Big East's Villanova, Big Ten's Minnesota to Battle in First Round of NIT
March 13, 2001
Villanova Wildcats (18-12 overall, 8-8 Big East)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-13 overall, 5-11 Big Ten)
9:30 p.m. ~ March 14, 2001 Williams Arena ESPN2 TV (Ron Franklin & Jon Albright) WPHT Radio (Ryan Fannon & Whitey Rigsby)
Today's Top Stories
Postseason Action: Villanova makes its 39th postseason appearance with tonight's first round game in the National Invitation Tournament. This is the seventh postseason trip in Steve Lappas' nine years on the Main Line and the Wildcats won the NIT in 1994.
Bradley's Been Honored: The plaudits keep piling up for Villanova junior Michael Bradley. On Monday the native of Worcester, Mass. was named a Sporting News second team All-American. Last week he was picked as a unanimous choice to the All-Big East first team.
First Round Success: Villanova has won its last two opening round games in the NIT. A year ago, the Wildcats downed Delaware 72-63 in the first round and in `94 it defeated Canisius 103-79.
A Split Decision: In its visit to New York City for the Big East Tournament, Villanova split its two games. The Wildcats picked up their seventh consecutive opening win in the Big East Tournament when they defeated West Virginia 82-71 on March 7. "I thought we did a good job defensively, especially on (Chris) Moss and (Calvin) Bowman," said Villanova head coach Steve Lappas. The Wildcats jumped out to an early advantage and held a 37-27 lead at intermission. West Virginia made a push early in the second half and cut the lead to 41-38 with just over 12 minutes left. But Villanova received big baskets from Michael Bradley, Jermaine Medley and Derrick Snowden to push the lead up to 20 points. The `Cats then cruised to the 11-point victory. Matters were more problematic against the Boston College Eagles. The play of Ricky Wright and Bradley on the interior helped keep the `Cats within striking distance at intermission. Boston College held a 40-34 edge. However, the Eagles used the hot shooting of Troy Bell and Kenny Harley to pull away from Villanova. "Before this tournament a lot of people were talking about how wide open this was going to be," said Lappas. "I wasn't so sure about that. Boston College is a tremendous team and clearly proved that against us and a lot of other teams in this league."
A Masterpiece in the Paint: The shelf in the Worcester, Mass., home of Michael Bradley will have plenty of new hardware in the coming months. The junior transfer has earned a host of awards for his work during the 2000-2001 campagin:
Bradley is ... - One of three players to be named a unanimous All-Big East first team choice (Boston College's Troy Bell and Notre Dame's Troy Murphy were the others). Bradley is the first Wildcat to appear on the first team of the All-Big East selections since Alvin Williams in 1996-97. - A third team All-American choice of espn.com - One of three finalists (along with Murphy and North Carolina's Brendan Haywood) for ESPN The Magazine's Best Center in America award. That award will be presented in Minneapolia on March 28 and will be televised on ESPN. - A second team All-American in the eyes of The Sporting News. - One of the list of 15 finalists for the Naismith Award, presented on April 7 to the national player of the year. - A finalist for the Wooden Award as the College Player of the Year.
"There is no doubt Mike has had a tremendous year for us," said Villanova head coach Steve Lappas. Bradley is the first Villanova All-American since Kerry Kittles in 1996 and the second of the Lappas era on the Main Line. He is averaging 21.4 points and 10.1 rebounds and is on track to become the first Wildcat to average a double-double since Harold Pressley did it in the 1985-86 season. In addition, Bradley's 643 points are the ninth most ever scored by a Wildcat in a single season. What's more, a strong postseason could make Bradley the first Big East player to shoot a field goal percentage of .700 or better. Only five players in NCAA history have managed that feat. Presently he tops the nation with a .693 percentage and has never been below 69 percent efficiency from the field all season.
Defense Is Critical: When Villanova is at its best, its defense is often a reason why. In 2000-2001 the Wildcats are 15-2 (.883) when holding the opposition below 80 points. The Wildcats are 2-11 (.154) when the opponents scores better than 80 points.
Injuries have been a major disruptive force at Villanova since the calendar flipped over to 2001. In fact, three of Villanova's top six scorers - Reggie Bryant, Medley and Brooks Sales - have missed significant action this winter. Here is a breakdown of the injuries this season and the number of contests missed.
Reggie Bryant (7 games): pulled abdominal muscle. Johnny Holley (2 games) right knee tendinitis. Jermaine Medley (2 games): sprained right ankle. Brooks Sales (5 games): fractured right (shooting) hand. Surgery performed on Jan. 31. Andrew Sullivan (2 games): sprained right knee.Those numbers also don't reflect that Bryant, Sales and Medley have been adversely affected by those injuries in games they have played. Medley, for instance, played only two minutes at Georgetown on Feb. 12 before being forced to the sideline and Sales saw only two minutes of action against Miami on Feb. 17. Sales still wears a bulky wrap on his hand. In contrast, Villanova lost nine man games to injury through all of the 1999-2000 season and all of them belonged to Holley, who suffered a knee injury in a Jan. 8 practice. They lost the same number during the 1998-99 campaign - eight for Holley and one for John Celestand.
G Ball: Sophomore guard Gary Buchanan enjoyed his second consecutive solid season for the Wildcats. The native of St. Louis, Mo., is second on the club in scoring (13.3 ppg) and topped the club with 69 3-point field goals. He also leads Villanova in minutes played (1050), an average of 35.0 mpg. Of course, Buchanan's most noteworthy work came at the free throw line. From Nov. 17 through Feb. 10, Buchanan did not miss a free throw. He totaled 73 straight and in the process broke the previous Division I record of 64 held by Joe Dykstra of Western Illinois in the 1981-82 season. Entering the NIT, Buchanan is 94-100 (.940) at the free throw line. Interestingly, Buchanan has missed more free throws since the streak ended (five) than he did in the first 22 games this season (one). In his career at Villanova he is 163-of--174 (.937) at the stripe. In his two seasons at Villanova, Buchanan has already scored 812 points (12.9 ppg).
Matthews Remains Suspended: Sophomore forward Aaron Matthews continues to serve the indefinite suspension announced prior to the Seton Hall game. The native of Seaford, Del., is averaging 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds a game and has made 21 starts on the season.
Wright On: Sophomore forward Ricky Wright was perfect from the field in his two games at the Big East Conference Tournament. Wright converted all 10 of his field goal attempts, including 9-of-9 in the 93-79 loss to eventual tourney champion Boston College on Thursday. Wright has lifted his scoring average to 8.0 ppg and also pulls down 4.1 rpg. He has started 11 consecutive games at forward after coming off the bench for the season's first 19 contests. The native of East Chicago, Ind., is also connecting on .572 of his field goal attempts. As a team, Villanova led the Big East in field goal percentage with a figure of .497.
Medley's Back: Senior guard Jermaine Medley has recovered from a sprained right ankle and saw extended action for the first time since his Feb. 10 injury during the two games in New York. Against West Virginia, Medley played 29 minutes and contributed 11 points in the victory. He then saw 32 minutes of action against Boston College, scoring 12 points. In addition, the native of Wilmington, Del., handed out five assists and was charged with a single turnover.