A Look At The Villanova Wildcats

The Hartford Courant

Next meeting: At least one game at UConn, or a home-and-home two game series if the Big East schedule calls for it.

Last season: Two days after an embarrassing performance (a 60-48 loss) against Cincinnati in Jim Calhoun's return from medical leave, UConn rebounded with an upset of No. 3 Villanova at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

Kemba Walker led the way with a career-high 29 points as the Huskies moved to 15-11. It was the first victory in a three-game losing streak that temporarily resurrected their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Huskies fell apart down the stretch – only slightly more so than the Wildcats.

Villanova lost six of its final nine games, including a first-round loss to Marquette in the first round of the Big East tournament. Their body of work earned the Wildcats a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After sneaking by Robert Morris in a first-round, overtime scare, Villanova lost to St. Mary's in the second round.

The Wildcats final record was 25-8.

Who's gone, who's back: Scotty Reynolds, the face of the team and one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball, has exhausted his eligibility. But the Coreys return – guards Fisher and Stokes – and will form a formidable senior core with forward Antonio Pena.

Sophomore guards Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns return and will see increased roles. The Wildcats will be, yet again, particularly dangerous on the perimeter. Big man Mouphtaou Yarou will have to show more.

The UConn-Villanova rivalry: UConn, which won the last two meetings, trails the all-time series, 32-28. Villanova won 19 of the first 22 meetings between the teams in 1941-88, and UConn has gone 24-13 against Villanova since.

With Jim Calhoun and Jay Wright, the coaches are high-profile. The excitement from the Kerry Kittles- Ray Allen days of the 1990s has kept up. In 2006, two weeks after Villanova ended UConn's 11-game winning streak in Philadelphia, the Huskies defeated Nova at Gampel Pavilion before one of the loudest crowds and anticipated games in Gampel history.

In 2007, Reynolds set a Gampel record with 40 points in Villanova's 78-74 victory. The next season, UConn's 10-game winning streak was snapped with a two-point loss at the Wachovia Center. And in 2009, when both teams would reach the Final Four, UConn earned an 89-83 victory at the XL Center.

What's at stake: Pride, always. And a Big East victory. This is always a highly anticipated game, usually televised nationally. Both teams are coming off disappointing finishes to last season, with UConn coming off a disappointing season, period.

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