When Scottie Reynolds was named the only unanimous selection to all-Big East first team, it seemed like it would suggest that he was the favorite to be named Villanova’s third Big East Player of the Year in school history. Apparently not.
The news broke on Tuesday that it was Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson, and not Reynolds, who would be taking home this year’s award. There’s a strong case that can be made for Johnson, and there’s no doubt that both could wind up as first team All-Americans. However, there is a better case for Reynolds, and here it is:
1) Scottie paid his dues
For four years Reynolds has become one of the faces of the Big East. He burst onto the scene his freshman year with a 40-point game in a win at UConn. His legend grew when he led a 12th-seeded Villanova team to the Sweet 16 as a sophomore. In the Elite Eight during his junior year, he hit the shot that made him a national name.
When the season is over Reynolds should be Villanova’s all-time leading scorer and one of the most memorable players in the school’s and the conference’s history.
Wesley Johnson, quite simply, is not.
It’s no knock on him, but the facts are that Johnson is essentially a one-and-done for Syracuse. He is a transfer from Iowa State that will most likely be headed to the NBA next season. Syracuse and the Big East are just a stop on Johnson’s path, not a home like Villanova and the conference are for Reynolds.
To me the situation is a lot like the 2002-’03 Player of the Year race. That year Syracuse forward Carmelo Anthony took the nation by storm as he averaged 22.2 points per game and 10 rebounds per game en route to an NCAA title.
While Anthony won a lot that season, one thing he didn’t win was Big East Player of the Year. That went to Big East lifer Troy Bell, the senior guard from Boston College who averaged 25.2 points per game. He was a better scorer than Reynolds was, but they were very similar players. Bell got the nod not just because of his stats, but likely also because of his career.
2) Reynolds was better than Johnson in Big East play
Overall this season Reynolds has averaged 18.8 points per game while Johnson is at 15.7. The disparity becomes much greater in Big East games. Reynolds was third in the Big East in scoring during conference play, elevating his scoring average to 19.9 ppg. Johnson’s scoring dipped to 14.8 ppg, good for only 16th in the conference.
Johnson cracked the 20-point mark three times during Big East games. Reynolds did it in nine games.
In his final nine games, Johnson scored more than 16 points just once. Reynolds scored at least 16 in every game.
There’s obviously more to a game than scoring, and Johnson clearly contributes more as a rebounder, averaging 8.5 per game. As a scorer, though, Reynolds was dominant and Johnson was run-of-the-mill in conference play.
Also, it’s true that Johnson suffered form a hand injury down the stretch and that hampered his play. However, Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody missed five games this season with a bone bruise, but his numbers are equally, if not more impressive than Johnson’s, so why not give it to him. And if you think Reynolds is 100 percent healthy after an 18-game Big East schedule, you are mistaken.
3) Reynolds is more important to his team
When Villanova was on the ropes against Louisville, Reynolds scored 30 points in the second half. When the Wildcats needed some one to hit a shot to beat Marquette, Reynolds threw the ball between his legs and then hit a running jumper. When his team needed a lift in the second half, he gave them one each game.
Reynolds is the best player on Villanova, and he has to be every game. It’s not the same for Johnson.
Johnson has surely had some memorable performances (the 20-point, 19-rebound performance against Seton Hall sticks out), but when he contributed less at the end of the season, it was okay. Andy Rautins, Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku could carry the load too.
Outside of the occasional dominant performance from Corey Fisher, Reynolds always carries the load. There is no player that means more to his team in the Big East than Reynolds.
Reynolds does-it-all for Villanova. He is the face of the program, and in many ways this year’s face of the Big East. Even without winning Player of the Year, he will be remembered within the conference much more often than Johnson will be. In many ways, he represented what the Big East was all about.
Today is the calm before the storm as Tuesday the Big East tournament will begin. Villanova won’t know who it is playing until about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, so here is a look at its three potential opponents:
(5) Marquette (20-10, 11-7): The most likely opponent is the Golden Eagles. It would be the latest contest in what has become a budding rivalry between the two schools. The Wildcats have gotten the best of the games recently. They defeated Marquette 76-75 on a Dwayne Anderson game-winner in the quarterfinals of last year’s Big East tournament. This season they have handed them two two-point defeats.
While Marquette has defied expectations after losing its core from a season ago, the Golden Eagles are still tough to figure out. Four of their last fives games have went to overtime, including contests against Cincinnati and St. John’s. While Marquette has defeated Georgetown and Louisville, it has also lost to DePaul.
Led by senior forward Lazar Hayward, the Golden Eagles will be gunning for revenge if they meet Villanova in the quarterfinals again this season.
(12) Connecticut (17-14, 7-11): Perhaps the most difficult team to figure out this season is UConn. It has defeated Villanova, West Virginia and Texas, but also lost to USF, Cincinnati twice, Providence and Michigan. The result of the Huskies erratic play means that they will probably need at least two wins to get an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.
Villanova saw first hand how talented the Huskies can be, especially guards Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker and forward Stanley Robinson. However, outside those three players, there isn’t much offense on their roster. Although UConn plays strong defense (a key to their win against Villanova), it often has trouble scoring enough to win games.
The overall talent on this roster will make the Huskies a sleeper pick to reach the quarterfinals.
(13) St. John’s (16-14, 6-12): It has been another rough year for the Red Storm, and perhaps the only thing working in its favor is playing at Madison Square Garden. A season ago that helped pulled off a first-round upset against Georgetown before falling to Marquette.
To do that again St. John’s will need more production from players other than D.J. Kennedy and Dwight Hardy, its only players averaging on double-figures.
The Red Storm fell by 16 in its only meeting against UConn this season and needed three overtimes to defeat DePaul in its last game, suggesting that a lot will need to go the Red Storm’s way for a miracle run through the Big East tournament.
Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns all find themselves honored by the league. With Reynolds being the only unanimous selection, it would suggest he is the favorite for Big East player of the year.
ALL-BIG EAST FIRST TEAM
Greg Monroe, Georgetown, C, So., 6-11, 247, New Orleans, La.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, F, Sr., 6-8, 255, Schererville, Ind.
Dominique Jones, USF, G, Jr., 6-4, 205, Lake Wales, Fla.
Wes Johnson, Syracuse, F, Jr., 6-7, 205, Corsicana, Texas
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, G, Sr., 6-2, 190, Herndon, Va. *
Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia, F, Sr., 6-7, 225, Newark, N.J.
ALL-BIG EAST SECOND TEAM
Austin Freeman, Georgetown, G, Jr., 6-4, 237, Mitchelville, Md.
Lazar Hayward, Marquette, F, Sr., 6-6, 225, Buffalo, N.Y.
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh, G, So., 6-2, 190, Scotch Plains, N.J.
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, G, Jr., 6-5, 185, Bronx, N.Y.
Andy Rautins, Syracuse, G, Sr., 6-5, 195, Jamesville, N.Y.
ALL-BIG EAST THIRD TEAM
Jerome Dyson, Connecticut, G, Sr., 6-3, 190, Potomac, Md.
Kemba Walker, Connecticut, G, So., 6-1, 172, Bronx, N.Y.
Samardo Samuels, Louisville, F, So., 6-9, 260, Trelawny, Jamaica
Corey Fisher, Villanova, G, Jr., 6-1, 200, Bronx, N.Y.
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia, F, So., 6-9, 210, Long Island City, N.Y.
BIG EAST HONORABLE MENTION
Jimmy Butler, Marquette, F, Jr., 6-6, 215, Tomball, Texas
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame, F, Jr., 6-8, 232, Unionville, Conn.
Jamine Peterson, Providence, F, So., 6-6, 230, Brooklyn, N.Y.
BIG EAST ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati, G, Fr., 6-5, 210, Brooklyn, N.Y. *
Alex Oriakhi, Connecticut, F/C, Fr., 6-9, 240, Lowell, Mass.
Vincent Council, Providence, G, Fr., 6-2, 180, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dane Miller, Rutgers, F, Fr., 6-7, 210, Henrietta, N.Y. *
Brandon Triche, Syracuse, G, Fr., 6-4, 198, Jamesville, N.Y.
Maalik Wayns, Villanova, G, Fr., 6-1, 185, Philadelphia, Pa.
* unanimous selection
The regular season came to a close today in the Big East with seven Saturday games. Now the field is set, and it is time to get ready for the Big East tournament, which starts on Tuesday.
- 12 PM Tuesday: 9. South Florida vs. 16. DePaul
- 12 PM Wednesday: 8. Georgetown vs USF/DPU
- 12 PM Thursday: 1. Syracuse vs GU/USF/DPU
- 2 PM Tuesday: 12. UConn vs. 13. St. John’s
- 2 PM Wednesday: 5. Marquette vs. UCONN/STJ
- 2 PM Thursday: 4. Villanova vs. MARQ/UCONN/STJ
- 7 PM Tuesday: 10. Seton Hall vs. 15. Providence
- 7 PM Wednesday: 7. Notre Dame vs. SHU/PROV
- 7 PM Thursday: 2. Pittsburgh vs. ND/SHU/PROV
- 9 PM Tuesday: 11. Cincinnati vs. 14. Rutgers
- 9 PM Wednesday: 6. Louisville vs. CINN/RU
- 9 PM Thursday: 3. West Virginia vs. LOU/CINN/RU
If all goes according to plan, the potential semifinal matchups are:
Syracuse vs. Villanova
Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia
We’ll break down what the seeding means for Villanova in the coming days.
– David Cassilo
About a month ago, I made a post declaring that the Big East was a two-team race. While those two teams (Villanova and Syracuse) remain atop the Big East standings, Pittsburgh has joined the hunt by winning five straight contests after losing four of its previous five. Even better for Pittsburgh is that it has already beaten Syracuse and Villanova, meaning it needs to only tie for first to earn the Big East tournament’s top seed. Before we get into what may happen, let’s look at each team’s remaining schedule:
Syracuse (26-2, 13-2)
Feb. 27: vs. NOVA, Mar. 2: vs. SJU, Mar. 6: @ LVILLE
Villanova (22-4, 11-3)
Feb. 24: vs. USF, Feb. 27: @ SYR, Mar. 2: @ CINN, Mar. 6: vs. WV
Pittsburgh (21-6, 10-4)
Feb. 24: @ ND, Feb. 27: @ SJU, Mar. 4: vs. PROV, Mar. 6: vs. RU
Immediately looking at those remaining schedules, Pittsburgh has the easiest finish and should end the season win four more wins to being itself to 14-4. Meanwhile, Syracuse and Villanova have two potential losses on their schedules, which includes the game between each other and their regular season finales.
For Villanova, it looks pretty simple. A win Saturday against Syracuse is the team’s only chance of the 1-seed. If it pulls off the upset, it controls its own Big East destiny. Oddly enough, it will most likely either be the 1-seed or the 3-seed for the Wildcats. If they lose to Syracuse, they will be tied with Pittsburgh and will need to win out and hope Pittsburgh trips up to get the 2-seed.
First though, Villanova must get on track with a win tonight against USF. If that doesn’t happen, it won’t matter what seed they are because the Wildcats will be headed nowhere fast.
– David Cassilo
With apologies to St. John’s upset of Notre Dame on Sunday, Louisville and Rutgers created havoc in the Big East by knocking off Syracuse and Georgetown, respectively. Let’s look at what those wins mean for those teams involved, as well as the game’s impact on Villanova:
Louisville defeats Syracuse:
- Louisville: The win possibly saves Louisville’s tournament hopes as the Cardinals finally got the signature win they desperately needed. Earlier in the week Louisville lost to St. John’s by 19 points, and it looked like it was primed to fall apart down the stretch. While Louisville has been up-and-down this season, it is now 7-5 in conference. A home game against Notre Dame and a trip to DePaul seem like wins, meaning that Louisville will probably have to win one game out of two home contests against Georgetown and Syracuse and road games against Marquette and UConn to finish with a winning record in the Big East and strengthen its hope for an at-large bid.
- Syracuse: After barely surviving against UConn, the Orange finally saw their 11-game winning streak snapped. Syracuse is still in line for a No. 1 seed, but with trips to Georgetown and Louisville and a home game against Villanova left the Orange will need to get back in a groove to hold on to that position. Surprisingly, both of Syracuse’s losses are at home this season.
- Villanova: The obvious impact is that Villanova now has sole possession of first place in the Big East. The lead also helps immensely because it means that Villanova can lose at Syracuse and will still finish in first if it wins the rest of its games and Syracuse loses just one. It also means that a win at Syracuse would effectively give Villanova the regular season title. The showdown on Feb. 27 could lose even more muster as Syracuse has a tough road game with Georgetown on Thursday, but Villanova would not complain a bit.
Rutgers knocks off Georgetown:
- Rutgers: Perhaps a win like this may go towards saving Fred Hill’s job. Aside from that, it strengthens the team’s hope for a CBI bid.
- Georgetown: The loss coupled with the Louisville win clutters the Big East race. Georgetown, West Virginia and Pittsburgh all have eight wins, while Marquette and Louisville both have seven. Two of those teams will receive double-byes in the Big East tournament. With games against Syracuse, West Virginia and Louisville still on their schedule, the loss Sunday could be enough to ruin the Hoyas’ hopes for the double-bye. The loss also shows that the Hoyas are one of the toughest teams in the country to figure out, as they have easily beaten Villanova and Duke, but also lost to Rutgers, Old Dominion and South Florida.
- Villanova: Georgetown’s loss solidifies that that the Big East is a two-team race. With Georgetown now three games behind Syracuse and Villanova, it will take a monumental collapse by either team to not at least finish with the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament. It also doesn’t hurt that Georgetown is coming off a bad loss, and, much like Louisville was, will be extra motivated to beat Syracuse in its next game.
– David Cassilo
When Kentucky lost on Tuesday, we knew that there would be a new No. 1 in Monday’s poll. With another week without a loss behind them, Kansas, Villanova and Syracuse all can argue their claim to be on top. Even Kentucky could make a case as they still only have one loss and handled red-hot Vanderbilt with ease on Saturday.
While some experts believe that Syracuse should even leap Villanova, and the Wildcats should be no higher than No. 3, here is why Villanova should be ranked first:
1) Villanova is undefeated in the best conference in the country
While their schedule in conference gets harder in February, the fact that Villanova stands at 8-0 in the Big East can not be forgotten. This is the best conference in America, and that was confirmed when a mediocre UConn team beat Texas and a Georgetown team that is no better than third in the conference, destroyed Duke, the class of the ACC.
The Wildcats continue to win, regardless of who is on their schedule. Anyone who watched Syracuse-DePaul yesterday knows that every game in the Big East is a difficult one, and to be undefeated this long in conference is noteworthy.
2) Villanova has not lost at full-strength this season
The lone Wildcat loss this season took place when Mouphtaou Yarou and Reggie Redding were sidelined. Both players are key rotation players and Villanova no doubt would have fared better against Temple with even one of them. Of the three other teams with one-loss that sit atop the ranking, none of them dealt with missing players of this nature in their defeat.
3) The Wildcats’ loss is better than everyone else’s
Villanova lost on the road to Temple, who even with their loss to Charlotte on Wednesday is ranked No. 14 in the RPI. Kansas fell to a depleted Tennessee squad on the road that had just suspended their best player Tyler Smith. Tennessee is currently No. 26 in the RPI. Syracuse lost at home to Pittsburgh, currently ranked No. 17 in the RPI. While Pittsburgh beat Syracuse on the road, they did not win at Seton Hall.
None of these are necessarily bad losses, but of all the defeats, Villanova’s is most understandable.
4) Villanova is playing the best right now
Let me run down the impressive statistics Villanova has put up lately:
- The Wildcats have won ten straight games.
- The team has scored at least 81 points in eight of their last ten games.
- Villanova ranks third in the nation with a scoring average of 85.2 ppg.
- The Wildcats have won ten straight and 19 of 21 regular season Big East games dating back to last season.
- The team has won seven straight Big East road games dating back to last season.
The case is there for Villanova. Add in that Kansas had its shot and that ranking Syracuse ahead of Villanova when they are behind them in the Big East is a bit nonsensical and that case gets stronger. Now we wait until tomorrow.