section for blasting Jay Wright's mismanagement of his lineup, especially regarding point guard Corey Fisher's playing time.

After every single game, you could find here the drumbeat of criticism, charging that Fisher was receiving far too little playing time. My argument is that as the clearly best player on the team, Fisher should be leading the team in minutes. But he isn't, and in fact, trails behind several far inferior Wildcats in playing time.

I've further argued that Fisher's increase in playing time should not come at the expense of Reynolds, because the team plays best when they are both in there together, and ballhandling requires at least one of the two point guards to be in at all times.

Tim, the Nova News blogger, weighed in on his site tonight in agreement.

In a nice, long piece called Something Smells Fishy, Tim questions Jay Wright's decision to keep Fisher in limited time despite the growing statistical evidence that he is among the most effective Wildcats on the court.

Tim admits that although winning eight of nine games is nice, Fisher still needs more playing time:

I don't necessarily believe that Fisher should get more time at the expense of Reynolds because frankly, they are the two best guards on the team. Neither do I believe it is imperative for Fisher to start because he is valuable as a sixth man. What I am simply saying is Fisher should be getting more playing time, period.

Tim wraps up his essay by saying "the bottom line is Corey Fisher is too good to be sitting on the bench for 12+ minutes a game."

Agreed. And Fisher certainly shouldn't be sitting for 16 minutes when the 'Cats struggle to defeat one of the worst teams in major-conference history by a measly two points.

Something smells fishy, indeed.

Of course, this isn't the first time that Wright has refused to play a talented point guard for seemingly no earthly reason, and we all know how that one turned out.

Here's hoping Wright can change his ways before it's too late.

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Villanova sputters past DePaul

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/26/2009 01:14:00 AM
Villanova 74
DePaul 72
(box score)

#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.

[This statement updated and corrected multiple times; thanks to reader Brian and to Nova Nut for their help on the tiebreakers].

Villanova can go 3-0 and still lose the double-bye if all of the following happens:
  1. Nova beats G'town, Notre Dame, and Providence. (going 3-0)
  2. Marquette beats Louisville and Syracuse. (going 2-1)
  3. Louisville beats SHU and West Virginia. (going 2-0)
  4. Pitt beats Marquette, UConn, and SHU. (going 3-0)
  5. UConn loses to Notre Dame. (going 0-2)
This scenario would require 11 distinct games to all fall exactly right for Villanova to miss the double-bye while going undefeated. Another way of looking at it is there are eight games Villanova cannot control, and as long as Villanova takes care of business on its end, all eight games would have to go wrong for the 'Cats to play an extra day.

Assuming each of those eight games has a 50-50 chance of going either way (for simplification), the chances that Villanova wins all three remaining games and gets shut out of the double-bye are 1 in 256.

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.
    Grade: B+

  • 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.
    Grade: B+

  • 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,
    Grade: B

  • 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.
    Grade: D

  • 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.
    Grade: A-

  • 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.
    Grade: B-

  • 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.
    Grade: C-

  • 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.
    Grade: C

  • Incomplete grades: None.

  • Did not play: Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD), Russell Wooten (CD), Maurice Sutton (RS).

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25 February 2009

Villanova visits winless DePaul

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/25/2009 05:37:00 PM
#10 Villanova (22-5) at Depaul (8-19)
8:00 p.m., 25 February 2009 at Allstate Arena.

TV: WPHL or online stream at Justin.tv

Line: DePaul +13

Villanova takes its #10 ranking on the road tonight for a Big East game against the winless DePaul Blue Demons. DePaul finds itself with a 0-14 conference record despite having some decent talent.

Though Villanova is heavily favored, the game should not be taken lightly. DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright finds his job teetering on the brink, and he will have his team fired up as it looks for its first conference win.

DePaul has also enjoyed some success against Villanova, winning two of its last four against the usually favored Wildcats.

The Blue Demons have some great young talent, including the scoring machine Dar Tucker.

Villanova needs to win out to stay in the driver's seat for a #3 NCAA tournament seed an an all-important spot in Philadelphia for the first two rounds.

Check out previews from all the right places:

Villanova by the Numbers and the Viewpoint are not up with their previews (yet?), so check back.

KenPom predicts a 16-point Villanova victory, and a 93 percent chance for a 'Nova win. I don't think it will be that much of a blowout, but Villanova should be able to take care of business tonight in Rosemont.

You can predict the final score in the comment section below. Your prize: unending glory, your name carved into this very Web site in bold face.

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New tickets available for sold-out G'town Sat.

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/25/2009 03:43:00 PM
Villanova's ticket masters have just sent out a red-alert e-mail bulletin advising Nova Nation that a small number of tickets are now available for the sold-out Georgetown game this Saturday at the Wachovia Center.

From the decrypted communique:

Due to Villanova's Spring Break starting this Friday, the student ticket pick-up for this Saturday's Villanova vs. Georgetown game has been lower than normal. Therefore, a limited number of lower level tickets have just been released for public sale. All tickets are in the lower level and are priced at $35. Tip-off for this game is set for 12:00 PM at the Wachovia Center.

You can buy the tickets from Comcast's online ticket office here. The sale is online only, and likely won't last long.

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24 February 2009

Villanova completes Syracuse sweep

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/24/2009 12:24:00 AM
Villanova 89
Syracuse 86
(box score)

#12 Villanova: 22-5 (10-4 BE)
#24 Syracuse: 19-8 (7-7 BE)

Well, it came down to the wire, but Villanova earned its best road victory of the season with a three-point win at Syracuse.

The Orange, aided by a mini-collapse by Villanova, came back from down seven with half a minute remaining to hoist an open look at what would have been the game-tying three in the closing seconds.

Johnny Flynn's shot, however, found the rim, and Villanova finally came away with a solid victory on the road.

I still don't like Wright's decision to play the Coreys so lightly (24 for Fisher, 13 for Stokes), and his weird offense-defense substitution at the end of the game. Does Wright realize that if he yanks both point guards for a crucial defensive possession, and Syracuse scores anyway, he has to face a press without any ballhandlers? Was his plan to burn timeouts every time? I don't get it.

Wright's offense-defense substituting nearly cost Villanova the game. The Wildcats were up a nearly insurmountable seven points with 36 seconds left. Wright's lack of preparation for the Syracuse press, and his inexplicable reliance on poor ballhandlers and free throw shooters could have been disastrous.

Syracuse pulled to within two points on defense, and ended the game down three on offense, with three looks at the tie. If the game had gone to overtime, the momentum was with the Orange.

Despite the troubling last-minute lapse by the 'Cats, the game was the latest victory in Villanova's hot streak. The Wildcats have won eight of their last nine games and improve to #10 in the nation.

The Big East is loaded at the top end, with a ridiculous five teams in the top ten.

The win keeps Villanova in the driver's seat for a three-seed in the NCAA tournament. Earning a top-three seed would greatly increase the Wildcats' chances of playing their first two rounds in Philadelphia, although it also depends on where other top seeds are slated to play.

As the season draws to a close, we are more and more concerned with bracketology. Looking at the top-ten ranked teams in the AP, Villanova appears to have a decent shot at Philadelphia, but only if the Wildcats are able to win out the rest of their games and remain in the top ten.

One possible scenario for 16 pod captains:

OklahomaKansas City
MemphisKansas City
Michigan StateMinneapolis
Arizona St.Portland

Remember, only two "pod captains" (top seeds) can play in each first-round site. The NCAA tries to keep 1-4 seeds close to home, and tries to make sure that these protected seeds don't play any opponent too close to its home court in the first round. That is why it's unlikely for Villanova to play in Philadelphia unless it is as a top seed.

It would be better for Villanova for Missouri to lose, because if the Tigers earn their way to a Kansas City first round, Memphis might have to go to Greensboro, bumping Duke to Philadelphia or Miami.

A Wake Forest hot streak would also bode ill for Villanova's Philadelphia chances, although the Deacons and the Blue Devils could just swap sites.

Also, keep an eye on a scorching Kansas team, and surging Florida State, both of whom could take up crucial spots in Kansas City and Miami, respectively.

But it's too early to worry about all the possible permutations.

The bottom line is that if Villanova keeps winning, the chances are very good Wildcats fans will get to watch their team in a very familiar Wachovia Center.

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

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

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 36 min)

    Love, love, love Dwayne Anderson's game, especially when the shots are falling. I criticized him last time for going 0-4 from the three, but I am thrilled that he kept shooting when they were going in at Syracuse. Anderson shot a decent 8-14 from the field, including a hot 4-6 from the three to score a team-high 22. He had 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, and 1 steal. I like when he is involved in the offense, especially in the running game. Keep it up.
    Grade: A-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 34 min)

    It's an unpopular opinion, but I think Cunningham is hurting the team with all his poor shots. Despite what the announcers say, Cunningham is simply not a good jump-shooter. Yes, he can hit the open 15-footer, but take that out to 17 feet, or put a man on him, and he can't find the bottom of the net. I miss the days when Cunningham's line would read something like 6-8 shooting and 10 rebounds. Nowadays, Sunday's 5-14 is business as usual for Cunningham, who for some reason has assumed a role at the center of the offense. On an unrelated note, the Syracuse game was the first time (at least that I've noticed) that Cunningham was listed in the official box score as a center, not a forward. I don't know what that's all about, because Dante is a textbook college four. Cunningham scored 12 points on his hideous 14 shots. He did well on the boards, leading the team in rebounding with 12. He also passed the ball very well, with 6 assists, and cut down on his recent penchant for turnovers, committing 2. He had 0 blocks and steals. Good all around game for Dante, except with all the bad shots.
    Grade: B-

  • Reggie Redding (S, 34 min)

    A monster game for Redding, doing the things he does best -- defense and passing. Six steals! Seven assists! And he shot a judicious 3-5 from the field. He was also 5-6 from the foul line, but he missed the most crucial free throw of the game at the very end, which would have put Villanova up by four instead of three. The offense definitely suffers with him out there sometimes, but with 6 steals and 7 assists, he earned his 34 minutes on both ends of the floor Sunday.
    Grade: B+

  • Shane Clark (S, 31 min)

    Clark bounced back from his recent slump with a good game, at least offensively. He shot 6-8 from the field, and pulled in 5 rebounds on the offensive glass, to finish with 15 points and 8 rebounds total. I am still not sold -- at all -- on the defense. Sometimes it's like playing 5 on 4 on defense, with how slow he is to rotate or contest an outside shooter. And I can't remember how many times I've seen Clark just let a penetrator go right past him to the basket. That said, credit where credit is due for a nice hustle game. Clark is at his best with put-backs and follow-ups. I don't like to see him take jump-shots (his two misses were jump-shots that weren't even close), but more power to him on glass cleanup duty.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Fisher (24 min)

    Five minutes more than last time and still 10 minutes too few. It's clear, now, that Fisher is by far Villanova's best player. Would anyone disagree? So why are there always five or more players with more time than him? Even against Syracuse, four players played nine-plus more minutes than Fisher, even though Fisher was the best player on the court. It makes zero sense to me. Against 'Cuse, Fisher continued his hot shooting, going 5-6 from the field, 1-1 from the three, and 5-7 from the foul line. When you shoot 5-6 from the field as a guard, it probably means you should be taking more shots. Fisher finished with 16 points, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 1 steal, and 3 rebounds. Imagine what he could have done with 10 more minutes.
    Grade: A

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 23 min)

    I don't agree with just 23 minutes for Reynolds, but Wright doesn't like to play Scottie and Fisher together, which is a mistake on his part. Reynolds shot 4-9 to score 10 points, but was cold from the three (1-5) and the line (1-3). He had way too many turnovers (5), including two really disastrous turnovers in the game's final minute. It was a sub-par game from Reynolds, who needs to move to the two guard if this team is going to make any kind of tournament run. You read it here first. Scottie is an All=American talent from the two, but his proficiency at the one is less than desirable.
    Grade: C-

  • Corey Stokes (13 min)

    Is it just me, or does Jay Wright often seem to yank out Stokes after any missed shot? (Steeling myself for many profane "it's just you" comments...) Stokes, a rhythm shooter if there ever were one, needs to be left out there to warm up. How can Wright not see this? It would be obvious to the laziest assistant in grammar school intramurals. Just 13 minutes for Stokes after his monster game against RU? I don't get it. Against 'Cuse, Stokes scored just 3 points on 1-4 shooting. He grabbed 3 rebounds, and had 1 block and 2 turnovers.
    Grade: C-

  • Antonio Pena (5 min)

    I really don't think Pena is so bad that he has played himself completely out of the rotation. Has Pena regressed this much from when he was starting every game? If so, why has Wright allowed that? Or was Pena never good enough to start? Either way, it's baffling and unusual for a former every-game starter to be seeing so little time.
    Grade: Incomplete

  • Incomplete grades: Antonio Pena (5 min), Frank Tchuisi (0+ min).

  • Did not play: Jason Colenda (CD), Russell Wooten (CD), Maurice Sutton (RS).

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22 February 2009

Villanova heads to Syracuse for rematch

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/22/2009 03:29:00 AM
#12 Villanova (21-5) at #24 Syracuse (19-7)
1:00 p.m., 22 February 2009 at the Carrier Dome


Line: Syracuse -2.5

If you didn't get a chance to read the Rutgers grades, which were recently posted, check them out here.

Villanova travels north to the Carrier Dome for a rematch today with a dangerous Syracuse team.

The Wildcats demolished the Orange two weeks ago at the Wachovia Center, and Syracuse will be looking to take revenge.

Syracuse is inching its way off the NCAA bubble and probably should be in at this point. The Orange are fresh off an overtime win against Georgetown last weekend, for a rare 8-day layoff in February.

KenPom predicts a 1-point Villanova win, with a 55 percent chance for a Villanova victory. That's a tad more optimistic for the Wildcats' chances than the sportsbooks have it, with most favoring the Orange by two-and-half points.

Check out the other four Villanova blogs linked at right for their more timely previews than this one.

Also, take your best shot at dethroning the reigning champion Mills by guessing the game's final score in the comments below.

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20 February 2009

Villanova survives Rutgers scare

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/20/2009 03:28:00 AM
Rutgers 72
Villanova 82
(box score)

#13 Villanova: 21-5 (9-4 BE)
Rutgers: 10-16 (1-12 BE)

Villanova avoided what could have been a soul-crushing defeat on Thursday by barely closing out the hapless Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a game that was much closer than many predicted.

Corey Fisher helped save the Wildcats with excellent bursts of play from off the bench, where he inexplicably spent most of his time during the game.

Maybe the Jay-Wright-apologists among our readers here can explain why Wright would -- for the majority of the game -- bench a player who had 14 points on 4-5 shooting, 3 assists, 0 turnovers in his limited and non-contiguous court time. Especially coming off a game in West Virginia where he was just about the only Wildcat to show up. I certainly have no idea.

To me, it seems like the opposite of what a coach would want to do.

Maybe if Wright spent less time worrying about whether his assistants' suits are tailored, and more time studying the game of basketball, Villanova wouldn't have been taken to the brink by a Rutgers team that lost by the same 10 points to a team called "Binghamton." At home, no less.

We'll have to hope GreyCat of Villanova by the Numbers generates some plus-minus data for this game, but I'd wager the numbers were heavily positive when Fisher was on the floor.

To me, giving Reggie Redding 28 minutes, and Shane Clark 23, while the best player on the team was glued to the bench is an insult not only to Fisher, but to Villanova fans watching the game.

The backlash against Wright's decisions is not only coming from my keyboard. Many posts on Rivals' Villanova message board also criticized Wright's playing-time allocations, some far more harshly than in the views expressed here.

Wright's stubborn and illogical coaching didn't cost Villanova the win -- this time. But when the Wildcats can't put away a truly awful Rutgers team in the Pavilion while Wright keeps his hottest player on bench, you know the team in its current incarnation is not ready for the Big East and NCAA tournaments.

Villanova is enjoying an excellent position right now, as the Wildcats are all but a lock for the NCAA tournament and are jockeying for a high seed. I just don't want to see it become all for nothing in March because the Wildcats' best talent is sitting on the bench.

When and how Wright's poor coaching will ultimately end Villanova's season is not yet known -- but trust me, unless something changes radically between now and next month, it surely will.

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

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 33 min)

    Reynolds led the team in scoring again, and along with Fisher and Stokes, totally bailed Villanova out of what could have been a disaster. He shot 5-11 from the field to score 21 points. He was a cold 1-4 from the three, but an outstanding 10-11 from the foul line. Being asked to handle the point for most of the game, he had 6 assists, but also committed 4 turnovers. He added 2 steals. I think Reynolds would be much better off playing the 2, but it's clear he is one of the best players in the Big East regardless.
    Grade: A-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 31 min)

    Seventeen shots is too many for Cunningham, even if he is trying to do his best Curtis Sumpter impression. Dante's game is efficient offense, power rebounding, menacing defense, and running the floor well. If he does play professional basketball, it will be for those reasons. It will not be because he has "developed" an unreliable jump-shot from 17 feet. Cunningham made 5 of the 17 shots, and rounded out his box score with 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 steal, and 1 block.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 31 min)

    I am a big fan of Anderson's hustle game, but no way should he ever be shooting 3-11 from the field -- including a disastrous 0-4 from the three. The six rebounds were nice, but he should have been looking to pass a bit more often. In a perfect world, Villanova would start Cunningham, Anderson, Redding, Reynolds, and Fisher, and let opponents try to deal with the Wildcats' speed and scoring.
    Grade: C-

  • Reggie Redding (28 min)

    Not Redding's best game. He shot 1-1 from the field, which was nice, but didn't do much of anything on offense. Is Redding's defense that much better than Fisher's, to sacrifice 28 minutes of offense? I don't think so. He added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, and 2 steals. The 2 steals were nice, and I still think Redding should be starting. I just don't understand the rotation the way Wright has implemented it.
    Grade: C-

  • Shane Clark (S, 23 min)

    Clark was not too much of a liability on the offensive end. He shot 3-5 to score 6 points and was generally quiet and ineffective. He only managed to get 2 rebounds in 23 minutes, or 1 more than Corey Fisher had in 19. He was bad on defense, a step slow and repeatedly in the wrong spot. I just don't see what he did to earn 3 minutes against RU, much less 23. But maybe we shouldn't question Wright's genius: after all, we did win the game.
    Grade: D+

  • Corey Stokes (22 min)

    Stokes was scorching from the field, shooting 6-9 and 5-7 from the three to score 17 points. Why did he only get 22 minutes, when fellow swingmen Shane Clark and Reggie Redding both got more? Another Villanova playing time mystery! The only negative about Stokes's offensive game on Thursday was that he did not reach the foul line. But, man, what a shooting night he had. Stokes also had 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, and 2 steals. Villanova's future success looks very much tied to the Corey and Corey show -- if only they could get off the bench. It's telling that the two players who received "A" grades here managed to combine for just 41 minutes, when it should be more like 70.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Fisher (19 min)

    See the main post above. Fisher was dominating in his brief appearance in the Rutgers game. He was unguardable, and the fastest player on the court by a significant margin. He brought explosiveness and unlimited upside to the offense. He handled the ball flawlessly. He was not -- unlike Clark and Redding -- a liability on defense. Fourteen points, 4-5 shooting, 4-4 from the line, 3 assists, 1 rebound, and ZERO turnovers -- what does this add up to? For Wright, it's 19 on-and-off minutes and a well-worn spot on the bench.
    Grade: A

  • Antonio Pena (9 min)

    When I opened my fridge this morning, I saw Pena's face on a milk carton. The headline was "Missing: Have You Seen This Forward?"
    Grade: D+

  • Frank Tchuisi (S, 2 min)

    Frank got the start on senior night, which was a nice gesture. I am sure he has worked very diligently in practice during his four years on the team, but it is a shame that Jay Wright could not teach Tchuisi enough not to be a complete disaster on the court after all these years. Tchuisi has size and appears reasonably athletic, so his total basketball incompetence speaks volumes about Wright's teaching skills, or lack thereof. Against Rutgers, Tchuisi committed two fouls in two minutes, and was promptly sent to the bench. Forget incomplete, I've seen enough for a grade.
    Grade: F

  • Incomplete grades: Jason Colenda (1 min), Russell Wooten (1 min)

  • Did not play: Maurice Sutton (RS).

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19 February 2009

Lowry traded to Rockets

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/19/2009 03:27:00 PM
Point guard Kyle Lowry, who was a major star at Villanova during the 2005 and 2006 tournament runs, has been traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

At Houston, Lowry will get to play with superstars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, at least once McGrady recovers from knee surgery. Playing for the Rockets might also allow Lowry to make his first trip to the NBA playoffs.

Lowry will join his former assistant coach Brett Gunning in Houston, who left the Villanova for the Rockets last summer. Gunning is Houston's director of player development.

The Rockets' modern methods of player evaluation and statistics-derived strategy were showcased in an excellent cover story by Michael Lewis in the New York Times Magazine last Sunday.

The Grizzlies receive a first-round pick from playoff-bound Orlando in the three-way deal. Orlando gets point guard Rafer Alston from Houston to fill in for the Magic's own injured all-star point guard, Jameer Nelson from St. Joseph's.

According to Stein, Houston will also receive Brian Cook from Orlando and possibly more players to round out the trade.

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Villanova faces Rutgers tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/19/2009 01:38:00 PM
#12 Villanova (20-5) vs. Rutgers (10-15)
9:00 p.m., 19 February 2009 at the Pavilion


Line: Villanova -18

Villanova returns to the Pavilion tonight to face a struggling Rutgers team in another Big East game. Though Rutgers blew out the Wildcats last year at the RAC, Villanova is strongly favored to win this one easily.

It's senior night on campus, so expect a starting lineup of Dante Cunningham, Frank Tchuisi, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, and probably Scottie Reynolds. Though no game in the Big East should be easy, the Rutgers game is the perfect night to tolerate a little ceremony, given Villanova's huge edge to get the win.

Rutgers is 1-11 in conference play, with the Scarlet Knights' sole victory coming over 0-13 DePaul. Their best win on the entire year is a 4-point victory over Robert Morris at the RAC three months ago.

Villanova by the Numbers runs its usual quantitative preview. I Bleed Blue and White outlines the keys to the game. Ed from 1977 fills in at vacationing VUHoops for a preview column. Nova News is back with its usually thorough preview. Villanova Viewpoint pens an open letter to "the Wildcat faithful."

KenPom predicts an 18-point Villanova win at home, with a 95 percent chance of victory. The betting line is also sitting at 18.

You can try to guess the game's final score in the comment thread, below. The closest guess wins a mention in the next article. If you'd like to win something tangible, like an actual Villanova folder from last year's tournament run, enter Let's Go Nova's tournament contest.

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18 February 2009

Wayns, Cheek named McDonald's All-Americans

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/18/2009 11:24:00 PM
Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek were officially named McDonald's All-Americans tonight. Both have committed to play in Villanova's backcourt next season to headline a recruiting class considered by many to be the best in the country.

Cheek and Wayns were unanimously ranked by recruiting touts as near the top of their respective positions of shooting guard and point guard, so their placement on the team is no surprise.

The duo will play for the East team in the game on April 1, which will be televised by ESPN from the University of Miami.

Incoming Villanova forward Mouph Yarou was not named to the roster, despite his meteoric rise though the high school rankings in the past several months.

Isaiah Armwood, who rounds out Villanova's excellent class at swingman, also did not make the team.

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Wright admits coaching error

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/18/2009 02:39:00 PM

In a long article in the Philadelphia Daily News today, Villanova coach Jay Wright is quoted at length regarding his position at the helm of Villanova basketball.

Of particular interest to Let's Go Nova readers may be Wright's reference to his coaching decision in the West Virginia game to keep star forward Dante Cunningham on the bench in the first half with two fouls.

Wright actually praises Villanova's atmosphere of lesser scrutiny, and the fact that talk of the error died down quickly. How this is compatible with Wright's ostensible goal of striving for excellence is a little incomprehensible to me, but here is the quote:

We get plenty of attention. But you're not under the scrutiny every day. Like, 'Why didn't I play Dante Cunningham with two fouls in the West Virginia game in the first half?' Which I probably should have. But it didn't become a 2-day issue (emphasis added).

This quote demonstrates Wright's excellent understanding of public relations, possibly at the expense of his basketball knowledge and competitive edge. Is Wright correct about the public relations benefits of not being under a microscope like one would be in Lexington or Bloomington? Absolutely. But how does that help Villanova become a better basketball team? It sure is nice for Wright that his voicemail is not overflowing on Day Two of the Dante Cunningham Benching Scandal, but why brag about it?

Is Wright really that saying he is glad that the uproar over his mistakes dies down quickly, instead of saying that scrutiny over mistakes motivates him to make fewer of them?

For the record, Let's Go Nova was all over this issue, even a day after the game. In my review of the WVU loss, I wrote the following:

He got into minor foul trouble early on Friday, and his absence definitely cost the Wildcats dearly. But why did he have to sit so long? I think Wright was too cautious. Villanova was getting blown away with Dante on the bench. Dante picked up his second foul with 14 minutes to play in the first half, and didn't see the court for the rest of the half? Are you kidding me? That would have been ridiculous if we were winning, and it's patently absurd when the 'Cats are being blown out. Sitting Cunningham for the last 14 minutes of the first half might have cost Villanova the game. Oh, and by the way, Cunningham finished with just three fouls thanks to Wright's abundance of gutless caution.

It's nice that Wright admitted his mistake, but why does he think the issue is over, especially considering the NCAA and BET seeding ramifications this loss will most certainly have?

Wright also made what some may also consider to be a revealing statement: winning a national championship is not essential. Ever.

I don't need to win a national championship. Honestly, as long as these guys are graduating and I continue to get the enjoyment I do from the relationship with these guys, I would be fine . . .It wouldn't bother me one bit (emphasis added) [...] Our fans need a national championship. And I would love to do it for them. But for me, personally, I love where we are right now. I love what we're doing.

Gee, thanks, Jay.

Again, it's great that Wright cares more about the players graduating and running a clean program than winning at all costs. But why can't we have it both ways? It would be nice to have a coach who has a larger competitive drive. This is another reason I think Wright would be much better suited as a PR person than a head coach, but I digress.

Anyway, the full PDN article is definitely worth a read. I don't want to harp on only the negatives, as Wright said some good things in the interview. Those two quotes, however, struck me as being worthy of a bit more scrutiny.

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15 February 2009

'Nova fails road test at WVU

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/15/2009 02:56:00 PM
Villanova 72
West Virginia 93
(box score)

#13 Villanova: 20-5 (8-4 BE)
West Virginia: 17-8 (6-6 BE)

Villanova got knocked down to earth on Friday night with an absolute debacle of a performance against the hungry WVU Mountaineers.

The Wildcats got blown out of the building, and still lack any kind of quality road win. The loss will hurt Villanova's NCAA tournament seeding, as a top-three seed now seems out of reach. Only a four-seed would now, seemingly, give VIllanova a good chance at being slotted in one of the two Philadelphia pods by the selection committee as a location-preferred protected seed.

The loss also puts Villanova squarely on the outside, looking in at a double-bye at Madison Square Garden. The 'Cats can still get there with a little bit of luck, however.

Finally, the 'Cats will not enter the top-ten tomorrow, as many had hoped. On the other hand, West Virginia vastly improved its at-large chances with the win, which would help the Big East get 9 or 10 teams into the dance.

Villanova tried to mount furious comeback after furious comeback, but there was no Malcolm Grant on the bench to come ball out the Wildcats. Eventually they fell short and relented, leading to the blowout loss.

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

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

  • Corey Fisher (31 min)

    Well, at least Jay Wright seems to have gotten the memo that Fisher can play. Looks like he was the last one to read it. Fisher led the team in minutes, finally. Given the "extra" minutes, Fisher led the team in scoring, of course, but more important was that he seemed like the only Wildcat who remained aggressive and confident despite the scoreboard. Fisher took it to the rim, and maintained hustle on both ends of the court, creating havoc on defense and finishing fast breaks. He shot 6-10, but missed both his threes, to score 17. Fisher ran the point for 30 minutes in a 21-point loss, yet turned the ball over just once. Doesn't that tell you that maybe the reason for loss came from issues at other positions? If Fisher doesn't start at the point the rest of the season, barring injury, Jay Wright should go back to Hofstra. Fisher finished with 2 assists and 3 rebounds.
    Grade: A-

  • Shane Clark (S, 29 min)

    This is my major problem with Jay Wright as a basketball coach: he is utterly reactionary. Just because Clark played very well the past two games does not make him a superstar worthy of 30 minutes of floor time when he is stinking up the joint. Does Wright have any sort of player-evaulation system aside from "go with what worked last time" and "go with the seniors"? It looks like he doesn't. And with Clark, those two philosophies proved to be a double-dose of failure as Wright insisted on leaving Clark on the court for long, unending stretches of offensive ineptitude. Clark found a nice little niche the prior two games by hustling and putting back misses. That's all well and good, but in measured doses. Against WVU, Clark's hands were where offensive possessions went to die. The numbers don't even tell the full story. Clark shot 2-5 from the field and 2-4 from the line, which is bad but not atrocious. The real problem, though, was the disruption of flow and rhythm on the offensive end. Clark doesn't seem to understand spacing, or where to pass, or when to dribble, or when to ball fake, or anything like that. On top of that, he moves S-L-O-W-L-Y. And the worst part of all was on the other end of the court. Clark allowed so many open jumpers, I lost count of them. He was slow to rotate on the perimeter, and often let penetrators drive right by him and past him. I swear I even saw him step out of the way a few times. None of this is really Clark's fault. I wouldn't have a major complaint if Wright kept him in for a few short stretches, reserving the major minutes except for when it was really working out. It wasn't working against WVU.
    Grade: D-

  • Corey Stokes (29 min)

    Stokes tried to get it going, and even though he took 10 shots, I think he should be taking more. He shot 5-10, including a good 3-6 from the three, to score 15 points. He added 5 rebounds, but had 0 assists or steals, and committed 2 turnovers. What Stokes needs to work on is ballhandling and moving more quickly without the ball. The defense looked as well as it could have in a blowout.
    Grade: B

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 28 min)

    Reynolds just couldn't get his shot going. That's going to happen sometimes. He shot 3-11, including 1-5 from the three to score 12. If three or four of those misses had gone in, the Wildcats might have been in a different ball game. Reynolds did not handle the ball well against the Mountaineers. He passed for just 1 assist and turned the ball over 5 times. He had 0 steals, and fouled out with 5 personals. This might be the worst game Reynolds has played since arriving on the Main Line three years ago. Things will certainly get better for Reynolds, especially if Wright lets him play the rest of the season at the two guard.
    Grade: D+

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 25 min)

    Despite Jay Wright's ridiculous, embarrassing lobbying for Dante to be Big East player of the year over the likes of much-better players like Jerel McNeal and Hasheem Thabeet, Cunningham is definitely in a minor slump lately. His rebounding is down a little, and he doesn't seem to be battling as aggressively for positioning down low. Cunningham, of course, remains one of Villanova's most important and best players. He got into minor foul trouble early on Friday, and his absence definitely cost the Wildcats dearly. But why did he have to sit so long? I think Wright was too cautious. Villanova was getting blown away with Dante on the bench. Dante picked up his second foul with 14 minutes to play in the first half, and didn't see the court for the rest of the half? Are you kidding me? That would have been ridiculous if we were winning, and it's patently absurd when the 'Cats are being blown out. Sitting Cunningham for the last 14 minutes of the first half might have cost Villanova the game. Oh, and by the way, Cunningham finished with just three fouls thanks to Wright's abundance of gutless caution. Cunningham shot 3-6 for 7 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and turned the ball over 4 times.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 19 min)

    It was good to see Anderson able to play after his injury earlier this week. He did, however, look a step slow. He shot 2-5 for 5 points, but missed all 3 of his three-point attempts. He did grab 6 rebounds and 2 steals in limited action.
    Grade: B-

  • Reggie Redding (S, 19 min)

    Redding didn't have it Friday night, and probably shouldn't have played nearly 20 minutes. But the Wildcat bench is short, given the spate of recent transfers out of Villanova. Redding shot 1-3, had 4 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 assist, and 1 steal.
    Grade: C-

  • Antonio Pena (18 min)

    Pena was ineffective from the field (0-2) and perfect from the line (4-4). But ZERO rebounds in 18 minutes? Come on.
    Grade: D

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min).

  • Did not play: Russell Wooten (CD), Jason Colenda (CD), Maurice Sutton (RS).

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13 February 2009

Red-hot 'Nova an underdog at WVU

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/13/2009 12:19:00 PM

#13 Villanova (20-4) at West Virginia (16-8)
9:00 p.m., 13 February 2009 at the WVU Coliseum


Line: WVU -4.5

Villanova, a winner of six in a row, travels to Morgantown, W.V. tonight to face a desperate Mountaineers team. Despite the Wildcats' recent success, especially on the offensive end, West Virginia is favored by a field goal. [Update: now 4.5]

This is an important game for Villanova, who could move into a virtual tie for a double-bye in the Big East tournament, and solidify its place in the national top ten. Villanova also lacks a real, quality road win, which will be an important factor in NCAA seeding.

The game is even more crucial for a West Virginia team that finds itself on the brink of missing the NCAA tournament. Despite being ranked #7 in the nation by KenPom, the Mountaineers have lost four of their last six games to fall below .500 in conference play.

All four of those losses, however, were to ranked teams, and West Virginia remains a dangerous opponent. KenPom predicts a 5-point Mountaineer victory, with only a 30 percent chance for a Villanova win.

The ever-expanding Villanova Blagosphere is amped up for this game. IBBW has a preview, as does VBTN. VUhoops' article has been up for literally days in anticipation. Nova News also gives his thoughts on the game. The returning Villanova Viewpoint blogger has yet to check in, but check back.

Take you shot at predicting the game's final score in the comment thread below. The closest guess wins a mention in the next post. If you'd like to win something a bit more substantial, like a Villanova folder from last year's tournament run, enter Let's Go Nova's tournament contest.

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12 February 2009

Wright calls into WFAN

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/12/2009 09:10:00 PM
The drive-time host Mike Francesa interviewed Villanova coach Jay Wright today on WFAN, New York's leading sports talk radio station.

Jay came off very well in the 20-minute interview, and Francesa praised the team profusely.

Wright covered several topics, including the team's recent hot stretch, the grueling Big East season, the upcoming NCAA tournament, his desire to win the Big East tournament, and the Wildcats' team make-up as competitors.

Wright called his 2009-2010 recruiting class one of the best in the country, though he said he could only talk about three of them -- Yarou, Wayns, and Armwood.

Wright also said he believed Connecticut was the best team in the country, but the interview occurred before it was announced that the Huskies had lost Jerome Dyson to knee surgery.

Later in the interview, Francesa and Wright spent a lot of time talking about the NBA and the Philadelphia 76ers. Wright attended last night's Memphis-Philadelphia game to see Villanova alum Kyle Lowry.

Francesa predicted that Wright would definitely be an NBA coach in the future.

You can listen to the full interview online.

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Let's Go Nova tournament contest

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/12/2009 03:14:00 PM

With March madness just a few weeks away, it's time to start thinking about brackets and seeds.

Enter Let's Go Nova's 2009 college basketball championship prediction contest for your chance to win our grand prize, two pieces of Villanova basketball post-season memorabilia.

All you have to do is leave a comment in this post, and be the closest to predict the final four teams in the tournament, the national champion, and the national runner up.

Leave a comment to enter. Please use the following format in your comment:


Uconn over UCLA.

You must submit your guess before March 1, so you must also factor into your guess which teams will be in which brackets.

Want to pick Villanova to win it all -- go ahead. Keep in mind, though, that the BetUS sportsbook lists the Wildcats as a 35-1 underdog to cut down the nets.


  • GRAND PRIZE: (1) 2007-2008 Villanova basketball post-season folder and (1) ticket stub, Villanova vs. Monmouth, round one of the 2006 NCAA tournament, Philadelphia.


  1. No purchase necessary.

  2. All decisions by Let's Go Nova regarding the outcome of the game shall be final.

  3. The reader with the most total points as follows wins the grand prize:

    • Correct final 4 teams = 2 pts. each

    • Correct final 2 teams = 4 pts. each

    • Correct national champion = 8 pts.

  4. All ties broken by date and time submitted, earliest first. This means you cannot win if you submit the same entry as someone before you!

  5. All entries must be left as comments in this post, and received by 1 March 2009.

Let's Go Nova is obviously not affiliated with either the NCAA or Villanova University, and the pieces of memorabilia come from my personal collection.

Good luck, and Let's Go Nova.

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11 February 2009

Greek hoops god bestows his image unto humanity

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/11/2009 10:43:00 PM
In the beginning, there was only the legend of Apollo Fraser, an oral tradition of stories passed down through generations.

Grandfathers would recount tall tales of pump fakes in a conspiratorial whisper, while children sat in awed reverence, conjuring this mythical hero in their minds' eyes.

Now, there is a photograph.

The human form of Apollo "Jason" Fraser will take his pump-fake-themed act to Broadway on Friday when the Globetrotters play two games at Madison Square Garden in a morning-night doubleheader.

The fake basketball team will spend Valentine's Day in romantic Newark, N.J.

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Marquette grades and Anderson update

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/11/2009 07:55:00 PM
Marquette 84
Villanova 102
(box score)

#10 Marquette: 20-4 (9-2 BE)
#13 Villanova: 20-4 (8-3 BE)

Villanova exploded for another 100-point game as the Wildcats won their sixth straight game last night with a decisive victory over #10 Marquette.

With the win, Villanova puts itself in great position to earn a top-4 seed in the Big East tournament, and the crucial double-bye that goes along with it.

If the Wildcats can get past West Virginia on the road tomorrow night, they will crack the top 10 in the rankings and will be on the inside track to get a protected seed in the NCAA tournament, and possibly play in Philadelphia's first-round site at the Wachovia Center.

The big negative from last night's victory was senior starting forward Dwayne Anderson's knee injury early in the second half.

Today, Anderson underwent a knee examination, and the diagnosis is a hyperextension and bone bruise in his left knee.

"This is good news," said Rob Good, Villanova's team orthropedic surgeon. "It's hard to say exactly how long Dwayne will be out for. He will be day-to-day as we monitor the soreness."

In a statement released today, Villanova head coach Jay Wright seemed relieved that the injury was not more serious:

We're very fortunate that this is a bone bruise. It is a painful injury but one that will have no affect [sic] on the structure of Dwayne's knee. We'll see how he progresses over the next few days and then make a determination about his availability on Friday.

It looks like Anderson will probably miss tomorrow's game at West Virginia, and then be on track to play thereafter.

With the win over Marquette, Villanova moves to 20 victories on the season. Congratulations to reader "Geesus" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

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

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 35 min)

    Reynolds put in 27 points on very good 10-17 shooting, including 5-11 from the three. It was so refreshing to see Reynolds free to play the two guard, where he is by far most effective. The move to the two, with Fisher handling the point, also allowed Reynolds to play 35 minutes without getting tired, and with only one foul. I cannot emphasize enough how much more effective Villanova's offense is with both Fisher and Reynolds on the court at the same time, and I feel like Villanova's emphatic win over Marquette justified my position. Would Wright have stumbled into this plan without the injuries of Clark and Anderson that allowed Fisher to take over the point? We might never know. Let's just hope he sticks with it. Reynolds added 4 rebounds and 1 assist, and did not commit any turnovers. His only weak spot was a random 2-5 performance from the foul line, but that does not tarnish his excellent game.
    Grade: A

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 33 min)

    With all the fireworks in the back-court, Cunningham had a quiet 15 points on good 7-12 shooting. He cut his turnovers to 3 (from 7, last game), and added 1 block and 1 steal. Cunningham does not seem to be crashing the boards as much as he once did, as he had just 4 rebounds in 33 minutes. Making Cunningham the third option on the offense is devastatingly effective, as the perimeter threats free up the mid-range for Dante.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Fisher (32 min)

    Fisher was able to come into the game twice "before his time," due to injuries to Shane Clark and Dwayne Anderson. Fisher's 32 minutes at the point guard, quite simply, won the game for Villanova. Fisher's able and energetic handling of the ball freed Reynolds to do what he does best, which is score from the perimeter. Fisher scored 21 points on 6-10 shooting, including a scorching 4-5 from behind the arc. He was also 5-7 from the foul line. Fisher handled the ball well, dishing out 4 assists and committing only 3 turnovers against the best perimeter defensive team in the nation. Fisher has emerged as the team's most important player. He will probably start at West Virginia, with Anderson likely out, but if Jay Wright has any basketball sense at all, Fisher will start every game, barring injury, for the rest of his Villanova career.
    Grade: A

  • Reggie Redding (S, 27 min)

    Redding struggled greatly against the more talented and athletic Marquette perimeter. He was 0-4 from the field, including 0-3 from the three, and shot a bad 2-4 from the foul line. He led the team in turnovers, with 4. Two bright spots were his good rebounding, with 6, and passing, with 6 assists. The much-vaunted Redding defense was not all that effective, as Jerel McNeal lit up the scoreboard with 23 points. Redding will likely rebound with a better performance against less talented back-courts.
    Grade: C-

  • Shane Clark (S, 26 min)

    Clark played the game of his life against Marquette, following up the previous game of his life against Syracuse. Clark scored 16 points and was a perfect 6-6 from the field, including 3-3 from the three, though I have to mention one of those threes was on a ridiculously lucky bounce. He was 1-2 from the foul line. Clark grabbed 7 rebounds, leading the team, dished out 3 assists, and added 1 block. He turned the ball over just 1 time. Clark will have to keep this up with the probable loss of Anderson for at least one game.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Stokes (21 min)

    Stokes was hounded by the nation's best defender in Jerel McNeal for much of the night, but he still managed to play a decent game. He shot 2-5 from the field, but did not attempt a three-pointer. He rounded out his line with 4 rebounds, an excellent 5 assists, and 0 turnovers. Look for Stokes to get move involved against West Virginia.
    Grade: B

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 13 min)

    Anderson started out the game on fire, scoring several early buckets. He was 4-6 from the field, including 1-2 from the three, to score 10 points in just 13 minutes of play. He grabbed 3 rebounds and committed no turnovers before leaving the game with an injured knee. He will likely miss the WVU game and will be day-to-day after that.
    Grade: B

  • Antonio Pena (11 min)

    Pena turned in an efficient performance in his limited action. I want to see Pena get more minutes, and he probably will, considering Anderson's injury. Pena scored 5 points on 2-3 shooting. He grabbed 3 rebounds, blocked 1 shot, and passed for 1 assist.
    Grade: B

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min), Jason Colenda (1 min).

  • Did not play: Russell Wooten (CD), Maurice Sutton (RS).

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10 February 2009

'Nova wins big, Anderson hurt

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/10/2009 10:19:00 PM
[Click here for the full recap and player grades]

Villanova soundly beat an excellent Marquette team tonight, 102-84. The Wildcats were on fire on offense, especially in a scorching, 52-point second half.

Starting senior forward Dwayne Anderson left the game at the start of the second after sustaining what appeared to be a knee injury. There are rumors of a knee hyper-extension, but no official word yet. Will update the site with Dwayne Anderson details and the Marquette player grades for tomorrow.

Update: Reports are now saying it was a knee sprain. No word on severity.

Second Update: It was only a hyperextension. Good news.

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Marquette live blog

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/10/2009 07:00:00 PM

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Live blog for Marquette tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/10/2009 02:31:00 AM
#13 Villanova (19-4) vs. #10 Marquette (20-3)
7:30 p.m., 10 February 2009 at the Pavilion


Line: Villanova -4.5

Join Let's Go Nova for a live blog tonight at 7:30 p.m.

You know the drill. Bring your sarcastic nicknames, biting commentary, and a bowl of popcorn for one of the biggest live blogs of the season.

The Wildcats face #10 Marquette tonight in a rematch of a Villanova loss on New Year's Day. Villanova hasn't beaten the Golden Eagles since 2006, as Marquette guards Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, and Wesley Matthews have enjoyed three straight victories over the Wildcats.

Marquette comes into the Pavilion with 20 wins already on the year, and will be a very dangerous opponent despite the momentum of the Wildcats' five-game win streak. The Golden Eagles are also fresh off an upset loss in Tampa, so motivation should not be an issue.

Kenpom projects a 6-point Villanova win, giving the Wildcats a 71 percent of victory. You may predict the final score of the game in the comment thread below.

I Bleed Blue and White, VUHoops, VBTN, and Nova News all have previews for this major contest. Villanova Viewpoint has recently resumed updating, and it runs a preview article as well.

For Marquette, don't forget Cracked Sidewalks, one of the best college basketball blogs in the nation.

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09 February 2009

Villanova rolls over Syracuse

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/09/2009 01:54:00 AM
Syracuse 85
Villanova 102
(box score)

#20 Syracuse: 18-6 (6-5 BE)
#17 Villanova: 19-4 (7-3 BE)

Villanova extended its winning streak to five games on Saturday with a solid victory over the #20 Syracuse Orange. The Wildcats add another quality win to their resume, and can now aim for higher seeds in both the NCAA and Big East tournaments.

Villanova overcame foul trouble throughout the game with an offensive explosion. The Wildcats, led by Dante Cunningham and an emergent Corey Fisher, jetted to 53 first-half points on their way to a 102-point output. Unlike its last game against Providence, Villanova also avoided any late-game collapse, and outscored Syracuse in both periods.

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

Next up for the Wildcats is a home remtach against #8 Marquette, a team Villanova has struggled with greatly in recent years. The talented Golden Eagles will be an excellent test for the surging Wildcats.

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

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 35 min)

    Cunningham had a monster game, tying his career high with 31 points on excellent 12-15 shooting. He was 7-12 at the foul line, which could be improved a bit. He missed a double-double by 1 rebound, grabbing all 9 on the defensive end. He blocked 1 shot, grabbed 2 steals, and passed for 3 assists. The only thing preventing an "A" grade for Cunningham was his sloppy ball-handling: Cunningham committed a whopping 7 turnovers. While that figure is mitigated somewhat by the high number of possessions in the game, it's still way too many, especially for a power forward. Otherwise, an insanely good game by Cunningham.
    Grade: B+

  • Shane Clark (S, 27 min)

    Clark played one of his best games as a Wildcat on Saturday. He put in 14 points on good 6-9 shooting, but remained ineffective from the foul line (2-4) and the three (0-2). Historically, Clark shoots among the lowest three-point percentages on the team, and really shouldn't be taking those shots. Clark led the team in rebounds, with 10, including 7 offensive boards, his speciality. He dished out 3 assists, notched 2 blocks, and committed 1 turnover. I still don't agree that Clark should be starting, but Wright seems loyal to his seniors, and Clark played a solid game. Let's hope he can keep it up.
    Grade: B+

  • Corey Stokes (27 min)

    Stokes looked more aggressive on the offensive end, and reached the foul line 8 times, making 7. He scored 16 points overall, shooting 3-9 from the field. Aside from attempts nullified by fouls, Stokes only tried one two-point shot, and all his points came from behind the line or the arc. He had a great rebounding game, grabbing 8. He notched 3 assists and 3 turnovers.
    Grade: B+

  • Reggie Redding (S, 26 min)

    The most important thing about Redding's performance Saturday is that he got over his turnover woes from the last game. Redding scored 8 points on good 3-5 shooting, including a wild, step-back NBA three that came out of nowhere. He rounded out his line with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 turnover.
    Grade: B-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 26 min)

    Reynolds struggled with foul trouble but still managed to score 10 points, albeit on 3-11 shooting. He finished with 3 assists and 1 steal, and handled the ball well, committing just 1 turnover.
    Grade: B-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 26 min)

    Anderson also was plagued by early fouls. One positive from recent games is that Anderson is taking more initiative to score. On Saturday, Anderson scored 7 on 3-6 shooting, with nearly all good shot attempts. He had a well-rounded line with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, and 2 turnovers.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Fisher (23 min)

    Fisher played an electrifying game, with excellent pressure defense and perfect ballhandling. Fisher makes his teammates better and gives the offense a dynamic flow. The fact that Wright still won't start Fisher and play him more minutes remains a baffling and frustrating mystery to me. Fisher scored 14 points on 5-9 shooting, but missed all 3 three-point attempts. He grabbed 4 rebounds, not bad for a 6-foot point guard in half a game. He dished out a team-high 6 assists, many of which were dazzling plays that would have been inaccessible to any other Wildcat. He co-led the team with 3 steals, leading to valuable fast breaks. Most important, however, was that in 23 minutes of handling the point, Fisher turned it over zero times. Not once. Get Fisher more minutes -- he should be leading the team in minutes. Get Fisher in the starting lineup -- it would set the tone for the offense the entire game. And most of all, get Fisher in there with Reynolds more often -- it would free Reynolds to play the 2, and give the 'Cats excellent ballhandling and scoring threats on the perimeter. This will be especially important against Marquette and its three all-conference guards.
    Grade: A

  • Antonio Pena (9 min)

    Pena was very quiet, but I still think he deserves more than a paltry 9 minutes. He did, however, get in foul trouble early, which explains most of it. He scored 2 points, had 3 rebounds, and committed 1 turnover in his limited action.
    Grade: C-

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min), Jason Colenda (0+ min), Russell Wooten (0+ min).

  • Did not play: Maurice Sutton (RS).

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07 February 2009

Villanova faces 'Cuse in ranked showdown

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/07/2009 01:43:00 AM
#17 Villanova (18-4) vs. #20 Syracuse (18-5)
12 p.m., 7 February 2009 at the Wachovia Center


Line: Villanova -5.5

The Wildcats play one of their bigger games of the year today at a noon showdown with the #20 Syracuse Orange. Aside from being another test against a tough ranked team, the game has huge Big East Tournament seeding and bye implications.

Kempom predicts a 7-point Villanova victory, and places the Wildcats' chances for a win at 76 percent.

Check out the other four Villanova blogs linked at right for their previews.

You may try to predict the game's final score in the comments below.

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04 February 2009

Providence live blog

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/04/2009 07:52:00 PM

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Providence live blog tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/04/2009 04:54:00 PM
Join Let's Go Nova for a hastily planned live blog tonight for the Providence game.

The live blog will begin at 8 p.m.

The game will be televised on MSG+ (NY) and WPHL (Phila.). The line is Villanova -1.5.

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02 February 2009

Villanova rises in polls after Cincy win

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/02/2009 07:13:00 PM
Villanova used a furious second-half effort to soundly defeat Cincinnati on Sunday, and the Wildcats were rewarded with a boost in the national top-25 polls.

The new ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll rates Villanova at #16, and the updated AP poll ranks the 'Cats at #17.

Next up for Villanova is a road game with a hot Providence team on Wednesday.

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