Minneapolis notebook: Doing their homework

Greg Abel
Yahoo! Sports

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PHILADELPHIA – The Wachovia Center is about 2,500 miles from the Tucson, Ariz., campus of the University of Arizona. By contrast, you can get to the arena from Villanova University in about 10 minutes, maybe less, depending on traffic.

As a result, Sunday's ballgame between Wildcats had a decidedly Philly feeling to it. Or, put more succinctly, it was a home game for Villanova and very much a road trip for Arizona.

"Everything felt comfortable," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It felt like a home game against Connecticut."

Throughout the game, the local crowd stood and roared for Villanova, creating the only home-court advantage of these first two rounds. Such are the spoils for a No. 1 seed with a 26-4 record.

"I feel a little guilty; that was a home court tonight," Wright said. "We want to thank our fans and everyone who came out from Philly; that was a great atmosphere."

For the players, playing at home meant having family and friends nearby, and the convenience of not having to go through airports.

"It was definitely a home game for us today because the first game was not as loud," said senior guard Randy Foye, referring to the relative lack of noise during the Connecticut-Kentucky contest. "When we needed a stop, you heard the crowd and it was important for us down the stretch."

Despite the pro-Villanova energy from the crowd, Arizona gave Villanova's vaunted four-guard attack all it could handle. Though Arizona never grabbed the lead, Lute Olson's team drew within two points in the final minutes. They just couldn't close the gap.

"That was a fun college basketball game to be a part of," Wright said. "I hope [Arizona] is playing as well as anyone in college basketball right now because if they're not, we're in trouble in our next game."

Wright credited his senior guards Randy Foye and Allan Ray for maintaining composure throughout and leading the team to the 82-78 win.

"You just feel like they take the coaching out of your hands," Wright said of the high-coring duo, who combined for 49 points. "I had Speedy Claxton (at Hofstra) who was just like that. I never thought I would have another player like that and I've got two of them. I must have done something right."

Villanova won't have a home court advantage any longer. In Minneapolis, the Wildcats will face a familiar foe in Boston College, a former Big East rival playing as well as any team in the country.

Of the No. 1 seeds, Villanova and Duke, which played in Greensboro, N.C., had distinct home court advantages in the first two rounds. For Memphis, playing in Dallas and headed to Oakland, and Connecticut, playing and Philadelphia and heading to D.C., the emphasis on the road to Indianapolis is road.


Florida junior forward Chris Richard and Connecticut senior swingman Rashad Anderson were high school teammates at Lakeland (Fla.) Kathleen High School. Now they have something else in common, as both of their teams have reached the Sweet 16.

The Gators and Huskies have followed drastically different paths on the way the round of 16. Florida, the No. 3 seed in the Minneapolis region, defeated South Alabama and Wisconsin-Milwaukee by an average of 24 points. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Connecticut, the No. 1 seed in the Washington, D.C. region, beat Albany and Kentucky by a total of 17 points. The Huskies flirted with disaster in the first round, nearly becoming the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 16 seed. They rallied to beat the Great Danes 72-59.

Florida was off Friday when Connecticut experienced its scare, but Richard wasn't watching Anderson and the Huskies on TV.

"Actually I was sleeping," Richard said. "But I heard they were down. My first reaction, when I heard they were down so much, I was like, Damn, we blew Albany up [83-64 on Nov. 10]. So we're going to have a great chance if we meet UConn in the Final Four.' "

If Anderson and Richard meet in this year's tournament, it would be April 1 in Indianapolis – in the national semifinals.

Ken Davis, reporting exclusively for Yahoo! Sports during the first two weeks of the NCAA tournament, also contributed to this notebook.

Greg Abel is a freelance writer based in Baltimore whose work has appeared in Sporting News, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal. He is covering the tournament exclusively for Yahoo! Sports from Philadelphia this week and Washington, D.C., next week.

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