Villanova Looks to Overcome Their Late Season Struggles

March 16, 2010 – 10:30 am by timgunter

Villanova is one of a few sleeper teams that nobody is talking about.  Well I guess losing five out of their last seven games will have people jumping off of the bandwagon but I am on it.  Villanova is one of the more experienced teams with two seniors and two juniors in their starting lineup and they have one of the best backcourts in the nation.  Senior guard, Scottie Reynolds is their best player and you may remember him from scoring the winning basket in last season’s East Regional championship against Pitt.  Corey Fisher plays great alongside Reynolds and could be a star on just about any other team in the country.  Reggie Redding is a versatile, solid defender who can shut down an opposing team’s best player.  Coach Jay Wright’s use of a three-guard lineup can create match-up problems as he mixes and matches them throughout the game.  Reynolds’ moxie and Villanova’s Final Four experience should give the Wildcats the edge in just about any close game.  This team is definitely capable of a Final Four run, but their late-season struggles could come back to haunt them.

Jay Wright joined WIP in Philadelphia with Howard Eskin to talk about whether the reputation of Villanova helped them out in their seeding, whether he has looked forward to any other team besides Robert Morris, and how he gets his team to not take this first game against Robert Morris for granted.

Whether the reputation of Villanova helped them out in their seeding:

“I guess so Howard.  I think probably there were a lot more teams that were three or four seeds, Temple being one of them.  They are one team that would probably be a category of three or four and there weren’t really a lot of worthy two seeds.  I think of the final choices for two seed they probably picked us.  Given our body of work, we are probably not on the level of the other two seeds, but they had to put another two seed in there.  I think that is what the tournament is like this year.”

Whether he has looked forward to any other team besides Robert Morris:

“No.  Not me.  What you normally do is one assistant is assigned to each team.  You kind of look at it like it is a four team tournament, a two-day tournament that you are going to.  The head coach and the players and one assistant concentrates completely on Robert Morris and then you have two assistants that are working on Robert Morris, but at the same time they are preparing just in case you win and you play one of the other two teams but they are the only two guys that even look at the other two teams.”

Whether his assistants look past the first two games to prepare for another possible opponent:

“We really try to keep our focus on just this weekend and we purposely don’t go past there at all.  We give our guys a bracket Sunday night – a bracket with Villanova, Robert Morris in bold and then the other two teams as if we were just going to one of those four-team tournaments that we used to all go to.  Then we show them, that is it.  That is all we are living for right now.  Also, through experience, if you ever went ahead and you look at other teams, some of those teams get upset and then you end up wasting your time anyway.”

What was challenging his team in the last seven games of the regular season only winning two of them:

“One thing that was challenging is that we played really good teams.  The second thing was that our depth and just that part of the season hadn’t gotten to the point where we were efficient regardless of the combination that we had out on the floor.  That was our goal in playing eleven guys.  We thought by this point in the season knowing that were going to be playing great teams, if we had everybody clicking no matter what the combinations we had out on the floor is that we could be a great team.  But we just didn’t get there yet.  There is all kinds of reasons, but that doesn’t matter.  We are still working on that.  We are going into the NCAA Tournament and we are going to face Robert Morris and we are still looking at that, but now we have to make some decisions no based on what guys did just based on kind of a gut feel because so many of our young guys have had good games or good weeks and they have had bad games, bad weeks.  No one has really separated themselves so we are just going to have to do it.  We are going to have to make it on those decisions on a gut-feel going into the NCAA Tournament.”

On what his team can take away from last year’s first round scare:

“Well you brought up the perfect teaching point, that game last year…  I think you and I have talked about this this morning.  That game last year was so pressure-packed when you started the game, we were at the Wachovia Center at home playing a Patriot League team, now they did have seven seniors on the team.  They were very, very experienced team.  Very skilled and everything was nice.  You get into the second half and you are home in the NCAA Tournament and you are down fourteen.  Then the tables turned and now you are really under pressure because if you are down fourteen to West Virginia, OK maybe, but you are down fourteen to American you know there is a lot of pressure and the crowd actually turns in the NCAA Tournament, even if you are at home, because everybody loves the underdog.  We have gone through that and this group, guys on this team that went through that and if you look at our tournament last year and the next game was UCLA.  We took a lead early and kept it the entire game.  The next game was Duke and we kept a lead early and then we kept the lead the entire game.  The Pitt game, it was two points either way.  That was our most difficult game being down fourteen in the second half.  Even Carolina, we got down by like fifteen.  That was the scariest game.”

On why he would like to expand the NCAA Tournament: 

“There’s a lot of reasons that I’d like to expand it.  There’s so many decisions made in college basketball based on the pressure to get to the NCAA Tournament.  Only one of them is coaches being fired.  There’s other decisions. For instance, early in the season, we have to be careful because we play or four or five big games, then we go to a tournament where it’s usually an ESPN type tournament where we play great teams.  We get offers to go play Stanford, Kansas and Duke, but we don’t take some of those offers because our league is so tough and if you get beat in some of those games you don’t get into the NCAA Tournament.  Nowadays if you don’t get in the NCAA Tournament, you had a terrible season.  I think you might see a lot more big time intersectional games.  Also, I think coaches take players a lot of times now because they know they have two or three years to the NCAA Tournament and if they don’t get there, they’re gonna get fired.  The last part of it, it’s a great tournament.  So one more round, you’re gonna have great games so why not enjoy it.  Enjoy the hell out of it.  It brings the whole country together and you’re including more people.  This year’s regular season game between us and Syracuse had the largest crowd ever to see a game and both teams were already going to the NCAA Tournament.  There’s so many rivalries in college basketball that people don’t care.”

Howard Eskin talks with Villanova Coach Jay Wright

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