So who are these Villanova Wildcats that we will be tangling with on Saturday? I figured we needed a viewpoint. But not just any viewpoint, a Villanova viewpoint. And so I asked Villanova Viewpoint to help us out with some information or, a viewpoint, on Villanova. Answers below. Be sure to swing by their site for my answers to their questions as well.
With its first official losing streak of the season heading into this epic showdown, are Villanova fans pressing the panic button?
No, although we certainly, at minimum, should have beaten UConn. I think that what the team has done this season, already, really surpassed expectations. This was the first time that the Wildcats had lost two in a row, since 2008, incredibly enough...
Had last night's game with South Florida been a loss, or a shaky win, there might be more unrest. But for the most part, people seem to be at peace with the fact that this is the Big East, after all. And you know at some point, you're going to start picking up Big East losses. There was also an acknowledgment that the first half of the conference schedule had been relatively easy. Now we're on the back nine, and it's more challenging.
It seems strange but I feel like Villanova has "quietly" put together a great season. Syracuse got a lot of press because of their jump from outside the Top 25 but until recently they were never really able to pass Nova. Do you feel like the Wildcats have been overshadowed or taken for granted nationally?
From my own perspective, I think that we've been treated very fairly. One reason is the particularly compelling way, in which we reached the Final Four last season. It garnered the program more attention than it would have gotten otherwise. To use this scenario - if we had won the game against Pitt by 10 points - but without a dramatic ending - it would have been certainly been noted, but the clip gave us the chance to enter NCAA tournament lore.
Certainly, any program needs television exposure to prosper, but we've had plenty of national broadcasts, and exposure on CBS and the various ESPN outlets.
Is this team not as good, as good or even better than last year's Final Four squad?
I think that this team is better than last year's, certainly on paper, and to the extent we can measure it in reality. Last year's team really overachieved. The #3 seed that we got in the tournament was considerably higher, than what would have been predicted at the beginning of the season. The fact that the team reached the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years was a very impressive milestone. (We also had the good fortune that there was a subregional in Philadelphia, from which we could benefit, by garnering a high enough seed to be placed there.)
To use one example - Pena is one of the most improved players in the conference, and although he's not as polished as Cunningham was, his presence in the paint has been a major factor in the team's success this season. Fisher has also emerged as an offensive force in his own right.
This year, Wright can go 11 deep (he doesn't always, but he can, if he needs to). Last year's team didn't have the depth that this one has. We added a blue-chip recruiting class, fortifying our second team, and it's given him some freedom to press and trap more. (Ironically, it's been noted that we're probably going too far in the other direction, committing more fouls than we should be, and getting our key players in foul trouble. This was noticeable over the past two losses.)
And last year, we weren't in the Top 10 all year, let alone the Top 5.
That having been said, I recognize that some observers view the verdict of the NCAA tournament, as the only barometer of whether it's been a successful season. If this year's team doesn't get back to the Final Four, it probably won't be viewed as being as good as the 2009 one (even though, over the course of the long regular season, I believe it has been.)
Scottie F**king Reynolds. Can he graduate already? He's gone after this year, right? Where do you rank Scottie on the All-Time Wildcats List?
I like that- it's funny. Some of the other SB Nation bloggers that I've done exchanges with, have voiced similar sentiments (independently of each other) and I conclude that this feeling is universal throughout the Big East. I can understand why.
Reynolds had the good fortune to arrive here, the year that we lost Allan Ray, Randy Foye, and Kyle Lowry - three guards. Accordingly, he's always played a lot, and he's that increasingly rare star player who's in college for four years (which is why that it seems like he's been here forever.)
Immediately after The Shot vanquished Pitt in the Elite Eight, I had written a piece titled, A Shot To Be Remembered Forever: Reynolds Takes His Place Among Villanova Legends..., in which I offer my opinion on that question in some detail.
Had Reynolds left for the NBA, he already would have ranked among the best Wildcats ever, even with just three years, due to his remarkable accomplishments and his role in getting the team back to the Final Four for the first time in 24 years. Fortunately for us, the NBA wasn't sufficiently impressed with him to be interested in drafting him after his junior year, and so we've had him for another year.
With nearly an additional year added to his career, he's only added luster to his record. He has an outside chance of becoming the school's all-time leading scorer, supplanting Kerry Kittles. I would certainly place him in the Top 10, and probably in the Top 5, of the best players that the school has ever produced.
I have this theory that I haven't shared with anyone yet. It's the theory that the Big East is going to dominate the NCAA Tournament this year. To the point where we're getting at least three teams in the Final Four. Think I'm on to something?
I think it would be great. That having been said, the odds that three schools from a single conference will make it, are pretty long (I believe that the only time that the Big East has ever done it, was back in 1985, when it was Villanova, Georgetown and St. John's.)
I was happy last year, with the way that the brackets were constructed, that although both UConn and Villanova reached the Final Four, we didn't have to play them in the Final Four. (Although this wasn't planned in advance, obviously, I thought that the competition was much more interesting when we had to face UNC and UConn had to play Michigan State, rather than us having to play each other again.)