March 18, 2010
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Jay Wright could pass on a second career as a dog walker.
His house on the market, Wright has spent afternoons dutifully using a scooper to clean up after his two dogs to make sure the yard looks like it came right out of Better Homes and Gardens for potential buyers.
Wright couldn't find a sympathetic ear when he complained to his wife, Patty, about the mundane chore.
"You think Jim Calhoun is in his backyard picking up after his dogs?" Wright said.
"She said, 'Jim Calhoun's won two national championships."'
Hey, Wright has one Final Four and that's a start.
Maybe he can get a presidential pardon from doggie duty from President Barack Obama. Obama predicted the Wildcats would reach the Final Four in the First Pool. Hail to the Wildcats?
"I've always respected the President. He has a great basketball mind," said Wright, who voted for Obama. "It's great for our university that he thinks highly of our program."
So did the NCAA selection committee, which surprised the Wildcats with the No. 2 seed in the South Regional even after Villanova lost five of its last seven games.
The Wildcats (24-7) can exhale now that the NCAA tournament is here. Villanova's Big East schedule at the end of the season was tougher than anything they'll face at the start of the tournament.
Gone are Syracuse, West Virginia and Marquette (at least for now). Villanova's bid for a second straight Final Four appearance and its first national championship since 1985 starts Thursday against 15th seed Robert Morris (23-12).
In case the Wildcats needed a reminder of the perks of being one of the last teams standing, they received Final Four rings before making the trip to Providence, R.I.
"We got our Final Four rings from last year as kind of a motivational thing, trying to show the young guys, 'Hey, let's get another one,"' guard Reggie Redding said. "We're going to use that as motivation to try and get back. ... Now if me and Scottie (Reynolds) can lead our team to a Final Four, it will be another great thing."
Reynolds already has his legacy at Villanova secured with one of the biggest shots in team history. His half-court dash for the winning layup with 0.5 seconds left against Pittsburgh sent Villanova to the Final Four for the first time since 1985. Reynolds, who is closing in on becoming the school's career scoring leader, can't take a step around campus or watch a tourney highlight film without being reminded of that sensational play made 50 miles up the road in Boston.
"It wasn't about me making the shot," Reynolds said. "It was the feeling after when we were just hugging each other. There's no words, just tears and emotion. And it was because we felt like we deserved it and we put in all that work and heart and time for each other, not for anybody individually."
Reynolds and the Wildcats need to recapture that feeling soon if the want to live up to Obama's pick. Their 20-1 start and No. 2 national ranking looked like a mirage after they stumbled down the stretch. All along, the Wildcats insisted they were playing better than when they were ranked so high and blowing through the opposition, they just didn't have the wins to show for it.
"We never fear losing," Reynolds said. "The biggest fear we have is somebody coming into our basketball game, playing harder and more together than us."
The Wildcats aren't the only team feeling like it has some unfinished business in March. Robert Morris is no longer the wide-eyed, happy-to-be-here bunch that lost to Michigan State last season. After winning the Northeast Conference tournament, the Colonials are in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.
Coach Mike Rice passed out a list of all the 15 seeds who have defeated a No. 2. It's a short one, just four times and not since Hampton beat Iowa State in 2001.
"My daughter doesn't even have us winning this game," Rice said. "I think I told somebody, I think on my 15th radio show, that I'm going to cut down the nets if we win this game."
Robert Morris, a commuter school of about 5,000 students in the Pittsburgh suburb of Moon Township, Pa., knows winning a national championship is out of reach. Winning one game for the Colonials would feel like winning six for the Wildcats.
"I don't think any of our guys are thinking Indianapolis," Rice said.
No, but the Wildcats are and they expect to be there in two weeks for the Final Four.
Only this time, they want to play on the final night.