Tomorrow night, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles invade the crackerbox arena (to use Coach Buzz's turn of phrase) of the Villanova Wildcats as the second half of the Big East season kicks off. In anticipation of the matchup, we traded questions with SBN's fantastic 'Nova-focused blog, the aptly named The Nova Blog. Our answers to their questions can be found here.
Our thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer our serious and not-so-serious questions. I would offer to buy Chris our customary shot of Jager the next time he's in Milwaukee, but, sadly, I'm no longer able to partake in that particular form of liquid death. Maybe we'll go Rumple Minze.
ANYWAY, onto the questions:
Anonymous Eagle: We're halfway through the Big East season. Is 'Nova where you thought/hoped they'd be after nine conference games?
The Nova Blog: Well I sure as heck didn't have us getting roasted at Providence - so no. I thought this team was very, very mature and wouldn't have that kind of head scratching loss (especially after playing so well at UConn and Syracuse). I knew they'd have at least one 'WTF' loss this year - but I thought they'd get killed by a good team. Not a team who averages 1.5 conference wins a year.
There's plenty of time to improve though. The Big East season is quite long.
AE: Who (or what) has been the most pleasant surprise for 'Nova so far? Biggest disappointment?
TNB: The biggest surprise has been the jump by Corey Stokes in my opinion - even though he's been off lately. We've been waiting for this kind of offense for 3 years. When his shot is on, he is nearly unguardable because he's added the ability to get to the FT line as well. If it's not though - which it hasn't been - he can struggle mightily.
The biggest disappointment has been Mouphtaou Yarou. He's struggled on offense all year. He has the moves, but has shown no ability to finish whatsoever. Which is weird because Antonio Pena has never shown the moves, but has always finished somehow. I feel like they should rub off a bit on each other. Please God, let them rub off on each other.
AE: Villanova ranks 24th in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive rankings. What's the key (or keys) to that success? Does 'Nova ever show a zone look on defense?
TNB: We have shown a lot more zone this season than we ever have - much to the dismay of 'Nova fans. The key is having versatility and not being afraid to switch in man-to-man defense. Guys like Antonio Pena, Corey Stokes, and Dominic Cheek can guard anybody on the floor. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns don't panic if they get switched on to a big-man.
Above all though - we aren't huge risk-takers anymore. Too many times we would go for the home-run steal last year and miss, leaving us exposed. This year, we're trusting our defensive ability and we're making it very tough on teams to score.
AE: Down two with ten seconds left, who's getting the ball? How about if 'Nova's down three?
TNB: If we're down 2, Corey Fisher is getting the ball. I'm not sure how many guys in the country could stop him from getting into the lane and making something happen, whether it's drawing a foul, making the shot (or both) or dishing. If we're down 3, we should be running a play to get Corey Stokes a look.
By the way, we were down 3 against Georgetown this weekend. Somehow, Antonio Pena ended up with the ball in his hands at some point. I blacked out after that.
AE: We've been talking about rivals recently, since Marquette's sadly lacking in that department. Who does Villanova consider its biggest rival, both in conference and out of conference?
TNB: This has been a topic we've been discussing recently. Put a gun to my head, I say Georgetown. Lots of animosity from '85. Syracuse, UConn and Pitt are all up there too. Generally, those 5 schools hate each other. Marquette gets a charity vote from me because you give us fits every time we play you.
Out of conference, it's St. Joe's by default. Those wannabe's hang onto the Jameer Nelson/Delonte West year like they won the Super Bowl. Guess what guys? You could have made a Final 4. Your guy didn't make a shot. In 2009, ours did. 'Nuff said.
AE: Are you in favor of 'Nova making the jump to Division 1 football? Is there a consensus from the fanbase on that issue? Can 'Nova be competitive on that level?
TNB: Absolutely, 100% in favor of making the move. In fact, I've gone on record saying that if we don't, I'm not donating another dollar to the school. A lot of people have said that. In general, the fanbase wants to move. Who wouldn't? Big-time college football is a MAJOR hole at the school.
I understand the risks and the financial burden it will place on the school. This is a once in a lifetime decision though, and in a few years when the conferences undoubtedly re-align again, you want to be someone who can offer football, not someone who can only offer basketball.
And yes, we can be competitive. We're one of the best FCS teams in the country. We're well-coached, and we get D1 talents. Put us in a major conference and we're that much more attractive to big-time players.
AE: What's the best bar in Philly to watch a Villanova game?
TNB: That's a great question, and I'm happy you asked. Let me walk down memory lane...
If you're on-campus - go to Kelly's. Big TV's, lots of seating, good drink specials and decent food. If you're more of a dingy dive kinda guy (like I am) head up the street to Maloney's. I owe those guys a lot - some of the best nights of my life were spent at that bar. Including the night I got cold-cocked by a St. Joe's fan outside the bar after we molly-whopped them by 20+. I came to and the Maloney's crowd was laying a beatdown. Good times!
If you actually ATTEND the game, make sure to hit up McFadden's over at Citizen's Bank after. Definitely a great after-party after a 'Cats win!