(Editor’s Note: ‘Nova did indeed lose in the quarterfinals to Marquette, 80-76. I’ll be quite surprised if they’re seeded higher than 4th in the NCAA’s.)
I’m not superstitious by nature, but I do observe certain traditions, like wearing certain clothing for certain occasions. The best example of this is my blue Cardinal hat, which I wore to 8 Cardinal games in 2009 and watched the Cardinals win all 8 (that hat only comes out when the Cardinals are in dire need of a win; the last time was Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS). So I knew I was tempting the Sports Gods to mete out punishment, wailing and woe when I put up this post on the Villanova Basketball team.
Sure enough, they saw the post and took action.
- Before my post: Villanova 18-1 (7-0 Big East)
- Since my post: Villanova 6-5 (6-5 Big East)
Villanova has fallen from #1 in the Big East, #2 in the Nation and probable #1 seed in the Tournament, to #4 in the Big East, #10 in the Nation, and probably a 3 or 4 seed depending on how they fare in this week’s Big East Tournament.
I hadn’t watched many of their games during their hot streak, but I have watched some since putting up the post – part of the game at Connecticut, most of the Syracuse debacle, the second half abortion against West Virginia. If they had any mojo, even as late as the last week of January, they’ve certainly lost it now. The Wildcats, to this untrained eye, have devolved into a team that has no inside presence and can’t defend the low post. They routinely get out-rebounded by their opponent. That may not be much of a problem if you’re bombing away with success from deep, but it seems they can’t hit the long jump shot anymore either. Watching Syracuse and West Virginia defend the perimeter was instructive. Reynolds gets his points, but the opposition shadows him all over the court. The rest of the shooters get a blanket of defenders, and there’s no need to sag on the center in Villanova’s offense because of their lack of low-post presence.
All that said, they are still a good team. But the ceiling has been lowered rather dramatically. Villanova will get Marquette, whom they’ve already beaten twice. Insert ‘it’s hard to beat a team three times’ urban legend comment here. Should they win that game they get a rematch with Syracuse. I’m quite sure they’ll be emotionally ready to play that game, so long as they don’t look past today’s contest in anticipation of getting to the Orange(men).
I don’t expect the Wildcats will win the Big East Tournament in 2010. I can’t confidently say they’ll survive today. They were definitely Final Four favorites, both going into the season and as late as 5 weeks ago, but based on what’s transpired since I’d be pleasantly surprised to see them get out of the Sweet Sixteen round in the NCAA’s.
One more comment on the program. Yesterday the press reported Taylor King was held out of the West Virginia game by head coach Jay Wright because of a ‘undisclosed personal issue’. Wright stated he’s got a ‘teaching point’ he’s trying to stress with King. To me, this is exactly what a head coach, a mentor, should be doing with his charges. Having Taylor King in the lineup for last Sunday’s game probably would have helped the rebounding differential, and might have tipped the scales to a Villanova regular season win vice Mountaineer victory in overtime. However, it is just a basketball game. If Wright is trying to teach King something he can carry with him into adulthood, which it seems he is, then it was absolutely worth the game loss to reach the kid.
Although all us sports-a-holics hope the point’s been made and won’t affect their performance in the Tournament(s).