PART 1: Questions from Friarblog.com
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.
PART 2: Questions from "I Bleed Blue and White"
IBBW: I know you watched the ND game. That's about as well as he's played all year, let's hope it carries into Thursday night. Short of the game being canceled what can Providence do to stop Scottie Reynolds from taking it to Providence again?
Friarblog.com: We're hoping Scottie got that amazing shooting night out of his system, and he goes back to how he shot in the previous three games. That's going to be a tall order, considering how easily he was able to score and get to the line in the last meeting. The Friars are going to be in their usual match-up zone, so they have to keep up the defensive intensity they have showed the past two games and really lock him down out on the perimeter. Jeff Xavier did an excellent job helping shut down Mike Rosario (who might be hitting a freshman wall, but still has been dangerous as of late) in the last Rutgers game . Hopefully he'll be able to help keep Reynolds in check this time.
IBBW: Dante Cunningham was efficient (5-5) and recorded a double-double in the first game, but he didn't seem to be instrumental in the offensive output that Villanova put forth. Are McDermott and Kale up to keeping him off the boards again are are you worried that Cunningham could do more damage this time around?
Friarblog.com: I think anytime you face one of the better big men in the conference, you worry about how he could potentially hurt you. Heading into the first game against Villanova, containing Dante Cunningham was a top priority. However, focusing on him just allows more opportunities for the guards to run and shoot like wild. So it's most likely a pick your poison kinda thing. The Friars might try extra hard this time to limit Reynolds, but that might open up more high percentage chances for Cunningham down low. With the way Reynolds shot against ND, that might be the smart way to go. We'll have to see what Keno draws up and how Scottie comes out firing out of the gate.
IBBW: What does Providence need to do differently this time around (besides Curry shooting from 30 feet for the whole game instead of just the last 3 minutes) if they are going to topple Villanova?
Friarblog.com: Well, since making 17 three-pointers wasn't enough to win in the first game, I think it's safe to say we won't see another 40 three-point attempts from the Friars. I think you will see a completely different Providence team than the one you watched play the Wildcats last month. The Friars had been very reliant on the long ball this year, averaging about 21 attempts per game. However, in the last two victories, they put together their two lowest totals of the season -- 15 on the road against Rutgers, and only TWELVE in the huge upset win over Pittsburgh. Sharaud Curry, Jeff Xavier, and Weyinmi Efejuku probably took 12 in the last two minutes of the Villanova game alone! Curry is still going to push it when he can, but I think you'll see a much more patient half court offense with a lot more of an inside attack. Oh man, if they could only bottle up the inside looks and interior passing from the Pittsburgh game. Anyway, Kale has become extremely consistent down low, and Geoff McDermott is starting to shoot much better. Hanke is going to need to step up too -- he didn't get many touches (0 points, 0-1) against Nova the first time around.
However, the offensive changes won't matter unless the team can make stops on the defensive end. The Friars have shown a good amount of improvement on defense since allowing ND to stick a boatload of threes on their way to 103 points. They have to make sure Reynolds and Fisher don't get too many open looks on the perimeter, but also keep Reynolds away from the line (he went 13-15 in the first meeting).
IBBW: Forgetting Thursday's game for a minute, is Providence in or out right now?
Friarblog.com: I don't pretend to be a Bracket Projector, but I really do feel like Providence deserves a bid right now. They have a guaranteed finish in the top half of the conference, with 10 (11 after tomorrow night :P ) BIG EAST wins. I'd like to sweep the early non-conference losses under the rug and just focus on what the team has been able to accomplish in this tough conference. What's even more infuriating are all these "experts" claiming that PC has a "soft" unbalanced BE schedule. They play Villanova TWICE! They are essentially calling your team soft -- are you going to take that!?! But seriously, the Friars beat almost everyone they should, which certain other teams (*cough* Georgetown *cough* Harongody is a crybaby *cough*) can't say. Plus, over the last several days, it seems that 17 bubble teams lose each night. In fact, one probably just lost as I typed this (it was Florida!).
IBBW: Give me the one player that will have Villanova fans cursing at the TV on Thursday.
Friarblog.com: Now does the cursing at Sharaud Curry carry over from the last game? Since he drilled so many crazy 30 footers late in the game, Wildcat fans were probably too busy hyperventilating to properly curse him out at the TV. I think Curry will again be the one to cause Nova Nation (or whatever you call yourselves) the most stress, since he really steps up in the big games. The dude is shooting 44% from behind the arc in BIG EAST play, so it wasn't really out of the ordinary what he did against Nova. The little guy just wants to WIN, and that's why Friartown loves him.
IBBW: Prediction time. What happens on LOST? I mean, what happens on Thursday night between Villanova and Providence?
Friarblog.com: I'm not sure you realize what that Pittsburgh win did for these players. Over the past several years, the team could never seem to pull off a road win against a tougher BIG EAST opponent. Now, the team is full of confidence, and expects to win. A road upset doesn't seem so far fetched anymore. They have in fact turned the frozen donkey wheel (LOST reference for those who have no idea what I just said) on their season.
I think it's going to be a high scoring affair again. With so much at stake for both teams, I think we are going to be in for an excellent game all-around. 91-87 Friars. We wanna go dancing!
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