Postseason: NCAA: Defeated New Mexico 55–47, defeated Florida 76–65, lost to North Carolina 67–66 in the regional semifinals
Washington, DC/Saint Thomas More (CT) School
Philadelphia, PA/Hargrave (VA) Military Academy
Silver Spring, MD/Potomac
Douala, Cameroon/St. Benedict's (NJ) Prep
Anderson, a product of the Washington D.C. Catholic League, spent the 2004-05 year at Saint Thomas More in Connecticut. Cunningham was the Maryland Player of the Year last season. Benn played with Kyle Lowry at Philadelphia's Cardinal Dougherty High School before attending Hargrave Military.
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In Cleveland, Browns fans still recoil in horror at the mention of "The Drive." While "The Catch" is hailed in San Francisco, it's infamous in Dallas.
For Villanova fans, there is "The Call.”
The Call came in the closing seconds of the NCAA Sweet 16 last March as the Wildcats, trailing by three points, had the ball against North Carolina. Allan Ray hop-stepped into the lane, went up for a shot and a whistle blew. A foul? A basket and a foul? No. The Call was traveling. Turnover. Carolina ball. Carolina win. Carolina championship.
Months later, Villanova coach Jay Wright says he still hears about the walk. "Everybody in Philadelphia talks about The Call," Wright says. "Everybody talks about that game. Even though we lost. In 11 years as coach, I don't remember getting so much attention for a loss."
The Wildcats bring back every important player from last year's team, including potential all-conference forward Curtis Sumpter, who missed the North Carolina game with a knee injury.
The 6-7 Sumpter leads a talented senior class that's poised to end its career in style. In addition to Sumpter, seniors Randy Foye, Ray and Jason Fraser hope to avenge The Call.
"I think that game has left a hunger in them to still prove themselves in a big game like that,” Wright says. "I like that.”
The questions surrounding this team are all in the frontcourt, and they are mostly about health.
Sumpter was the breakout player of the year in the Big East. Then he suffered a torn ACL in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Florida. He had surgery in April, and Wright has proclaimed him to be 100 percent healthy, which is good because the Wildcats need Sumpter's size, strength and athleticism up front.
Then there's Fraser. The 6-10 senior has been plagued by knee troubles for years. When he scored 21 points and hauled in 15 boards in Villanova's NCAA win over Florida, he logged 30 minutes. It was just the 17th time in Fraser's three-year career that he played that many minutes. Still, he needed surgery on both knees in April, and Wright talked of redshirting his lone big man.
"The surgeries were very successful, so he's going to be healthy,” Wright says. "But after all he's been through, I just want him to have one healthy season.”
Will Sheridan, a 6-8 junior, and incoming freshman Dante Cunningham provide what little depth Wright will have in the frontcourt.
The quality and quantity of talent in Villanova's guard corps came to light in the NCAA tournament against North Carolina. Wright's normal three-guard lineup of Ray, Foye and Mike Nardi expanded by one with the insertion of Kyle Lowry into the starting lineup.
Lowry tore his ACL last September, but returned to action in late December and went on to earn Big East All-Freshman honors.
Over the summer, Ray was invited to the tryout for the USA under-21 World Championship team, while Foye went to the World University Games team trials.
Wright will make sure his guards get plenty of time as the three-guard set stays in vogue this winter. "Between the four of them there is always going to be three on the floor,” Wright says. "They're all interchangeable. They can all play together. There's not one combination of the three that can't play together.”
Villanova is going to be very good. Just how good depends on Sumpter's ability to return to his level of play last season and whether Fraser plays at all.
It's short-sighted to base this opinion solely on a pair of NCAA tournament wins and the close loss to North Carolina. The Wildcats' tourney run was not a fluke. Villanova went 11–5 in the Big East last year and also beat Kansas by 21 points.
Still, going out the way Villanova did against the Tar Heels has seemingly elevated the Wildcats in the eyes of the experts and their own fans.
"I feel two ways,” Wright says of the raised expectations. "I'm excited for our program, our university and our players. On the other side, I understand what comes with that. People are going to be coming after us, and we're going to have to live up to people's expectations.”