V stands for Victories at Villanova Print
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Friday, 27 February 2009 11:03
NCAAB Headline News


 VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) -Jay Wright's natty suits, designer shoes and hair coifed to perfection always have him near the top of the poll for the most stylish college coach.
He can recruit gems in the northeast and beyond - say, Africa - and coach even better than he can dress for a big game. Unlike those designer duds, winning never goes out of style.
Playing without an All-America candidate or a true marquee player, Wright has found a way to make it work again this season at Villanova. The Wildcats (23-5, 11-4 Big East) are poised for their fifth straight trip to the NCAA tournament and in prime position to finish in the top four of the Big East standings, earning them two byes in the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The No. 10 Wildcats enter Saturday's game against Georgetown winners of nine of their last 10 games against teams in the deepest conference in college basketball.
``I didn't know how a good team was going to measure up in this league,'' Wright said. ``I didn't think we were going to be a great team, but maybe at the end we have a chance to be.''
rquette and Pittsburgh (12-3) by one game in the Big East entering the final week of the regular season and only Providence has a winning conference record among the final three teams on Villanova's schedule. Toss in the season-ending injury to Marquette guard Dominic James, and the Wildcats have a wide-open shot at seizing a top-four finish.
``It's huge,'' Wright said.
Wright has every reason to rewind the game film of this year's Big East success. The Wildcats knocked off nationally ranked Syracuse (No. 24), Marquette (No. 10), and Pittsburgh (No. 3) during this hot stretch and did it with some atypical Villanova basketball: back-to-back 100-point games and another winning score in the 90s.
Wright refused to make the Wildcats watch tape of last year's Big East games because they simply ``weren't a good team.'' They went 9-9 and eked into the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid, then busted some brackets with a trip to the Sweet 16.
Who knew the run was simply a sneak peek at this year's success?
``We judge ourselves more on how we do in the Big East more than the tournament,'' said leading scorer Dante Cunningham. ``But what we did at the end of last year showed how good we could be once we got older and more experience.''
in college basketball. He's thrived in a guard-dominated offense (Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes play pivotal roles) and twice scored 31 points in a game.
Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark and Frank Tchuisi are tied with the senior class of '97 for most victories (95) in program history. They were freshman in 2005-06 when future NBA first-round picks Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry led the Wildcats to a 28-5 record, their first No. 1 NCAA tournament seed and a trip to the regional final.
Allan Ray, who also played in the NBA off that team, teamed with Foye in the backcourt to bury teams with 3-point shooting bursts, but this team takes a more methodical and shared approach.
``Those two guys were 'the guy,''' Wright said. ``With this group, you just know every night could be a different guy. It's kind of encouraging because any guy can get it going.''
Reynolds and Cunningham led Villanova in scoring in Wednesday's win against DePaul. Anderson led them a game earlier against Syracuse, Reynolds paced them against Rutgers and Fisher had the high point total against West Virginia.
The Wildcats may not have the star quality of that '06 team, but they have more depth.
One part of the season they'd like to share with Wright's greatest team is opening the NCAA tournament close to home.
er, their off-campus home and also a first round site this year. The Wildcats are 1-1 on the Philadelphia 76ers' home court and will play the Hoyas there on Saturday.
Wright laughed as he recalled Villanova being abandoned by the partisan crowd when No. 16 seed Monmouth hung tight and only trailed by nine with 6 1/2 minutes left in the game.
``There were so many fans from other teams who wound up going for the underdog,'' Wright said. ``We were in our own place sitting there going, 'Oh my God, they turned on us.' Next night (against Arizona), it was incredible how that place went wild.''
The Wildcats would love a repeat postseason performance in front of 20,000 fans.
``If we continue to keep getting better, by the end of the year we can be playing our best basketball,'' Reynolds said.
Somehow, the last five years under Wright, the Wildcats always seem to be at their best in March.
 

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