Here’s part three of five of our week long series of looking back at Villanova’s top 10 moments of the past year:
6. Class of 2009 becomes winningest class in Villanova history- Mar. 2, 2009
By no means was Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark and Frank Tchuisi the most heralded class in school history, but they were the class with more wins than any other in the school’s history. A convincing win over Notre Dame gave the group that distinction.
The four Wildcats finished their careers with 102 wins and capped their four years with a trip to the Final Four. In many ways they exemplified exactly what Villanova basketball has become under Jay Wright – doing whatever is needed to win.
5. Villanova survives American in the first round- Mar. 19, 2009
The magical run that was the 2009 NCAA tournament almost was over for Villanova just when it started. It looked like the upset bug might bite the Wildcats as a scrappy American team led by Garrison Carr took a 10-point lead into halftime.
Villanova, though, turned things around in the second half and used a 15-0 run in the second half to take control and avoid the upset in front of the hometown Philadelphia crowd. Both Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson sparked the comeback for Villanova as each had 25 points, which was also a career-high for Anderson.
The Wildcats prevailed 80-67, and that second half was the beginning of a run that would end in the Final Four.
With final exams in full swing, the senior class of Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Frank Tchuisi, have just a few days left as student athletes. Their success has been well documented, and among other things, they will be remembered for the Final Four run and for being the winningest class in school history.
However, that second accomplishment may be gone sooner than you think. The current senior class will leave school with 102 wins. Both the junior class and sophomore class have legitimate chances of surpassing that record.
The junior class of Jason Colenda, Reggie Redding and Scottie Reynolds currently has a total of 74 wins (22 in each of the first two years, and 30 last season). That leaves them 28 wins shy of the record entering their final season. It would most likely take at least a run to the Sweet 16 next season for these three Wildcats to approach the record.
It is the sophomore class of Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena and Corey Stokes, that looks like it may leave school as the new winningest class in school history. Currently these three players have 52 wins, meaning that they must average 25 wins over the next two seasons to tie the current seniors. With the amount of talent still on the roster and the talent coming in next year, 25 wins a season is a very reasonable expectation.
So let’s take the time to properly appreciate these current seniors because in just a few years their record may be broken.
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.