Syracuse, N.Y. - Carrier Dome
Friday, 10 p.m., CBS
"Carolina's a great team. They have five or six future NBA players, but they're not unbeatable and we're confident that we can beat them. It won't be easy. We have to play well. We have to defend, rebound and make shots, but we've beaten some of the top teams in the country this year so we know we're capable of beating anyone." -- Allan Ray
"I think we've got the players to make up for [the loss of Curtis Sumpter]. What we will really miss is his leadership." -- Jay Wright
"This team believes it can beat anybody. We're facing a team that averages 89 points, that has weapons everywhere, size, depth, great coaching. But we've got a unique group here. I know they believe." -- Jay Wright
"I think for us, the big thing is to pound it inside. They don't really have a strong interior team. Jason Fraser is probably one of the strongest defensive big men in the country. If we can get him in foul trouble, it's going to be really hard for them to stop us inside." -- Rashad McCants
"There is no question that [Curtis] Sumpter is a big time player for them, but I'm concerned about the rest of the team stepping up their games. The guy that subbed for him [Jason Fraser] had a double-double against Florida. Jason was recruited very hard by North Carolina. You have to be aware of their three guards and their ability to dribble and penetrate the basketball. They've got seven losses and six of them have been by seven points or less. They've only been out of one game this season." -- Roy Williams
Season Recap: Villanova didn't receive much preseason attention, but a Jan. 22 rout of then-No. 2 and undefeated Kansas put them on the national map. They would later take down Boston College and Pittsburgh to finish tied for third in the Big East at 11-5. In the Big East Tournament, after an opening round win over Pittsburgh, the Wildcats were upset by the peaking West Virginia team and received a five seed in the NCAA Tournament. In the first round against New Mexio, 'Nova took a 34-11 lead into halftime and prevailed 55-47, despite shooting a woeful 28 percent from the field. Their second round matchup with Florida saw a shooting improvement (41 percent), which was enough to open a double-digit first-half lead on the Gaters, who could not catch up in the second.
No Sumpter: Junior forward Curtis Sumpter suffered a season-ending torn ligament in his left knee in the second round game against Florida. He started 29 games this season, averaging 15.3 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds, while shooting 43.3 percent (also a team high) on three-point attempts. Who will fill his shoes on Friday night? Head coach Jay Wright hopes for a group effort. The starting frontcourt of Will Sheridan and Jason Fraser will need to do the bulk of the work. Sheridan (5.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is an improving sophomore, who has contributed 6.0 points and 7.5 boards in the two Tournament games. Fraser (6.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.4 bpg), a former McDonald's All-American, is a long 6-10 junior who has struggled to live up to his billing because of an injury-plagued three seasons, but led the way against Florida with 21 points and 15 rebounds - probably the best game of his career thus far. But after Sheridan and Fraser is where the real question remains. Villanova has two unproven reserves -- 6-9 senior Marcus Austin (1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg) and 7-0 junior Chris Charles (1.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg) -- and both will likely see key minutes against North Carolina. "We see them every day in practice," Sheridan said. "There are times when they dominate in practice. The only reason they haven't played that much is that there are only so many minutes in a game, but we know what they can do and we have a great deal of confidence in them."
Guard Play: The backcourt will be the strength of the Wildcats on Friday. Allan Ray and Randy Foye are the scoring guards, while Mike Nardi runs the point and Kyle Lowry provides a driving spark off the bench. Ray and Foye earned all-Big East honors, and Lowry made the all-rookie team. While Ray is the team's leading scorer, he has been woeful from the field thus far in the NCAA Tournament, shooting a combined 1-for-17 from the field and 1-for-12 on three-point attempts. Foye has picked up some of the slack, but hasn't exactly shot the lights out himself (10-29 FG, 5-14 3pt). And while Nardi isn't considered much of a scorer and Lowry is averaging only 7.0 points per game on the season, the two have each done their share, with Nardi scoring 15 points in the first round and Lowry posting 17 points in the second round. However, Villanova wouldn't have won either game if it weren't for the defense, especially on the perimeter, totaling 23 steals in two Tournament games and holding the two teams to a combined 34 percent from the field and 26 percent from beyond the arc.
Long Range: While the Wildcats smartly bailed on relying on the three-pointer against Florida -- since their inside game was faring much better -- this Villanova team isn't shy to let the threes fly. Ray alone attempts more than six per game and the team attempted 29 in the first round against New Mexico. Interestingly, however, they are usually not a particularly good three-point shooting team (except for the 63% performance against Kansas). With Sumpter out, Ray leads the team at 38.9 percent, while Foye is at 33.3 and Nardi checks in at 32.4. Despite that, the three guards combine for about 16 attempts per game at a 35.4 percent clip.
Deja Vu: It's time for a flashback. The year? 1991. The event? The NCAA Tournament. The location? Syracuse. The opponent? You guessed it -- Villanova. The Tar Heels beat the Wildcats, 84-69, in the second round of the '91 NCAA Tournament at same Carrier Dome. Sophomore George Lynch led the way with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds for UNC. The two teams have met three times overall in the NCAA Tournament, with the Heels holding a 2-1 advantage.
Background Location: Villanova, Pa. Enrollment: 6,295 Conference: Big East Nickname: Wildcats Colors: Blue & White Head Coach: Jay Wright Record at VU: 76-53
Probable Starting Lineup: Mike Nardi (6-1, 165, G, So.) – 8.3 ppg, 3.7 apg Allan Ray (6-2, 200, G, Jr.) – 16.5 ppg Randy Foye (6-3, 205, G, Jr.) – 15.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg Will Sheridan (6-8, 238, F, So.) – 5.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg Jason Fraser (6-10, 227, C, Jr.) – 6.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg Key Reserves: Kyle Lowry (6-0, 185, G, Fr.) – 7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg Chris Charles (7-0, 222, C, Jr.) – 1.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg Marcus Austin (6-9, 238, F, Sr.) – 1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Foye ... Ray
Fraser ... Sheridan
Lowry ... Nardi