March 21, 2006
VILLANOVA, Pa.-- On Friday evening in Minneapolis, Villanova (27-4) will take on Boston College (28-7) in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Game time is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. from the Metrodome. The Wildcats advanced to their second straight regional semifinal appearance with wins over Monmouth (58-45) and Arizona (82-78) last weekend at the Wachovia Center.
Click on the PDF link at the top of this release to access complete game notes. Below are some of the top stories surrounding Villanova basketball this week, as well as the updated Villanova notebook.
NCAA Tournament Storylines
Villanova enters the NCAA Tournament with a No. 1 seed this season for the first time ever. The Wildcats are making their 27th overall appearance in the field, including their 16th appearance since teams began to be seeded in 1979. Villanova's previous highest seed had been No. 3, which they received four times. The Wildcats are 41-26 (.612) in the tournament, including Friday's victory. The team's only national championship came in 1985. Villanova is currently making its 14th Sweet 16 appearance and is looking to reach the Elite 8 for the 11th time in its history, and first time since 1988.
Senior guard Allan Ray became the seventh Villanova player to score 2,000 points in his career during Sunday's win against Arizona. He had 25 points for the game and has been the high-scorer in the game in each of the team's first two NCAA Tournament games this season. Ray needs 19 points to tie John Pinone (1979-83) for sixth place on the school's all-time list.
Senior guards Randy Foye and Allan Ray have each been rewarded for their outstanding seasons by the NABC and Sporting News. Both organizations selected Foye as a first team All-American, while Ray was a second-team pick. In December, the two guards were named the best backcourt tandem in the country by SI.com, and they combine to average 39.1 points per game for the Wildcats.
Villanova began this season ranked No. 4 in the preseason polls of both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today. The Wildcats have remained in the top 10 throughout the entire season, dropping no lower than No. 8 in either poll. Villanova has been ranked as high as No. 2 in each poll on two occasions. In the final regular season polls released this week, the Wildcats are No. 3 in the AP Poll and No. 4 in ESPN/USA Today.
Conference Bragging Rights at Stake: When Villanova plays Boston College on Friday, it will be a showdown between two teams who used to meet regularly during the Big East Conference regular season slate. The Eagles played their first season as a member of the ACC this season. Villanova is 51-24 all-time against Boston College, including two wins last season. The Wildcats are 35-34 (.507) all-time against ACC teams, not including its record against recent additions to the conference Boston College, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech. This season, the Big East is 4-4 against the ACC.
Allan's Accomplishment: Senior guard Allan Ray became just the seventh Villanova player to score 2,000 career points during the Wildcats win over Arizona on Sunday. He now has 2,005 career points and needs 19 more to tie John Pinone (1979-83) for sixth on the school's all-time list. This season, Ray has also set new school records for three-pointers made (104) and attempted (272) in a season. Ray ranks second on the team in scoring this season with 19.0 points per game.
Ray has been the game's high scorer in each of the first two NCAA Tournament games for the Wildcats. He finished with 25 points against Arizona after contributing 19 in the first-round win over Monmouth. He has scored at least 20 points in a game 16 times this season and on 41 occasions throughout his career. Ray's play in the NCAA Tournament has lifted the Wildcats to the regional semifinals for the 14th time in their history. He has scored 44 points through the first two NCAA Tournament games this season, after having just 18 total points in three NCAA games last season.
Sensational Shooter: Junior guard Mike Nardi has spent much of his first three seasons at Villanova as a point guard. This season, however, he has had more of a chance to shoot the ball, and the results have been impressive. Nardi leads the team with a .411 (76-for-185) touch from behind the three-point arc and is a big part of the reason the Wildcats have set a school record for three-pointers made in a season. Nardi currently ranks ninth in career three-pointers at Villanova with 179 and he is fifth in all-time three-point percentage at .384 (179-for-466).
Led by Lowry: When Kyle Lowry made his collegiate debut in December 2004, after needing just three months to recover from an ACL injury, the excitement he brought to the team was immediate. However, his full impact may not have been known until he averaged 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in the NCAA Tournament. His success in the postseason has continued this season, as he has averaged 8.5 points and 2.5 assists per game in the NCAA Tournament while making 11-of-12 free throws.
This season, Lowry ranks third on the team in scoring and rebounding with averages of 11.4 points and 4.4 boards per contest. He also leads the squad with 3.8 assists per game and 2.3 steals per outing. Lowry was a second team All-Big East selection this season.
The addition of Lowry has helped lift the Wildcats to new heights. Four weeks after he joined the lineup in 2004-05, VU moved into the national rankings and has remained there since. Villanova is 45-11 (.804) since Lowry donned a Villanova uniform.
Sheridan's Been Strong: While Villanova's four-guard lineup this season has received much of the notice, less attention has been given to the strong play of 6-8 junior forward Will Sheridan, the one "non-guard" in the usual starting lineup.
Sheridan averages a team-best 6.3 rebounds while also contributing 5.6 points per contest. He has scoured in double figures five times on the year, with three of those games coming in his last 10 outings. He also has registered double figures in rebounds six times and has two double-doubles on the year.
Sheridan's first double-double came when he had 13 points and 10 rebounds against No. 1 Connecticut on February 13. That game kicked off a 10-game stretch (a current streak) in which Sheridan has averaged 7.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent (32-of-67) from the field.
Fantastic Foye: In Villanova's first two NCAA Tournament games this season, senior guard Randy Foye has scored 41 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and totaled seven steals and five assists. He leads the team in scoring on the season with 20.1 points per game and ranks second on the squad with 5.7 rebounds per contest.
Foye's contributions should come as no surprise, especially his play in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Foye scored a then-career high 28 points against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, and he averaged 20.0 points in three NCAA games in 2004-05. In Sunday's win over Arizona, Foye had 24 points, six rebounds and two steals. He scored 20 of his points in the first half, when he had as many field goals (7) as the rest of the team combined.
To date in 2005-06 the 6-4 senior has topped the 20 point plateau 19 times. One reason he has been more explosive than in previous seasons is his improvement from beyond the 3-point arc. Entering his senior year, Foye was a .316 shooter from deep. This season he is connecting on .357 of his attempts from long range.
Elite Feats: Before this season the Wildcats had never had more than one player make as many as 80 three-pointers in a single season. This season, the team has a chance to have three players achieve that feat. Senior guard Allan Ray currently has a school-record 104 three-pointers, while classmate Randy Foye has connected 85 times from long range. Junior guard Mike Nardi has 76 three-pointers and needs four more to give Villanova three members of the 80 three-pointer club. Foye and Ray also need to make a combined 11 three-pointers in order for the pair to have 200 triples between them. That would also be a first in school history.
Great Guards: For much of the 2005-06 season the Wildcats have started a four-guard lineup that includes seniors Allan Ray and Randy Foye, junior Mike Nardi and sophomore Kyle Lowry. The four guards each average at least 28.5 minutes per game and all have double-figure scoring averages. For the season the four starting guards have totaled 1,860 points (79.9% of team total), 316 assists (81.9%) and 170 steals (71.1%).
Board Committee: Although its traditional four-guard lineup this season tends to leave Villanova undersized on the court at times, it hasn't mattered when it comes to rebounding. The Wildcats outrebound their opponents by a +1.5 margin (36.2-34.7) this season and have pulled down more rebounds than the opposition 18 times in 31 games. The team has grabbed at least 40 rebounds in a game 10 times, and is a force on the offensive glass, managing better than 13 offensive caroms per game.
Grabbing rebounds has been a group effort by Villanova throughout the season. Junior forward Will Sheridan leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per game, but there are a total of six players who average at least 3.3 boards per contest. Senior guard Randy Foye grabs 5.7 rebounds per game, while sophomore Kyle Lowry contributes 4.4 rebounds per game. The other "board" members are freshman Dante Cunningham (4.0 rpg), senior Allan Ray (3.7 rpg) and senior Jason Fraser (3.3 rpg).
Catching Up With Curtis: Forward Curtis Sumpter announced on Feb. 28 that he will return to the Wildcats as a medical redshirt in 2006-07, and will not play in any games this season. Sumpter was cleared to begin individual basketball activities on Feb. 27 and is a part of practice each day.
Sumpter underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee on Nov. 15. The operation was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
In January of 2005, Sumpter sprained his right knee at Notre Dame on Jan. 7. He missed two games but returned to action as Villanova charged towards the NCAA Tournament. However, his season ended abruptly when he tore his ACL on March 20 against Florida in the NCAA Tournament. He underwent surgery on April 15 but re-injured the knee in a practice session on Oct. 19, necessitating the most recent procedure.
Sumpter can be expected to be a major force for the Wildcats next season. In 29 games last season, he averaged team-highs of 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting .467 from the field, .433 from three-point range and .810 from the foul line.
Big Five Title: In the Big Five's 50th anniversary season, Villanova claimed the historic City Series title. The Wildcats wrapped up the honor with a 71-58 win over Saint Joseph's on Feb. 7 before a sellout crowd at the Palestra. It marked only the fourth time in the 50 year history of the alliance that two 3-0 squads had met for the undisputed crown.
Villanova defeated Penn, 62-55, on Dec. 13 at the Palestra; La Salle 98-57 on Dec. 22, and Temple on Dec. 31, 75-53. Allan Ray averaged 18.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in the four games of round-robin competition among the five schools.