Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Philly Sports Trifecta?

Tonight is the first of possibly three straight nights of Philly sports teams taking over the national spotlight. Villanova plays North Carolina at 8:47 on CBS; the defending World Series champion Phillies (5 beautiful words!) host Atlanta in the Major League season opener Sunday night on ESPN2; and if 'Nova pulls off the upset tonight, the Wildcats will play for the national championship in Monday night's NCAA final.

I said to a friend that I could see perhaps Nova beating Carolina, but it wasn't likely; this isn't like '85, I said. "North Carolina is a team of stars," I said.

My friend said, "What do you think Georgetown was?" And he's right: The '85 Hoyas were the defending national champs with one of the best college centers of all-time in Patrick Ewing. Entering the championship, they'd won 17 straight and four of their five tourney games by double digits. Every Georgetown starter was an eventual first- or second-round NBA draft pick: Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate, Bill Martin, and Michael Jackson.

So I'm changing my mind: why can't Nova do it tonight against Carolina's team of future NBAers? As I noted back in early February, this Wildcats team has the elements you need to advance in the NCAA tournament: smart players, an aggressive defense, inside-outside scoring, a deep rotation, and recent tourney success.

And Villanova has experience against elite tourney teams, having lost to the eventual national champion in three of the last four tournaments. Nova fell to Kansas in the Sweet 16 last year, Florida in the 2006 Elite Eight, and North Carolina in the 2005 Sweet 16.

But there won't be a loss this year. I predict a tight game, with Nova's foul shooting providing the difference in a stunning upset.

Philly fans will barely have time to recover from the win before two more nights of Philly sports in the spotlight. What a weekend!

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