Nova to play American in Philly

Villanova players and fans react after hearing they will open up the NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

Villanova has earned a third seed and will open the NCAA Tournament against American University on Thursday at the Wachovia Center.

The game will begin at 7:20 p.m. and will be on CBS-3 and ESPN (950-AM).

"There are pluses and minuses [to being at home], but I think the plus\ses outweight the minuses," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It's an advantage. You get to stay at home an extra day and keep some normalcy. We went in so wide-eyed [in 2006] saying this is awesome. Then you find out about the distractions. We learned from that. We have three seniors who were part of that. We want to make sure they enjoy this, play like we always play and try to have some fun.

"[No matter where you play], if you get a bad matchup you can be in trouble real fast."

Said Reggie Redding: "It's always great to play in front of family and friends and 'Nova nation. I hope we don't let them down."

American, the 14th seed, was 24-7 and won the Patriot League. If Villanova wins, it will play the winner of the UCLA-Virginia Commonwealth game on Saturday at the Wachovia Center.

This is the fifth consecutive season Villanova has gone to the NCAA Tournament. In 3 of the previous 4 years, Villanova won at least two games in the tourney.

Villanova finished the season 26-7 and ranked 10th in the country. The Wildcats lost in the Big East semifinals to Louisville, 69-55. Last year, Villanova was a 12 seed. The Wildcats beat fifth-seeded Clemson in the first round, 75-69 and beat 13th-seeded Siena in the second round, 84-72. Villanova lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champion Kansas, 72-57.

Location: Villanova, Pa.  Conference: Big East.
Bid: At-large.
NCAA Tournament Record: 44-29 (1 Title, 3 Final Fours).
Last NCAA: 2008, Lost in regional semifinals to Kansas, 72-57
Head Coach: Jay Wright.
School: 148-83 (7 years). Overall: 270-168 (14 years).
Probable Starters Pos. Hgt. Yr. Pts. Reb. FG% FT%
Scottie Reynolds G 6-2 Jr. 15.7 2.7 41.3 81.8
Reggie Redding G 6-5 Jr. 6.8 4.8 43.4 71.2
Dwayne Anderson G-F 6-6 Sr. 8.2 5.8 43.7 83.3
Shane Clark F 6-7 Sr. 5.4 3.8 51.3 56.3
Dante Cunningham F 6-8 Sr. 16.4 7.3 53.7 67.6
Other Key Players
Corey Fisher G 6-1 So. 10.8 2.1 45.6 76.2
Corey Stokes G 6-5 So. 9.5 3.4 41.4 83.1
Antonio Pena F 6-8 So. 5.8 4.5 48.8 68.7
About the Wildcats: They’ve made it to the second weekend 3 of the last 4 years, losing to the eventual national champion each time. Won twice as a 12 seed last March. This was their fifth straight 20-win season, a program first. The 25 regular-season wins tied a school record. It had been done three times, but not since 1950-51. They convert 74 percent at the foul line. Cunningham added a midrange jumper and became the Most Improved Player in the Big East. Fisher won the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year award. If Kelvin Sampson hadn’t left Oklahoma to coach at Indiana, Reynolds would have been a Sooner.

Location: Washington. Conference: Patriot.
Bid: Automatic.
NCAA Tournament Record: 0-1 (0 Titles, 0 Final Fours)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2008, Lost in first round to Tennessee, 72-57
Head Coach: Jeff Jones.
School: 149-120 (9 years). Overall: 294-225 (17 years).
Probable Starters Pos. Hgt. Yr. Pts. Reb. FG% FT%
Derrick Mercer G 5-9 Sr. 11.5 4.3 47.5 60.9
Garrison Carr G 5-11 Sr. 17.8 3.1 40.0 77.9
Frank Borden G 6-4 Sr. 3.5 3.0 33.6 70.5
Jordan Nichols F 6-5 Sr. 5.2 5.2 65.2 51.6
Brian Gilmore F 6-8 Sr. 12.4 5.4 53.1 68.2
Other Key Players
Nick Hendra G 6-3 So. 6.5 4.5 48.1 57.5
Stephen Lumpkins F 6-8 Fr. 3.4 2.5 47.5 50.8
Bryce Simon F 6-6 Sr. 2.9 1.0 43.4 100
About the Eagles: The terrific senior backcourt of Carr and Mercer (Ahmad Nivins’ teammate at St. Anthony High in Jersey City) trailed Tennessee by just one point in a 2-15 NCAA game last year. Carr and Mercer almost never come out. Carr has made 243 threes and 172 free throws the last two seasons. Jones, a former Virginia player and coach, has created a real Patriot power in Washington. His team has won 13 straight, but was not much of a factor against the better teams it played early in the season. Their bench accounts for just 21.4 percent of the minutes, 328th in Division I. Shot seven points better (46.6% to 39.4%) than their opponents from the floor.