8th seeded DePaul Blue Demons vs. 9th seeded Villanova Wildcats – Wednesday, March 7, 2006 – 11:00 a.m. CST – Big East Tournament - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
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After being shut out of the Big East Tournament in their inaugural season in the Big East, DePaul will find redemption this week as their game vs. #9 seeded Villanova kicks off the Big East Tournament on Wednesday in first round action at the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.
The game looms large for DePaul's chances of being part of the NCAA Tournament, as they view this tournament as a chance to make a statement nationally.
This game will be the second time DePaul clashes with the Wildcats this year. Earlier in the year in DePaul's second Big East game, DePaul went into Philadelphia and came away with an inspiring 73-65 victory.
To many national pundits, Villanova, under the guidance of Head coach Jay Wright, is a lock for the NCAA tournament, and they believe Villanova may be playing for seeding. That may be so, as Villanova finished very strong winning three in a row and winning seven out of their last 9 games to get to 21-9 overall and 9-7 in conference.
The Wildcats will no doubt be looking for revenge from that game in January that seems so long ago now. "There's always that revenge game and they've got more to prove," said Blue Demons coach Jerry Wainwright. "It seems like it was two years ago. I'm sure it feels that way for them too. The advantage for us in this game is that they're a team that everybody says is in the tournament already. If so, what better opportunity than to have to beat somebody who everybody knows has had a great year, great RPI, and some terrific wins. Both these teams have changed dramatically from that point in time. Certainly their freshman (Scottie Reynolds) is playing a lot better. He hadn't started that game. They're a really good team."
Senior guard Sammy Mejia agreed. "That was a long time ago, they're a different team now, as well as we are. We know they're going to come out with something to prove. Hopefully we can give it maximum intensity and do what it takes to get a win."
DePaul, (18-12, 9-7) by virtue of their head-to-head win vs. Villanova got the eight seed in the muddled Big East standings. The winner will get the chance to upend regular season champions and #1 seed Georgetown. NCAA inclusion or not, Villanova will not roll over as they are as good as any ninth seeded team in any conference tournament.
The Blue Demons fared well against Nova in Philadelphia and prefer to play teams that go uptempo. "They're still going to pressure you with their trap and try to get you to turn the ball over," Mejia said. "They want to play an up and down fast-paced game. We can use that to our advantage. At the same time, if we're not playing the way we should be, it can hurt us. We need to be prepared, to take shots ten seconds into the shot clock as opposed to running offense. With the type of defense they play, they're going to give up some open shots early in the shot clock and we need to step up and take them."
Villanova is paced by a trio of players that bagged all conference accolades this week. Curtis Sumpter, 6-7 Senior Forward, is the team's leading scorer and rebounder with 17 ppg and 7.3 rpg averages. His heart and determination, from coming back off an ACL injury that had him sit out the 2005-2006 season, will never go unnoticed. He has an inside-outside game that is hard to stop. For his reward, he was placed on all Big East First team.
Another senior 6-2 guard Mike Nardi, who is nursing an ankle injury and most likely will play, also garnered Honorable Mention from the Big East conference for his play (12.8 ppg and team leading 69 three pointers and an 87 clip from the free throw line). While he is third in scoring, don't discount Nardi to have the ball in his hands if the game is on the line. He is as clutch as they come.
Perhaps the most interesting story for the Wildcats is the play of 6-2 freshman guard Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds has been on fire of late. He was a unanimous selection to the Big East All-Rookie team, and all indications point to him being named Big East Freshman of the year. For the season Reynolds is averaging 14.1 ppg. He had 25 points to lead all scorers back in the first game the two teams played. He also has a 40 point game at Connecticut in his hip pocket. He has scorched the nets averaging 26 ppg in his last five games leading the team in scoring each time. The only way to describe Reynolds is that he is a scorer and his mindset is that he will not be stopped.
"They really have good balance," said Wainwright. "They're a lot like we are. They're all about the same size. They really handle the ball, everybody shoots. I think that's a really good and interesting matchup. When we played them last time, we weren't using any of our big guys. Keith Butler didn't play. We have to figure out how to use him and if he can be a factor. It's really going to come down to the smaller versatile player. Villanova's trademark is four to five guys averaging double figures."
Villanova has a great cast of role players who give them a great boost of energy when any of the big three get in a funk. 6-8 Sophomore Forward Dante Cunningham (8.8 ppg) and 6-8 senior forward Will Sheridan (5.3 ppg) round out the usual starting five. Villanova also gets a big offensive boost off the bench in 6-7 sophomore forward Shane Clark (8.8 ppg). In addition the defensive presence of 6-5 freshman guard Reggie Redding has been turning heads of late. 6-5 guard/forward Dwayne Anderson (3.5 ppg) and 6-5 sophomore guard/forward Bilal Benn round out the rotation for head coach Wright.
For DePaul, they have to get Reynolds off his recent rhythm and must make Villanova beat them in the paint as the Wildcats are a notoriously guard-oriented team.
Wilson Chandler (team leader with 14.ppg and 7 rpg) must establish himself down low and take his man down low as to get some Wildcats in foul trouble.
DePaul has physical guards and they must be aggressive. For Bronx native Sammy Mejia (14 ppg and 6.3 rpg) this may be his last hurrah in his hometown, so look for him to be amped. He must take his defender down low to fluster him into foul trouble and exploit any height advantage. The same can be said for Draelon Burns. They also would enhance their chances if they connect from long range like they did in the first meeting.
Expect DePaul to come out swinging knowing every game is vital to their NCAA tournament chances and not go down without a fight.
No. Name Pos. Cl. (EXP) Ht. Wt. Hometown High School
0 Antonio Pena Forward FR (HS) 6-8 235 Brooklyn, N.Y. St. Thomas More
1 Scottie Reynolds Guard FR (HS) 6-2 195 Herndon, Va. Herndon
3 Bilal Benn Guard/Forward SO (1L) 6-5 205 Philadelphia, Pa. Hargrave Military Academy
4 Ross Condon Guard SR (3L) 5-11 180 Springfield, Va. Potomac School
12 Mike Nardi Guard SR (3L) 6-2 170 Linden, N.J. St. Patrick's
15 Reggie Redding Guard FR (HS) 6-5 205 Philadelphia, Pa. St. Joseph's Prep
20 Shane Clark Forward SO (1L) 6-7 205 Philadelphia, Pa. Hargrave Military Academy
21 Andrew Ott Forward FR (HS) 6-10 220 Abington, Pa. Germantown Academy
22 Dwayne Anderson Guard/Forward SO (1L) 6-5 215 Washington, D.C. St. Thomas More
32 Casiem Drummond Forward/Center FR (HS) 6-10 280 West Orange, N.J. Bloomfield Tech
33 Dante Cunningham Forward SO (1L) 6-8 225 Silver Spring, Md. Potomac
34 Curtis Sumpter Forward RS SR (4L) 6-7 225 Brooklyn, N.Y. Bishop Loughlin
42 Frank Tchuisi Forward SO (1L) 6-8 215 Douala, Cameroon St. Benedict's
50 Will Sheridan Forward SR (3L) 6-8 240 Bear, Del. Sanford
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