Nov. 13, 2000
Only seven days removed from Election Day, we embark upon the 2000-2001 men's basketball season.
Seems a little early, you say?
Well, in fact, it is.
This evening's matchup with Fairfield University marks the earliest date that Villanova has played a regular season basketball game. In 1997, the `Cats also played on this date when they traveled to Minneapolis to meet the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers of the Big Ten.
Minnesota prevailed 68-55.
A footnote to that contest was that it marked the collegiate debut of senior point guard Jermaine Medley. The native of Wilmington, Del., scored four points in 15 minutes of action that night.
Last year the Wildcats opened up at home against Lafayette on Nov. 23 and earned a 74-70 victory. Two years ago the season got underway here on Nov. 16 against George Mason.
Steve Lappas is 7-1 in season openers at Villanova with the only defeat coming in that contest versus Minnesota in 1997.
Of course, tonight's early start is due to Villanova's participation in the preseason National Invitation Tournament.
Introducing Mr. Bradley
During the 1999-2000 season he was the lanky fellow seated near the end of the bench in civilian clothes during games played at the Pavilion.
Tonight, junior Michael Bradley begins his playing career with the Wildcats of the Main Line.
Bradley, of course, began his college career at the University of Kentucky. As a freshman he earned an NCAA championship ring. As a sophomore in 1998-99, he averaged 9.8 points per game and connected on .656 of his field goal attempts to establish a new school record in the process.
That spring, Bradley chose to transfer. Villanova head coach Steve Lappas - whose staff had recruited Bradley extensively prior to Bradley's original choice in 1997 - quickly made contact and in early June Bradley announced that he was coming to Villanova.
Last winter he practiced with the `Cats but was unable to play in games due to NCAA transfer rules.
Bradley walked on to the floor in a Villanova uniform for the first time on Nov. 3 in an exhibition game against the One World All-Stars at the Pavilion.
He was, in a word, terrific.
On Villanova's third trip down the floor he drilled a 3-point field goal. He added another one moments later.
By night's end he had chalked up 28 points and collected nine rebounds in 30 minutes of action. In addition, he was credited with five assists.
"Mike brings a different dimension to our team," said head coach Steve Lappas.
In October Bradley was named to the second team preseason All-Big East squad. He thus became the first player since Delray Brooks in 1986 to be named to an All-Big East team before ever having played a game in the conference.
Dick Vitale's ESPN magazine and preseason television special on the same network also cited Bradley as one of the nation's impact transfers.
NIT Knacks This marks Villanova's third straight game in the National Invitation Tournament, dating back to last spring.
The Wildcats defeated Delaware 72-63 in the first round of the 2000 postseason NIT before falling to Kent 81-67 in the second round of that event.
Trends To Watch
While the 20-13 Wildcats endured disappointment last March on Selection Sunday when they became only the third team in Big East history not to be selected for the field of 64 with 19 wins, there is something they hope carries over.
In 1999-2000, Villanova was 11-1 following a loss (.917).
Only once all season did the squad lose back-to-back games: at Rutgers and at Pittsburgh in late January.
Villanova received a boost last February when Jermaine Medley became the team's starting point guard.
Over his last 14 games he averaged 11.4 points and 33 minutes per outing en route to the Philadelphia Big Five Most Improved Player Award.
"Jermaine's play over the second half of the year was really something to see," said head coach Steve Lappas.
Medley has been a starter 49 times in his college career, including 23 last year. He has a career 3-point field percentage of .344 and last season converted on .381 percent of his triple tries.
In the exhibition contest Medley scored nine points in 27 minutes. He also contributed four assists with no turnovers.