By Chris Fujimoto
“We have some compassion for Jay and his club because they had a great, great year, and I’ve been there. I was there a year ago. It feels like somebody just reaches in, jerks your heart out and shakes it right in front of you. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of your season being over with and knowing how close you came. But I’m hopeful that Jay and his players will think about what a great, great year it was.” – UNC Coach Roy Williams.
“They did a great job of bringing this team together and teaching us how to play Villanova basketball for 40 minutes. That’s something that we concentrated on throughout the season. We didn’t know when it was going to click, but it started clicking, and it was all because of the seniors and their strong will to will this team to do that. It would have been easy for them to be satisfied and just let us do what we wanted to do, you know. We were, what, fourth in the Big East, or third. I forgot what we were. I guess we were like, I don’t know, tops in the — in the top 25. It was easy for them to just let back and throw in the towel and not push us. But they kept pushing us. That’s why we continued to get better. And they took us on a great ride. You know, we just tried to do that day in and day out. We sorry that it’s over, but they’ll never be forgotten.” -Scottie Reynolds on the Senior Class“Always tell our guys, There’s nothing wrong with failing. You can’t fear failure. And when it happens, you’ve got to learn from it. So I really want us to learn from this tonight. You know, we didn’t play our best game. The number one reason is Carolina played better tonight. You got to give them credit. But there are things we could have done and should have done that we have to learn from. And then tomorrow, I’m going to make sure that this senior class is celebrated. I’m going to work hard at it. To answer your question, I’m gonna do everything I can tomorrow that they’re feeling great about themselves.” – Jay Wright
Sure, I can just use quotes to describe last night’s game. I can even talk about how it was to be there on the court, sitting through the game. I won’t do either of those. We all saw the game, we all have our own opinions on…what went wrong, what Villanova didn’t do…how mch better UNC was…but I don’t think that, taking last night’s game in to perspective, any of those things are important. We have to do what Jay Wright said he was going to do: celebrate the team, celebrate the seniors, and learn from a tough loss against a great team.
I’ll be honest. If you asked me at the beginning of the Big East season that this team would make it to the final four, I would laugh. I thought the team was good, but they had their flaws. But they converted me, I became a believer while sitting through their dismantling of Marquette at the Pavillion. Sure, the defense wasn’t there but with the offensive firepower they had along with the defense that had shown at times. I believed this team could make a run. Even when filling out my brackets I had Villanova going to the final four in all seven brackets I made. Sure, my picks were biased but I believed that if this team could put every piece together, they could move on to Detroit.
As a writer, I began to believe even more during the tournament. Sitting through beatings against UCLA and Duke I listened to Jay Wright and the players and began to buy in that this was a team that was destined to go far. Their offense was clicking and their defense was tenacious. I was on the court when the team celebrated their amazing win over Pitt. They laughed, cried, and celebrated. The press conference was light-hearted after with Scottie and Jay joking about the final play. Dante was wiping down the trophy with a napkin and reporters joked with Jay Wright about how the championship hat matched his suit.
Coming in to Detroit no one gave the Wildcats a chance to beat UNC. People said that it would be close and that Nova would be the most relaxed team at the Final Four, but UNC simply was the better team. I believed Nova matched up well and if they put together a great game, they had a chance..They had a chance, until about 3 minutes in to the second half.
You had to feel for the players. Dwayne, Shane, and Dante all fouled out. All of them looked on in disbelief as they finished their final collegiate game, on the bench. This Senior class has been amazing. We all know about the accomplishments they’ve picked up. But, what we don’t know is the impact they’ve had off the court. They bought in to Jay Wright’s system and knew they had to step up in the absence of 3 NBA players on the ’06 team. They stepped up, and provided an example for the rest of the team about what Villanova basketball is: a tough, physical, never giving up brand of basketball that is the identity of the team. These players will be missed. Shane Clark, Frank Tsuchi, Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham gave their heart and soul for Villanova Basketball from the first time they stepped on the court until the last time they stepped off the court, last night. They will be remembered for what they accomplished and not what they couldn’t.
But, life moves on. This team still has a lot of experience and potential. It is crazy to think that this team will add Taylor King and four of the best recruits in the nation. The question will be: with all the talent on the team, will there be enough playing time to go around? And will all the talent translate into success? This year’s team was built on chemistry and learning the system. Next year’s team will be more talented but the four new freshmen and King may struggle to learn to play the Wright way. Everyone in the Nova Nation can only hope for more success on the main line.
For now, though, we have to remember this season and remember both its highs and its lows for a season like this one may never come again.