Tag Archives: Jay Wright

Final Four: Can Villanova Stop Hield and the Sooners

1 Apr

 

 

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Villanova’s Josh Hart (right) and Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins will see a lot of each other in Saturday’s National Semifinal at NRG Stadium in Houston.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Even if Villanova doesn’t end up cutting down the nets as the NCAA National Champions Monday night in Houston, you can’t say that it’s been another disappointing year for the Wildcats.

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Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Villanova’s Kris Jenkins will square off in Saturday’s National Semifinal. Photo courtesy roanoke.com.

After a couple of years of early exits as a high seed, the Wildcats dominated most of their tournament opponents and ground out a tough win over Kansas in the South Regional Final and now they’re two games from winning their first national championship since 1985.

Standing in their way is the University of Oklahoma’s all-everything senior point-guard Buddy Hield and his ability to score from just about everywhere. In the Sooners regional final win over Oregon, he was virtually unstoppable, scoring 37 points and shooting 8-of-13 from three-point range.

Earlier in the season, the two teams played each other in Hawaii with the Sooners coming away with a 78-55 win.

In that game, Hield wasn’t the problem, Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. The Sooners had four players in double figures with Hield ( 18 points) and Isiah Cousins (19 points) leading the way.

“We did a decent job on Hield in the first game, and [Isaiah] Cousins killed us,” he said. “So we know it’s going to be more than a basic plan. I think that’s how it’s going to go. We aren’t going to just do one thing because those guys are too smart and too good for that.”

“Hopefully, we can shut them all down,” Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono said. “We know it’s going to be tough. We know they are going to score their points and make their shots, so we just have to make sure they are tough contested shots.”

While Wright concedes that his team will be a facing an Oklahoma squad that’s only gotten better with time, the same could be said about his squad, he said.

For example, the Sooners are going to have to figure out how to stop Villanova’s three-headed monster of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Arcidiacono, all of whom average in double figures in scoring. If those three get going for the Wildcats, expect lots of flying basketballs.

“Oklahoma has obviously gotten better but we have gotten a lot better in my mind,” Wright said. “I think we had a lot more room to improve than they did. When we played Oklahoma earlier this season, Jalen (Brunson) was starting for the first time. Kris and Josh were starting for the first time. We were an inexperienced team and it really showed, so I think we are a much more experienced team now.”

In that early-season game against the Sooners, , the Wildcats had problems scoring from three-point range, hitting 4-of-32 shots from behind the arc. To counteract the Sooners, they’re going to have hit their long-range shots, but they’re also going to have to go into the low post, something they did to beat Kansas in the regional final.

“We want our guys to come in and be really confident and aggressive at the start,” Wright said. “We realize when we do that we’re going to look bad sometimes, and then over a season, we want to go from aggressive to intelligent, without losing that aggressiveness.”

But in the end, how the team performs on the court is all that counts, said Brunson, a freshman who averages 9.8 points and shoots 38 percent from three-point range.

“We’ve come very far, we play better team defense and we’ve done a lot of things good offensively,” said Brunson, whose father Rick played for John Chaney at Temple in the 1990s. “As a whole, everyone’s been getting a lot better, but also, Oklahoma has gotten better…We’ll have to get out there and see.”

 

 

 

 

Big East Regular-Season Champ Villanova Ready for March Madness

9 Mar

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

(from left to right) Villanova senior guard Tony Chennault, head coach Jay Wright and freshman forward Darryl  Reynolds salute the crowd after Saturday's win over Georgetown in the regular-season finale. Photo by Webster  Riddick.

(from left to right) Villanova senior guard Tony Chennault, head coach Jay Wright and freshman forward Darryl Reynolds salute the crowd after Saturday’s win over Georgetown in the regular-season finale. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –In years past winning the Big East regular-season title guaranteed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But in this bizarre new world of conference-switching to accommodate football, the newly, reconfigured Big East is not going to get the kind of juice it once got in the NCAA Tournament. Some RPI services have the new Big East rated as the fourth-rated conference in the nation.

Nevertheless, Big East regular-season champion Villanova head coach Jay Wright has been more enamored with how well his team is playing at the most critical stretch of the season.

Since a home loss to conference-rival Creighton on Jan. 20th, the Wildcats have won 12 of their last 13 games coming into Thursday’s Big East quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The one loss in that stretch came at the hands of Creighton.

“They’re very mature,” Wright said. “These guys bring it every day in practice. I think that’s what’s been unique about them is that they are able to keep an intensity, regardless of the circumstances.”

As well as Villanova (28-3, 15-2)  has played throughout the regular season, more than a few college basketball observers are saying that things  have to fall the right way for the Wildcats to get the No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.

That said, Wright said he is not overly concerned about where his team is seeded in this year’s NCAA Tournament. It’s more about getting his team ready for the festivities in New York this week.

“I really don’t think there’s that much difference in playing between a one and a two,” Wright said. “Being considered up there is great, but no concern at all. We want to get fresh here going into the Big East Tournament. The Big East Tournament is fun, man.  I just want to concentrate on the Big East.”

That message is something that’s been filtered down to the Villanova players as they go about the process of getting ready for their trip to New York.

“Coach makes sure that it doesn’t gets to our heads,” said Wildcats junior guard Darrun Hilliard, who scored 19 points in Saturday’s win over Georgetown.  “We don’t really buy into it really.  All the coaches keep us humble and keep pushing us to get better.

“We’re going to hear it on all the social networks, TV. It is what it is. Today’s today and so tomorrow’s a new day. We have to keep moving forward and getting better.”

The one thing to like about this particular Villanova squad is that they are team that truly plays together and they have no one player standing out as a superstar. In their 77-59 victory over Georgetown in the regular-season finale, the Wildcats had five players scoring in double figures.

“They have several players on their team that would be the point player or the star on other teams. They got different people who can step up and control the ball. Their unselfishness is the key,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “At the offensive end, they are very unselfish team. They drive and kick it to the person that’s open and that person can make a shot.”

Four of the five players in Villanova’s starting lineup are averaging in double-figures. The Wildcat are led by six-foot-six senior guard/small forward James Bell, who averages 15 points and six rebounds per game. Junior forward JayVaugh Pinkston averages 14.4 per game while Hilliard scores 14.2 points per contest. Sophomore point guard Ryan Arcidiacono contributes with 10 points per game.

Even with his team playing well, Wright said his team can get better and is starting to play well on defense. The two losses to Creighton in which the Wildcats allowed 96 and 100 points respectively made them realize that they play well on defense.

“Our defense is definitely getting better and they’re taking more pride in it. The second Creight taught them that we’re a good offensive, but you’re not going to be beat the best team just scoring,” Wright said. “After we got beat the second time that woke them up. I think we can keep getting better and that’s the approach we’re going to take.”