Jan. 24, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - For the first time in its long and storied basketball history, Villanova is in the midst of a week during the regular season where it will face two teams ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll. On Tuesday night, the Wildcats celebrated the eighth anniversary of their upset of Kansas by toppling No. 5 Louisville, 73-64 at the Wells Fargo Center.
The bar will be raised higher yet on Saturday when No. 3 Syracuse (18-1 overall, 6-0 BIG EAST) pays its final visit to Villanova as a member of the BIG EAST Conference.
"They're as good as anybody in the country," states Villanova head coach Jay Wright of the Orange.
The two teams met on Jan. 12 at the Carrier Dome, with the Orange posting a 72-61 victory. C.J. Fair led the way in that one for the Orange with 22 points. This time, the game will be on Villanova's turf, where it will host its first "White-Out" for fans at the Wells Fargo Center.
"We did a lot of good things in that game in Syracuse but so did they," stated Wright. "It's easier preparing when you play back-to-back like this but it's easier for Syracuse too. We've got to hope the Wells Fargo Center is rocking and that the White-Out makes a difference. We'll take any edge we can get."
Saturday's contest begins at 11 a.m. It will be the first time Villanova has tipped a regular season home game off prior to noon since March 20, 2004, when it faced Virginia in a game National Invitation Tournament game at the Pavilion which also tipped off at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
"We play so many (noon) games that I think our guys are kind of used to that," stated Wright. "When we play those games at noon, we have pre-game meal at 8 a.m. so they are up early. For them, this just means we're up a little earlier."
The Wildcats have limited to opponents to 63.2 ppg over their last five contests and will need to be sharp Saturday against a potent Syracuse lineup that can turn a team's offensive mistakes into dunks at the other end in mere seconds.
Wright believes the win over Louisville has only aided the Wildcats.
"I do think it gives our guys confidence," stated Wright. "I don't think our guys lacked for confidence. It hasn't showed in wins and losses, but we've been getting better. I just think it gives them the stamina to keep pushing and keep getting better."
"That win was really gratifying for me. It's like when you're a parent - you see kids get the rewards from hard work. You want to teach them what it takes. Sometimes you know that they don't really understand it until they get the results. It was great to watch these guys get the results."
The only other time that Villanova has faced top 5 teams in the same week came in the 1985 Final Four, when the Wildcats upset No. 5 Memphis on March 30 and then stunned the sports world by downing No. 1 Georgetown 66-64.