Bulls seek rare 3-game sweep vs. Villanova
NEW YORK -- As USF goes for its third win against Villanova this season tonight in the Big East tournament, the Bulls have a rare opportunity for a three-game sweep against a Big East rival.
Villanova hasn't lost three times in the same season to one team since 1987, when Syracuse pulled off the sweep. St. John's had three sweeps between 1981-86 and Georgetown did it in 1982, but the last three times a Big East team beat the Wildcats twice and had a shot at a third opportunity, it couldn't finish the sweep - Pittsburgh in 1988, St. John's in 1990 and Providence in 2004.
This is certainly a function of logistics as much as actual difficulty -- the league has only had so many seasons in which teams played more than once, and then you need the coincidence of a meeting in the Big East tournament to even have a chance at a three-game sweep. By the same reasoning, USF hasn't beaten one team three times in a season since they swept Charlotte in 1989-90 -- the only other three-game sweeps are Jacksonville in 1982-83 and Charlotte in 1981-82.
Now that the Bulls have such an opportunity, let's revisit the last three times USF has beaten Villanova, going back to last year's tournament upset ...
USF 65, VILLANOVA 51 (Tampa, Feb. 15): It's hard to compare to this game because Villanova didn't have top scorer Maalik Wayns, out with a knee injury. In his absence, freshman JayVaughn Pinkston went 1-for-13 from the field. USF got its scoring from the backcourt -- Victor Rudd and Hugh Robertson had 14 each and Anthony Collins and Jawanza Poland scored 10. Ron Anderson had a solid game with 10 rebounds.
USF 74, VILLANOVA 57 (Philadelphia, Jan. 5): This is the most relevant for this game, with USF prevailing convincingly away from home. The Bulls lost Collins to a concussion late in the first half and backup Blake Nash stepped up in a big way, finishing with 12 points and six assists. Poland matched his career high with 20 points in the win, and USF's perimeter defense was strong, holding Villanova to 4-for-20 shooting beyond the arc. Wayns had 17 points to lead the Wildcats.
USF 70, VILLANOVA 69 (New York, March 8, 2011): Key players are gone from this game -- Anthony Crater hit two layups in the final seconds to help the Bulls rally and eliminate the Wildcats in the opening round last year, winning as the 15th seed. Wayns was a big factor for Villanova with 24 points, but Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, both now gone, were also prominent for Villanova. You do see that the Wildcats' inside game wasn't a factor -- Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton combined for just 3 points. This was the game where Shaun Noriega -- now barely playing as a Bulls reserve -- went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers in the first four minutes, finishing with a team-high 22 points.
We'll have plenty more from here at Madison Square Garden once the games start up. The opening game between West Virginia and UConn will send the loser closer to the NCAA bubble, though some analysts think both schools have earned their way in for the NCAAs.