A History of Villanova Basketball – Ten Years Ago – 2005 – 2006
The two biggest changes that we’ll examine in this last segment are: a change in the head coaching position at Villanova and the changes occurring in the Big East Conference.
In Steve Lappas’ nine year career at Villanova he would go: 8-19, 20-12 (NIT Champs), 25-8 (NCAA – 1st round loss), 26-7 (NCAA – 2nd round loss), 24-10 (NCAA – 2nd round loss), 12-17, 21-11 (NCAA – 1st round loss), 20-13 (NIT – 2nd round loss) and 18-13 (NIT – 1st round loss). OK, he was winning but his lack of success as a Tournament coach made some influential alumni call for his scalp. Add two back-to-back postseason appearances in the NIT and some less-than-caliber Big East type of recruits, well, all this ignited the change. There was a hot, young coach from mid-major Hofstra that many schools made their number one priority. The coach had ties to Villanova. He grew up in suburban Philly, was a Villanova fan as a kid and later served as an assistant to Rollie Massimino. Rutgers and Tennessee both made offers to this coach. Rutgers took the lead and was just a day or two away from having this coach sign a contract when Villanova dumped their coach and put a call in to this coach and the rest was history. Jay Wright came back to the Main Line – his dream job.
Steve Lappas would end up at UMass where he went 13-16, 11-18, 10-19 and 16-12 before he was released as their coach. Jay Wright left Coach Mass after his two years at UNLV and came back East to take over at Hofstra. Coach Wright struggled with 3 losing seasons at Hofstra but then turned the program around. In his last 4 years he would go 19-12, 22-10 (NIT), 24-7 (NCAA) and 26-5 (NCAA).
Coach Wright went 19-13 (NIT) in his first season at Villanova (2001-2002) with a Steve Lappas team of: Gary Buchanan (17.8), Ricky Wright (13.7), Derrick Snowden (10.4), Brook Sales (10.4) and Reggie Bryant (9.1). Then that spring his ace recruiter, Fred Hill, would bring in a Top 5 recruiting class: McDonalds All-American 6-10 Jason Fraser, 6-7 Curtis Sumpter, 6-4 Randy Foye and 6-2 Allan Ray, all from the New York/New Jersey area. However, this youth movement wouldn’t gell on the court just yet and left coach Wright with two more NIT seasons. This was now 5 straight years of going to the NIT, which is unacceptable at the Main Line school. Coach was starting to feel some heat in his last contract year. With the addition of Mike Nardi, Will Sheridan and Kyle Lowry, the team was ready for a breakout season. In 2004-2005 (Jay’s 4th year), the Cats would go 24-8 with a NCAA invite where they would beat New Mexico and Florida and reach the Sweet Sixteen. Curtis Sumpter, who was averaging 15.3/7.2, would tear his ACL in the Florida game but the Cats prevailed behind Jason Fraser’s 21 points and 15 rebounds. Next up was North Carolina, the preseason pick to win it all. Jay employed a 4 guard offense, which was the talk of the whole nation and came within one point and one bad traveling call of knocking off the eventual champions. The Cats lost 67-66 but would return everyone but sub Marcus Austin and bring back a healthy Curtis Sumpter for 2005-2006. The Cats were loaded and ready.
The other monumental change occurred in their conference – the Big East. In order to keep its basketball conference intact, the Big East had to create a 9 team football conference. That is why schools like Miami (1991), West Virginia and Rutgers (1995), Temple (football only) and Virginia Tech (2000) were added. The lucrative TV football contracts led to a lot of conference instability and conferences across the Nation began to raid each other. Temple was kicked out in 2004 for having a non-competitive football program and poor facilities. Virginia Tech left the Big East for the ACC in 2004 along with Miami and Boston College (an original Big East member) would jump ship a year later. In order to maintain its 9 team football conference, the Big East would raid Conference USA for Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida and also add Marquette and DePaul, thus creating a 16 member basketball conference for the 2005-2006 season.
Randy Foye was ready to jump to the NBA after his Junior year but a broken bone in his hand kept him out of the NBA combines and Foye would return for a monster Senior year. However, just before the 2005-2006 season would begin, 2nd Team All-Big East Curtis Sumpter again would tear his ACL and sideline him for the whole year. What looked like a certain Final Four season on paper was now in jeopardy. Still, the Cats had a very successful year. The Cats would go 28-5 and reach the Elite Eight. They would sweep the Big Five and tie UConn as the regular season Big East Champs. Randy Foye would become the Big Five Player of the Year, the Big East Player of the Year, a 1st team All-American and be the 7th pick in the NBA Draft. Allan Ray was also a 1st Team All-Big East selection and a 2nd Team All-American. Kyle Lowry would become our first “2 and done” player with a 1st round (24th pick) selection in the NBA Draft.
The Cats started the season with a 85-74 beating of #5 ranked Oklahoma in the Pavilion. Randy Foye simply took over in crunch time. The Cats would play a game in Trenton’s Arena (Rider) and a game at Atlantic City (Longwood) in order to give more fans an opportunity to see the team. I think I can speak for a lot of ‘Nova Nation fans in saying what an enjoyable weekend that was in Atlantic City. Jay would return to his Alma Mater – Bucknell and play there as well. The Cats won the “Holy War” against St. Joe’s (just two years removed from their “Perfect Season” of 30-2), 71-58. In the Big East games, the Cats would travel to #8 Louisville and beat the Cards, 76-67. Our 1st conference loss was to John Beilein’s West Virginia Mountaineers in the Pavilion, 91-87. We would then travel down to Austin and lose to #9 Texas, 58-55. This was the game where Verne Lindquist refered to Dante Cunningham as NFL quarterback Dante Culpepper the whole game. The Cats would come home and beat #20 Syracuse at the Wachovia Center, 80-65 in spite of the 15 filled-buses coming down from Scranton to see their Gerry McNamara play. Next up was #20 Notre Dame in South Bend. Always a difficult place to play for opposing teams but a Kyle Lowry tap-in near the buzzer gave the Cats a 72-70 win. Now came a showdown with the #1 ranked team in the Nation – the UConn Huskies in the Wachovia Center. Who can forget Mike Nardi dribbling out the clock as the Cats won, 69-64? The Cats would close the regular season with wins over #17 Georgetown, #16 St. John’s, beat Syracuse up in the Dome before a crowd of over 33,000 by ten points but lose their return-match with UConn, 89-75.
2005-2006 Big East Standings
UConn 14-2/30-4 – Jim Calhoun – Hilton Armstrong, Rudy Gay, Rashad Anderson, Josh Boone
Villanova 14-2/28-5 – Jay Wright – Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, Mike Nardi
West Virginia 11-5/22-11 – John Beilein – Kevin Pittsnogle, Mike Gansey, Johannes Herber
Marquette 10-6/20-11 – Tom Crean – Dominic James, Steve Novak, Jerel McNeal
Georgetown 10-6/23-10 John Thompson III – Roy Hibbert, Ashanti Cook, Jeff Green
Pitt 10-6/25-8 – Jaime Dixon – Aaron Gray, Carl Krauser
Seton Hall 7-9/18-12 – Louis Orr (last year) – Kelly Whitney, Donald Copeland
Cincinnati 8-8/21-13 – Bob Huggins (last year) – Erick Hicks, James White, Devan Downey
Syracuse 7-9/23-12 – Jim Boeheim – Eric Devendorf, Gerry McNamara, Terrence Roberts
Rutgers 7-9/19-14 – Gary Waters (last year) – Quincy Douby
Louisville 6-10/21-13- Rick Pitino – Taquan Dean, Brandon Jenkins, David Padgett
Notre Dame 6-10/16-14 – Mike Brey – Chris Quinn, Collin Falls, Torin Francis
DePaul 5-11/12-15 – Jerry Wainwright – Sammy Mejia, Draelon Burns, Wilson Chandler
Providence 5-11/12-15 – Tim Welsh – Randall Hanke, Donnie McGrath, Geoff McDermott
St. John’s 5-11/12-15 – Norm Roberts – Aaron Spears, Lamont Hamilton
South Florida 1-15/7-22 – Robert McCullum – James Holmes, Solomon Jones
In the Big East Tournament in the “Garden”, Syracuse would upset UConn in the Quarterfinals, Pitt upset Villanova in the Semis when Carl Krauser poked out Allan Ray’s eye and Syracuse beat Georgetown by one in the other semifinal game. Syracuse beat Pitt, 65-61 to win it and get the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
1st Team All-Big East (with 16 teams there are a lot): Randy Foye (MVP) and Allan Ray (Villanova), Rudy Gay (UConn), Kevin Pitsnogle and Mike Gansey (West Virginia), Gerry McNamara (Syracuse), Quincy Douby (Rutgers), Aaron Gray (Pitt), Chris Quinn (Notre Dame), Steve Novak (Marquette) and Erin Hicks (Cincinnati).
2nd Team All-Big East was: Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green (Georgetown), Kyle Lowry (Villanova), Carl Krauser (Pitt), Taquan Dean, David Padgett and Terrence Williams (Louisville), Marcus Williams (UConn), Kelly Whitney and Donald Copeland (Seton Hall), Donnie McGrath (Providence).
Honorable Mention All-Big East: Josh Boone and Rashad Anderson (UConn), Dominic James (South Florida) and Lamont Hamilton (St. John’s).
Preseason Top 25 were: (1) Duke (2) Texas (3) UConn (4) Michigan St. (5) Villanova (6) Oklahoma (7) Louisville (8) Gonzaga (9) Kentucky (10) Arizona (11) BC (12) Memphis (13) Stanford (14) West Virginia (15) Alabama (16) Syracuse (17) Illinois (18) Wake Forest (19) UCLA (20) Iowa (21) George Washington (22) Nevada (23) Indiana (24) Maryland (25) Iowa St.
The NCAA Tournament had 65 teams with a “play-in” game. The Big East would have the most conference bids with eight: UConn and Villanova as 1 seeds, Syracuse and Pitt as 5 seeds, West Virginia (6), Georgetown and Marquette as 7 seeds and Seton Hall (10). Syracuse was upset by 12 seed Texas A&M, 7 seed Marquette was upset by 10 seed Alabama, 10 seed Seton Hall lost to 7 seed Wichita St., 5 seed Pitt would beat 12 seed Kent St. but lose in round 2 to 13 seed Bradley by 6 points, 6 seed West Virginia would reach the Sweet 16 by beating Southern Illinois and Northwestern but lose to 2 seed Texas, 74-71. 7 seed Georgetown would also reach the Sweet 16 by beating Northern Iowa and upsetting 2 seed Ohio State before falling to Florida, 57-53. That leaves us with 1 seeds UConn and Villanova who would both reach the Elite Eight. In the “Pod” system, both UConn and Villanova played their 1st two rounds in Philly at the Wachovia Center. Both teams struggled with their 1st round opponent but especially UConn. The Huskies came from behind to beat 16 seed Albany and the Cats beat a very tough Monmouth. In round 2, UConn again would struggle but did beat 8 seed Kentucky, 87-83. The Cats had their hands full with 8 seed Arizona as Philly’s own, Mustafa Shakur, would return home and almost upset the Cats. However, the Cats survived with a 82-78 win to advance to the Sweet 16. Both teams would need overtime to advance to the Elite 8. UConn beat 5 seed Washington, 98-92 and Villanova, on a beautiful out-of-bounds play, would find Will Sheridan wide open for the winning bucket, 60-59. Two other things stood out in this game: Kyle Lowry’s defense and steals on All-American bruiser Craig Smith and Randy Foye’s refusal to lose the game and carry the offensive load. UConn would get upset by a Mid-Major 11 seed George Mason led by coach Jim Larranaga, 86-84 and Villanova expended too much energy to beat 4 seed BC and had little in the tank and lost to 3 seed Florida, 75-62. Billy Donovan’s Florida would go on to win the Championship (their 1st of 2 in-a-row) by beating Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins, 73-57. If only Curtis Sumpter had been healthy… If only Jason Fraser’s knees were healthy…No number one seed advanced to the Final Four (a first since 1980) as Duke and John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers also lost earlier.
2005-2006 Villanova Team
6-4 Randy Foye SR/G/F/NJ – 33 games 20.5/5.8/3.0apg
6-2 Allan Ray SR/SG/NY – 32 games 18.5/3.6/1.8apg
6-0 Kyle Lowry SO/PG/Philly – 33 games 11.0/4.3/3.7apg
6-2 Mike Nardi JR/CG/NJ – 31 games 10.4/1.9/2.8apg
6-8 Will Sheridan JR/PF/DEL – 33 games 5.5/6.3rpg
6-10 Jason Fraser SR/C/NY – 31 games 3.5/3.4rpg
6-9 Dante Cunningham FR/PF/D.C. – 33 games 2.2/4.0rpg
6-7 Shane Clark FR/F/Philly – 25 games 2.2/2.0rpg
6-6 Dwayne Anderson FR/G/F/D.C. – 14 games 1.5/0.8rpg
6-5 Bilal Benn FR/G/F/Philly – 10 games 1.3/0.8rpg
6-5 Baker Dunleavy JR/G/F/Oregon – 11 games 0.8/0.4rpg
6-9 Frank Tchuisi FR/PF/NJ/Cameroon – 8 games 0.0/0.5rpg
7-0 Chris Charles R-SR/PF/Wisconsin – 21 games 1.3/1.2rpg
5-11 Ross Condon JR/G/Virginia – 5 games 0.0/0.0
2005 – 2006 Philadelphia Big Five
Villanova 4-0/28-5 – Jay Wright (5th) – Foye, Ray, Lowry, Nardi
St. Joe’s 3-1/19-14 – Phil Martelli (12 years) – Abdulai Jalloh (15ppg), Chet Stachitas (13.3), Rob Ferguson (10.8)
Penn 1-3/20-9 – Fran Dunphy (last year/17 yrs) – Ibrahim Jaabar (18.2), Marc Zoller (12.7)
Temple 1-3/17-15 – John Chaney (last year/24 yrs) – Mardy Collins (16.8), Antwayne Robinson (12.7), Mark Tyndale (10.9)
LaSalle 0-4/18-10 – John Giannini (2 yrs) – Steven Smith (19.7), Darnell Harrison (12.6), Jermaine Thomas (12.3)
The Villanova coaching staff in 2005 - 2006 was: Ed Pinckney (3rd year), Pat Chambers (2nd year), Brett Gunning (5th year), Jason Donnelly (Manager of Basketball Operations).
Fr. Rob Hagan took over as Team Chaplain from Fr. Bernie Lazor (1976-2004).
The Cats would sign 6-10 Casiem Drummond (C/NJ), 6-5 Reggie Redding (G/F/Philly) and Scottie Reynolds (6-2/G/Virginia) would decomit from Oklahoma when their coach ran out of town ahead of an NCAA investigation (Kelvin Sampson). Originally, the Cats didn’t have a scholarship for Reynolds until Kyle Lowry declared for the NBA Draft.
2005 – 2006 1st Team All-Americans were: J.J. Redick (Duke), Adam Morrison (Gonzaga), Randy Foye (Villanova), Sheldon Williams (Duke), Brandan Roy (Washington).
The 2nd Team was: Dee Brown (Illinois), Rodney Carey (Memphis), P.J. Tucker (Texas), Rudy Gay (UConn), Leon Powe (Cal), Allan Ray (Villanova), Tyler Hansbrough (UNC).
Coach of the Year – Jay Wright (Villanova – 5th year).