Villanova tries to reset
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – It was only a year ago, but Villanova’s trip to the Final Four in 2009-10 seems like an eternity ago.
“I think every time is different, not every game, but every group of guys that you’re with,” Villanova star Scottie Reynolds said Wednesday. “Last year, the group of guys we had were together for two years. We pretty much knew everything about that team and what we were capable of.
“And this team, it’s a little different because we know what we’re capable of, but we’re still striving to that perfection, still striving to be the best team we can be. … We have a tough opponent against Robert Morris.”
The seeds say Thursday’s first-round South Regional matchup against Robert Morris shouldn’t be close. Villanova is a No. 2 seed. But the Wildcats are limping into the NCAA tournament. Villanova began 20-1 but has lost six of its last seven games. Should the Wildcats even have been seeded this high? Regardless, here they are, primed to erase their sluggish finish.
What has been the cause of Villanova’s slump? Opponents aren’t letting Reynolds beat them. He appears to be forcing things despite drawing more focus from defenses. In the last four games, Reynolds shot 39 percent (18 for 46) and failed to get to the free-throw line in two of those games.
“You know, we never try to make any excuses for what goes on in a season, because that is the season,” said Reynolds, a smooth 6-2 shooter who has tallied more than 2,000 career points. “A season is a journey with a group of guys. And you never know if there’s going to be good times, going to be bad times, going to be bumps in the road and it’s all how you deal with those things.”
So far, Reynolds and Co. haven’t done well with the bumps down the stretch. For Villanova to have another run deep this March, it will be key that Reynolds plays within himself.
Another big key: 6-5 guard Reggie Redding needs to find the mojo that made him special in the 2009 tourney. Last March, Redding averaged 9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists while also serving as a cohesive leader.
But Redding’s 2009-10 season got off to a bad start. He was suspended for the first 10 games following his arrest over the summer for marijuana possession. Redding could practice with the team, but he lacked game-sharpness when he returned to action Dec. 19. He averages 7.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists entering Thursday’s matchup with Robert Morris. Time is running out on him, Reynolds and Villanova to rediscover their magic.
“Before we left to come to Providence, we got our Final Four rings from last year, as kind of a motivational thing trying to show the young guys, hey, let’s get another one,” Redding said. “And we’re going to use that as motivation and try to get back. It’s different when you’re a senior and you lead your team to a Final Four than when you’re a junior and you’re following the older guys, the seniors, the leaders.
“Now, if me and Scottie can lead our team to a Final Four, it will be another great thing. It will be a different feeling with this team.”