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Tonight’s game a shot at redemption for seniors

NCAA Villanova Duke Basketball

They may be the winningest class in the history of Villanova, but there is one loss that still haunts the current group of seniors on the Wildcats.  During their freshman year, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Frank Tchuisi all were part of the Villanova team that reached the Elite Eight as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.  However, despite the expectations and the talent on the team, the Wildcats lost to Florida and fell just one win shy of the Final Four.

“Obviously, it hurt we lost,” Cunningham said.  “We played so hard and gave everything we had at them.”

To get that close and to come up short is tough for any team, but with the year Villanova had that season, it was especially devastating.  From the first game, dreams of its first Final Four since 1985 were discussed.  The team reached the No. 1 overall ranking during the season and came into the Big Dance as one of the favorites to win it all.

The team itself was comprised of one of the most loved groups of Villanova players ever to don the uniform.  Led by senior guards Randy Foye and Allan Ray, the Wildcats gave themselves their first legitimate shot to win a title since Head Coach Jay Wright joined the team.

“The oppurtunity we had our freshman year was tremendous,”  Cunningham said.  “It was all about our seniors that year – Randy Foye and Allan Ray.  They did a great job.”

However, even despite the leadership of Foye and Ray, a trip to the Final Four was not meant to be.  All of the team’s success would not be forgotten, but still it seemed like a season that ended too early.

“You are crushed, because when you get that far everything is clicking.  You are on such a high,”  Wright said.  “Then it ends.  You’re crushed.”

Although this year’s senior class only played a combined total of 17 minutes in the game against Florida, the way the team went down is still fresh in their minds.

“We played our hearts out freshman year and came up short,” Anderson said.  “If we play our hearts out this year that’s fine with us.  But we want the best advantage to get over that edge.”

The Wildcats will have a chance to get over that edge tonight against Pittsburgh.  A win would be the team’s first Final Four in 24 years.  It also would be mean finishing what Foye and Ray started in 2006.

“Now it’s on us,” Cunningham said.  “We are definitely going to do our best to take it to the next level.”

Getting that win to get to next level may be enough to finally erase the disappointing way that Villanova ended its season three seasons ago.

-David Cassilo

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