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26 February 2009

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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At 2:39 AM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

The losses by Clemson and Marquette are really good news for us. Philadelphia is looking more and more likely if we can just keep winning.

Playing the first two games at the Wachovia Center will be such a tremendous advantage.

At 3:54 AM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Quick URL for the tiebreak info in this post:


At 6:59 AM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummm, DePaul shot less than 39% from the field, and less than 28% from 3. The problem were turnovers and more importantly, grabbing offensive boards and defending the 3 point line.

I have to think that Jay tried to go bigger to get these things under control, hence why we saw a bit more Antonio, and why Anderson/Redding/Clark were called on more so than Fisher and Stokes.

Also, I believe in the time that Fisher was on the bench, we went on to eliminate the 1st half deficit and tie the game. This is Jay Wright's fault? Yes, then Fisher came in and helped extend that run, but let's calm down. Villanova got off to a poor start, but they come out ready to play in the second half, and defended fantastic until about 7 minutes left and Will Walker started draining 3s.

Get over yourself. Jay Wright is not perfect, but I saw exactly what he was going for. We needed the size to defend the perimeter and grab rebounds. Unfortunately Clark/Anderson were not as effective as they have been lately, but Redding was sensational.

At 7:04 AM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That said, I do agree Fisher should have played more minutes. Haha.

At 7:19 AM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete...try actually going to a game sometime. There is one ball and five players at any one time. Our coach has a boat load of wins (in case you didn't know that already) so I'm going to rely on him to make the subs (note: I've Fisher off the bench). I'm afraid to say you know little about basketball.

At 7:50 AM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry but I don't like your criticism of Jay Wright. I think there are many times when the Corey's make defensive mistakes and that is why Jay takes them out of the game.

Also I noticed someone used your criticism on a blog here in New Jersey that is read by HS basketball fans. Need I say anymore.
Login77 frantara@optonline.net

At 8:50 AM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that Pete doesn't even watch the games.

At 9:33 AM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He doesn't EatPete. He is just a hater.

At 9:41 AM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Shelton said...

I can't comment much on the game itself (DVRd it and will watch tonight), but I reckon travelling to Syracuse on Sunday, to go back to campus, to travel to Chicago for a game on Wednesday takes something out of a team.

At 10:12 AM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that Wright or the team lack an ability to make in-game adjustments; the team played considerably better in the second half than it did in the first half.

At 12:02 PM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete's mission is to undermine Villanova basketball

At 12:50 PM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Pete on this one. I think the world of Jay - but someties his coaching makes me nuts...AND I WILL acknowledge he and the team are 23-5! OK? Nonetheless, When we were up plus 10 in 2nd half - it should have gone to 20+. Dwayne and Shane (unlike Pete, I love these guys) were way OFF on offense - it was pretty clear. DePaul went on a 12-2 something run - and Nova had no offense (or defense). Corey Stokes an Fish were ON! AND ON THE BENCH - and Nova nosedived. You can try to explain away the karma with wanting "defensive size" etc.... but it wasn't there. The right basketball karma (and that is what Pete is talking about) in the Rutgers and DePaul games was with the two Corey's. It has been with Dwyane/Shane in other games. Having that coaching sense (dare I say it?)- like unleashing Malcolm Grant - of going with/staying with a group with a positive flow seems to be lacking this year. We then squeak by, in Jay's words, and win by the margin of talent.

That is not a good thing.

I guess I'm willing to risk a heart attack because I really like Jay and his Nova program.

At 1:29 PM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Tiebreaker info updated with a correction thanks to a tip from a reader, Brian, by e-mail.

At 1:30 PM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just dont think they cared about this game and penciled in the win before it started. The Georgetown game is much more important, and they were probably looking forward to that instead. If you actually think that they would not be prepared for an NCAA tourney game you are insane.

At 2:57 PM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...


'Pete... You wrote "If Villanova goes 3-0, a double bye is guaranteed for the Wildcats." I thought BET tiebreaker (if just Mquette and Nova have same number of losses and assuming UConn, Pitt and Lville all have fewer losses) was head to head (we split with them) then vs top teams (we both lost to Uconn). Let's assume we win out and have 4 losses. If Marquette were win @ LVille next week, then lose @ Pitt and finish with win at Cuse, they'd have 4 losses, but wouldn't they win tiebreaker vs Nova by nature of head to head vs LVille? I hope you are right. Can you let me know if I'm missing something?
PS: I think there's a strong chance that Mquette loses out the season, so hopefully it doesn't matter.'

At 3:41 PM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

quote from Jeff Goodman at foxsports.

"Jay Wright, Villanova – The guy may not have an NBA player on his entire roster and the Wildcats are 22-5 and 10-4 in Big East play. If ‘Nova can keep this up, Wright has the slight edge for National Coach of the Year."

clearly somebody else can actually appreciate jay wrights coaching job with the talent he has been given

At 4:16 PM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Oh yes, because we know how accurate most major-media sports analysts are. They are clueless most of the time.

On the surface, it looks like Wright is doing a good job just based on Nova's record. My criticisms apply a little deeper than that. I have ALREADY CONCEDED that Villanova is doing very well this year. My concerns are with the way some of the games have been played. I think criticism is valid despite the team;s record.

At 4:33 PM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Help from "Nova Nut":

"in the scenario [...] in which Pitt beats Marquette, I do believe that if Pitt were to lose one game either at Seton Hall or vs. UConn, and there were a three-way tie in that scenario, we would be the No. 3 seed by virtue of our 2-1 record vs. Pitt and Marquette, while Pitt would be 1-1 and Marquette would be 1-2.

In a scenario in which Marquette beats Louisville and Pitt but loses to Syracuse AND Pitt beats Seton Hall and UConn AND 'Nova, Pitt and Marquette end up in a three-way tie with 4 losses, Marquette and 'Nova would be 2-1 in the mini-conference, while Pitt would be 0-2. Marquette would get the No. 3 seed by virtue of its win over Louisville, we would be the No. 4 seed because of a better mini-conference record than Pitt, and Pitt would be the No. 5 seed."

At 6:13 PM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...


As mentioned in our thread on vusports.com, first, I just can't imagine Marquette winning at Louisville. Then again, crazier things have happened.

So, assuming a scenario in which ...

1. Nova goes 3-0
2. Marquette beats Louisville, loses to Pitt, and beats Syracuse
3. Louisville loses to Marquette, but beats SHU and West Va.
4. Pitt beats Marquette, SHU, and UConn

In that case, you have to factor UConn into the equation, and, assuming UConn beats Notre Dame at home on Sunday, there would be a three-way tie for first between Pitt, UConn and Louisville AND Pitt would get the top seed based on a 2-1 mini-conference record, over UConn's 1-2 and Louisville's 1-1 mini-conference record.

And, thus, we would get the No. 4 seed over Marquette by virtue of our win over Pitt.

If the aforementioned scenario happens AND UConn loses on Sunday to Notre Dame, then Louisville would get the top seed, Pitt would get the second seed, and there would be a three-way tie for third among 'Nova, UConn and Marquette.

In that case, UConn would get the No. 3 seed by virtue of its 2-0 mini-conference record, over 'Nova's 1-2 and Marquette's 1-2. Marquette would get the No. 4 seed based on its win over Louisville.

Thus, the ONLY insanely far-fetched way in which I can see it possible that we could lose the double-bye with a 3-0 finish is ...

1. 'Nova goes 3-0
2. Marquette beats Louisville, loses to Pitt, and beats Syracuse
3. Louisville loses to Marquette, but beats SHU and West Va.
4. Pitt beats Marquette, SHU, and UConn
5. UConn loses to Notre Dame and Pitt

And that is why, for simplification purposes, because the odds that all of the above happen - with Notre Dame winning at UConn AND Marquette winning at Louisville seeming almost an impossible combination - are close to zero, I would call us essentially a "lock" for a double-bye if we go 3-0.

At 6:32 PM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Very nice work, Nova Nut. I had a feeling the Uconn-ND game would come into play in that scenario, but didn't work it out all the way.

So in order for Villanova to win 3-0 and lose the double-bye, eight other games would all have to go against the 'Cats. Assuming 50-50 each game, 255 to 1 against happening. So all Villanova has to do is keep on winning.

Who knew these tiebreakers could be so complicated... awesome work to figure this all out.

At 6:42 PM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason, I've always liked figuring this kind of stuff out, whether it's in the NFL or conference tourneys in college hoops.

But I especially love it when it involves 'Nova.

Keep it up with the site, and Let's Go, 'Nova!!!

At 6:48 PM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Thanks jamie -- and feel free to come on here and give any show you're working on a plug, anytime. They are awesome.

At 8:39 PM, February 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete: FoxSports presently sees Jay Wright as their leading candidate for coach of the year. You really must contact them and let them know what they are missing. Or could it be that you have no idea what you are talking about?


People have been telling me that I’m plugging too many guys for Coach of the Year. Well, here are my top 12 (I still reserve the right to make alterations with postseason around the corner).

1) Jay Wright, Villanova – The guy may not have an NBA player on his entire roster and the Wildcats are 22-5 and 10-4 in Big East play. If ‘Nova can keep this up, Wright has the slight edge for National Coach of the Year.

At 8:45 PM, February 26, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Try reading comment 16.

At 12:22 AM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete...do you have friends? Before you answer that, I don't believe you. Nobody could possibly enjoy hanging out with you.

The way you wrote about witnessing the demise of Villanova basketball is funny if intended to be funny, and absolutely outrageous if we are supposed to take you seriously. Sadly, I believe you want to be taken seriously.

At 2:08 AM, February 27, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Wait, so if I say no, you won't believe me, meaning I DO have friends?

In that case, not only do I not have friends, I am also definitely not dating Evangeline Lilly.


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