So, how about Jay Wright for Big East Coach of the Year?
Just thought it needed to be tossed out there.
I don’t know who’s going to get it. Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon have obviously had their teams jockeying for the No. 1 spot in the nation. UConn was supposed to be that good. The Panthers were picked to finish third in the preseason poll, just behind Louisville, which is currently ranked sixth. So maybe they’ve actually done a little more than people anticipated, but it’s not like where they are is shocking.
The hardest thing to do sometimes in sports is reach the expectations. In many respects, Villanova has exceeded them. Sure, the Wildcats had everything back from a team that reached the Sweet 16 a year ago. But that team also barely made it into the NCAA Tournament, in case you forgot. Yes, they were older, but question marks still remained.
If you had told most of Nova Nation way back when that this team would be 24-6, 12-5 in the conference, they would have taken it without hesitation. Heck, maybe Wright would have, too. That’s how tough the Big East is, especially this season. And the reality is, after losing two of their first five conference games, even nine or 10 victories wasn’t looking too bad. Seriously.
But this team apparently wasn’t thinking that way. And while Wright always credits his players, particularly the four seniors, it all starts with him.
You don’t have to Dick Vitale to realize that, on paper, Villanova is not playing with quite the same deck as UConn, Pitt or Louisville. Perhaps it’s not even close. Those teams have pros. Make that multiple pros. Dante Cunningham might have a future at the next level, but right now that’s about it. Yet the Wildcats should have beaten Louisville, nearly won at UConn and beat Pitt. Not too shabby.
What the Wildcats lack in sheer talent, they make up for with belief. The belief that somehow, someway, somebody will figure out a way to make it happen. And more often than not, it has worked.
Someone is responsible for that. The guy who brought them to the Main Line in the first place.
Sometimes you look a a box score and can’t understand how the Wildcats won. The biggest thing is, they define the team concept. Cunningham and Reynolds are the rocks. But when they’ve struggled, Corey Fisher has become a catalyst off the bench. Or Dwayne Anderson hits threes. Ditto Corey Stokes. Or Shane Clark/Reggie Redding come up with a big defensive play. It’s often about the intangibles. Again, it’s been ingrained in them from the top. And it shows.
As a group, they’re better than the individual parts. I remember getting e-mails last season suggesting that perhaps Wright wasn’t doing a good job. At the time, maybe he wasn’t. But I wasn’t getting those e-mails 2 months later. Funny how that works.
I don’t know how far this team is going to hang around in March. At some point, it’s all about matchups. The Wildcats could run into a Davidson in the second round, and all of a sudden a good season is over before it was supposed to be. I think they create some unique matchup problems, which makes them a tough out. Yet all it takes is one off-game. Whatever transpires in the next few weeks, Wright should at least get consideration for the award. Especially if his guys finish 13-5 and wind up getting the fourth seed in the Big East tourney. He’s earned as much.