For the big season finale against Villanova tonight, I exchanged some questions with Chris from the Villanova blog “I Bleed Blue and White”.
Friarblog.com: People are saying that this season has been the best job Jay Wright has done coaching. What is he doing differently than last year?
IBBW: One of the biggest differences is his personnel. While it is literally the same core group of players, everyone is a year older and wiser. The freshman (Fisher and Stokes) aren’t making the same mental errors and have really grasped the team concept that Wright preaches. They play defense first and you can tell by thier body language that even if they don’t have a huge offensive night they are really happy with themselves when they play defense (the ND game was a great example of this). Moreover, there were no seniors on last year’s team. Now the 4 juniors from last year are seniors and that means a lot to a team. Cunningham, Anderson and Clark have really turned it on for their senior seasons.
Lately Jay Wright has been getting a lot of talk for Big East (and even National) Coach of the Year. While you won’t hear a word from me if he wins it, let me tell you why he shouldn’t (I’m going to get killed for this). The coaches picked ‘Nova to finish 5th this year. That’s where they currently reside, although they now control their destiny for the 4th spot. So Villanova in terms of the Big East is right on track to where they were projected.
On the national scale however, nobody thought Villanova would be this good, so I can understand some of the talk coming from there. In the end though, who else in the Big East deserves it? Buzz Williams was a sure thing but now Marquette is tanking down the stretch. Your boy Keno could get a look as well but Providence has been very up and down. And Jim Calhoun’s team was expected to be this good. So yes, in the end Jay Wright could be the guy, but I would feel like it would be because there isn’t another viable candidate, even though he has coached Villanova very well this year. Wow, that was a long answer. I’m sorry. Still on a LOST high right now.
Friarblog.com: Only West Virginia has scored more points (93) than the what the Friars put up against Villanova in their first meeting. Are you worried about the Friars offense, or do you think it was a fluke due to hot three-point shooting?
IBBW: Well the West Virginia game was more the exception. Da’Sean Butler will remember that night for the rest of his life, and a lot of loose balls were turning into easy Mountaineer buckets. Just one of those nights where you catch the wrong team at the wrong time.
Providence on the other hand is an explosive team, which we all know. “Defense” is a foreign concept to Keno and the boys, and they rely on playing games in the 80s if they want to win. I think I remember hearing a Keno quote that went something like “I don’t care if they score 90 as long as we score 91.”
So yes, I’m worried about the Friars offense. They can really shoot it, and stopping the long range shot has not been our specialty for whatever reason. Reggie Redding shut down Kyle McAlarney, but Sharaud Curry is too quick for him, so the job is up to Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher.
Friarblog.com: In Villanova’s last two losses (WVU and Georgetown), Scottie Reynolds had very poor shooting performances. What do you think are some other areas of the game that could lead to a Providence upset?
IBBW: When Scottie has nights like he had against Seton Hall (40 points), Providence (31 points) and Notre Dame (23 points on lethal shooting), Villanova is going to be very tough to beat. I thought the last time out the Friars did a reasonable job of controlling Dante Cunningham to 12 points. When he gets going inside, it only makes it easier for our plethora of guards to get going, so I think containing Cunningham will be another big priority for Providence.
Villanova hasn’t really developed that 3rd option yet. If it’s anybody, it is Corey Fisher, but his offense has been down the last few games. If Providence shoots well and can contain Reynolds and Cunningham, I’m worried. But the main thing is that they shoot well, because if they don’t this one won’t be close. Think the 1st half of our last game.
Friarblog.com: I hate Dwayne Anderson. OK, more of a statement, than an actual question. Discuss.
IBBW: You should hate him. What he did to you was mean more than anything. The only other game I can think of where he had that type of performance was the game at Syracuse. When Anderson has days like that, it usually spells good things for Villanova.
I know how you Providence guys get though. I’ve been to your chats and I’ve seen the stories. If I see Grey Man run out onto the court tomorrow at Anderson I won’t be surprised. I know it’s you Dave. And your spandex is too tight.
Good thing we have Blue Man! He’s better anyways, and won’t be afraid to throw down.
Friarblog.com: A lot has been made over the fact that the Villanova students are on Spring Break. I personally feel it’s not going to make any difference. How do you think the crowd will be on Thursday?
IBBW: If you were at the Villanova-Georgetown game on Saturday, you’d think otherwise. I don’t want to trash the alums, because they are great. But when you take out nearly 1300 students sitting behind the basket and replace them with mostly alumni, you have lost significant homecourt advantage. The Wachovia Center was weirdly quiet last Saturday. The students that were there were loud, but definitely could not make up for the lost portion.
On his radio show last night, Jay Wright even made mention that the alums need to get up for this game. The Pavilion thrives on the students. We’ll see if the alumni are up to the challenge.
Friarblog.com: Final thoughts and Predictions.
IBBW: With the Marquette loss tonight both teams are now officially playing for something. A ‘Nova win locks them into the double-bye, while a Friar victory basically ensures them a bid to the dance. Last home game at The Pavilion for the seniors, even if it’s not senior night. How can I pick against that?
Villanova uses defense and a spirited effort from the seniors to lock up that double-bye. 82-73 ‘Nova.