SportsProf

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Strange Metaphor for Villanova Wildcats

About a week ago, their leading scorer, Curtis Sumpter, hurt his knee and is now out for 4-6 weeks. A few days ago, ill-fated center Jason Fraser broke his hand. He had surgery yesterday, and he's out for a month (at least).

Which leaves the Villanova Wildcats with four very good players -- Alan Ray, Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry and Mike Nardi -- all of them guards, and all of them under 6'3". Which leaves the undersized Villanova Wildcats in the fight for their basketball lives. Given what happened a few nights ago in Providence, they're thrilled that their basketball lives is all that they're fighting for.

All this bad luck with injuries after a great start that has the Wildcats at 9-2 and that had people talking that this was the year for this team to return to the NCAA Tournament. And perhaps make some noise.

And then, of course, there's been the speculation atop the injuries. It's the kind of talk that started dogging the Wildcats' program since the end of last year. It even surfaced again today in a suburban paper. Yes, the story about the fate of coach Jay Wright. Get to the Big Dance or else is really what the message is.

Truth be told, that story, those whispers, had started to vanish after the great start and before the injuries to Sumpter and Fraser. But now that these two players have gotten hurt, the speculation has begun anew. The article I linked to above came out today of all days. It probably was a dead story after the Cats beat West Virginia, but now it's back. As if that was bad enough.

And now this.

It's a scary story, and atop everything else this program has gone through to boot. Luckily, it had a happy ending.

It doesn't take a literature major or a Rhodes Scholar to make the analogy here. Literally, the 'Nova program had started to crash with Sumpter's injury and perhaps started to burn with Fraser's. Figuratively, well, the team almost did the same in Providence of all places.

Coincidence?

Metaphor?

In Providence?

I'm not a superstitious sort, and I don't believe in omens, but this episode seems to have been scripted by the same folks who wrote for the Boston Red Sox this past year. Part Old Testament, part Greek Mythology. Team loses two key players, almost has catastrophic accident. The players return, and the team takes its difficult road to its Promised Land.

The NCAA Tournament.

Thankfully, Coach Jay Wright and his Wildcats now can take a deep breath, kiss the ground and begin to focus on how to take care of business. After all, beating Syracuse and UConn on the road without most of your frontcourt should be a piece of cake compared to the landing that they experienced in New England.

Jay Wright is a better coach than he gets credit for. And the four guards that now form the heart of the roster for the next month are as tough a group as they come.

Will they be enough? Will the Villanova Wildcats be able to win enough games to get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament?

The road most certainly will be a tough one.

Fate has been kind to them once, but now it's time for them to determine their own fate.

And after what happened the other night in Providence, their luck is bound to change.

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