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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Debutante Ball

Philadelphia's Main Line is a pretty chic place. If you don't send your kids to the right private or even public schools (which are very good), you don't count much in a town where what you've joined or where you live can, if you let it (or, perhaps, if others decide it for you) defines you. Wrong charities, wrong vacation spot, wrong golf club, wrong side of a township and you could be yesterday's news.

For example, if you live east of the Schuykill (pronounced school-kill) River, you're among the great unwashed, and if you live in parts of Philadelphia other than as-tony Chestnut Hill (which is perhaps the Main Line with more eccentricities and less fear) or, heaven forbid, South Jersey, then you need innoculations and/or visas to make a visit to a place like the Main Line. Living in those places is like being a low-to-mid-major college hoops team trying to get a home-and-home with Duke, as they'll probably never travel to your place.

Great golf courses, nice homes, outstanding schools, swimming pools and movies stars (okay, not necessarily the last part). And deb balls. After all, getting introduced to society can be a very precious thing.

And a deb ball of sorts took place last night in Villanova, where the Wildcats played an unkind host (which is not necessarily what the Book of Etiquette says you should do) to undefeated and #23 West Virginia. The Mountaineers came into the game at 10-0, the Wildcats at 7-1. West Virginia was getting all sorts of great press, and the Wildcats were getting ignored, even in their local papers.

Why was that? First, the Eagles are Super Bowl contenders, which leaves little room for anything else on the local sports pages. Second, last year was the Year of the Hawk, as St. Joe's became the darling of every adult who read "The Little Engine That Could" as a kid and, barring some great play from John Lucas III of Oklahoma State, would have made it to the Final Four. Okay, so the Hawks didn't get there, but they certainly showed that they weren't a fluke and that they could play with anyone. And, in certain ways, Villanova is the anti-St. Joe's and vice versa. To be blunt, most of the available hoops inches in local papers went to the problems LaSalle had and whether Penn's Fran Dunphy would leave his beloved Quakers to return to his alma mater (he didn't). If there was any press about Villanova, it was about the bad knees of once-prized recruit Jason Fraser and it contained speculation as to the fate of head coach Jay Wright should the Wildcats fail to return to the NCAA tournament.

Yes, the school that pulled one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Finals history in 1985 was flying under the radar screen, upstaged by its neighbors to the south. The game was reminiscent of a line once uttered about a contender's prospects in a fight ("It will take two hits. Me hitting you, and you hitting the ground.") Villanova won, big, 84-46. Two statements were made in the process, namely that Villanova could be that good, and, well, that the Mountaineers were probably at least a tad overrated. Hard to argue with those statements after last night.

In Allen Ray, Curtis Sumpter, Mike Nardi, Randy Foye, Jason Fraser and Kyle Lowry, the Wildcats have 6 bona fide players, all of whom were big recruits. Before last night, they were just another team with something big to prove. After last night, they showed that they truly are a force to be reckoned with.

As coming-out parties go on Philadelphia's Main Line, this was one of the best in a long time, and they didn't even do any dancing.

But that will come in March, most likely, at the biggest dance of them all.


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