Reynolds always looks ahead

Make no mistake about it, Scottie Reynolds is very fast. Scary fast. They say speed kills, but in the case of Reynolds it’s the opposition that has its head in the noose.

But more impressive than Reynolds’ streak up the court and game-winning bucket in fewer than five seconds in Villanova’s ridiculously thrilling victory over Pittsburgh to advance to the Final Four on Saturday was the quickness in which Reynolds responded from a really bad game against Louisville in the Big East semifinals two weeks ago.

Talk about coast-to-coast.

“One of his great characteristics is he never fears failure,” Wright said. “He doesn’t worry about what he looks like. He never worries about looking bad. He’s all out, and he knows he’s going to be all out.”

He sort of had to have no fear of failure after seeing his line from the Louisville game. It read, 1-for-6 from the field, including 0-for-3 from beyond the three-point arc. He also contributed six turnovers and just two measly points in 38 minutes.

Yes, that’s right – two points in 38 minutes. No foul trouble, no gimmicky defenses and no excuses.

Continue reading this story …

Back to earth

andrew_toneyLANCASTER, Pa. – Going to Spring Training to write about baseball is a lot like walking into a hermetically-sealed cocoon. Nothing pierces this bubble, which is more roach motel than a simple picket fence.

Ideas from the outside check in, and then they die.

So the first order of business since checking out of Camp Big Britches in Clearwater was to reconnect with reality. Or at least some facsimile thereof. And a quick look back at my version of reality shows that I missed some pretty cool stuff back here in Philly.

Lancaster? Not so much.

Anyway, here’s what happened:

• Apparently there is a basketball tournament going on. Villanova is in it, though it must be pointed out that the current version of the team is only slightly less evil than the older versions. Yeah, those fans/alums are still as arrogant as can be, but Jay Wright makes it all a bit more tolerable.

gonzo_gonzoMore interesting, Villanova plays Duke in the regional semifinal in Boston this Thursday. In the old days rational folks would have rooted for both teams to get lost on the way to the arena. Baring that, some discomfort or at least a few flat tires were in order. These days, anytime the li’l general at Duke gets beat is pretty sweet.

Hey, I’m not one of those hater guys (at least I hope not), so I guess it’s not fair to pick on Coach K because he has a really, really important job coaching basketball. He’s very important. Just ask him.

• The biggest whiff was skipping out before the Sixers played one last game at the Spectrum. No, not for the sentiment of playing a game in an old building because overwrought pining for things seems kind of silly. Besides, as Joe Strummer said, if you think too much about the past it will drag you down.

Joe… Joe was the greatest.

Sentiment and nostalgia are hard things to ignore. It’s the emotion of it, probably. Life can be difficult if you’re one to wade in past the shallow end, so comfortable memories of old times can be soothing on occasion. So for a lot of us – especially pre-teens who hawked the team during training camp at F&M – that ’83 Sixers club would have conjured up some fun memories.

If, of course, I had been at the Spectrum instead of sunny Florida.

Regardless, does it really count if Andrew Toney wasn’t there?

Sure, the Sixers undoubtedly did a wonderful job putting together a memorable event for the fans and the players, but Andrew Toney was such an important player of that era that it actually belied mere statistics and wins and losses. The truth is Andrew Toney changed everything in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

It’s possible Toney was the most important player in the game for a few years.

Here’s why:

If the Celtics had anyone remotely capable of guarding Toney, they would not have traded to get Dennis Johnson. And without Johnson, the Celtics are just a very good team, but not that much different from the rest of the very good teams.

So without Toney, the Celtics dynasty might have just been a blip in time and the Sixers might have snuck out of the East another time or two.

• Elsewhere, before Lance Armstrong broke his collarbone and possibly lost his shot at returning to the Tour de France, he had to submit some of his hair for DNA drug testing. Yep, athletes in sports outside of the big three, are submitting to DNA drug testing.

Meanwhile, baseball’s drug problem gets sillier and sillier by the day.

• Finally, speaking of drug-testing, maybe A-Rod should have been forced to offer a hair/urine sample after posing for this picture:

awhat

Seriously, I’m all for defying the conventional wisdom, but what is he doing? That’s something some dudes do when there is no one else at home and they don’t have to worry about being caught acting like a goof. But not A-Rod. He invites a photog and goes all out.

So when he puts on his Sunday best, grabs his parasol and sashays through the town square, don’t be surprised.

Wright will return

Even with the vision of missed jump shot after missed jump shot chipping away the paint from the rim, and the sting of defeat still working its way down the solar plexus, it’s easy to imagine Jay Wright finding himself back in the same point of the NCAA Tournament in the not too distant future.

It’s also not too difficult to imagine a different result than the 75-62 defeat to Florida on Sunday afternoon just one game shy of the legacy-making Final Four.

You see, Wright, just 44, is built to last at Villanova. Just this year he was rewarded with a contract extension that lasts until 2013 and will compensate him well enough to keep him in those sharp-looking, single-breasted suits. More importantly, Wright seems to have received the extension for doing something that is often rare in sports these days:

He paid his dues.

Aside from the long car rides beating the recruiting trail as an assistant at Rochester, Drexel and Villanova, before taking over at Hofstra, Wright has restored the luster to ‘Nova that was lost during the angst-filled final days of Rollie Massimino’s run on the Main Line. He has embraced the Big Five series instead of brushing it aside as a trite hometown obligation, while turning his program into a bona fide powerhouse that isn’t going to tiptoe up and surprise any one.

Better yet, Wright’s first group of players to go through a four-year run won more games during that span than any other in school history, all while the coach did all the little things that he prodded his kids to do.

Sure, in the end coach is only as good as his players, but special talent like Randy Foye and Allan Ray always seems to wind up playing for the right coach. And they really seem to make it hard for all of us ‘Nova haters.

More tourney talk
Since Villanova won the 1985 tournament, the Big 5 is 0-8 in regional semifinals. ‘Nova has gone down twice, St. Joe’s nipped by Oklahoma State two years ago and Temple has lost five finals under John Chaney.

But even though the local team has finally been sent home, the early word on this year’s tournament is that it’s the best one in a long, long time. Forget about 11th-seeded George Mason making it to the Final Four for a minute, in 60 games the underdog team has won 20 times, while only three games were decided by 20 or more points.

Add in the five overtime games and the fact that no No. 1 seed made it to the final weekend and it’s hard to argue about how compelling this tournament has been.

Then there is George Mason. A diverse, yet regional school that was only founded in 1957, George Mason not only put together one of the greatest upsets in tournament history when knocking off UConn in the regional final, but also strung together one of the most impressive runs to become the highest seeded team to make it to the Final Four.

Not bad for a team that some of the experts said shouldn’t even be in the field.

Certainly there weren’t too many people who thought Mason would beat Michigan State in the opening round, let alone defending national champion North Carolina to get to the Sweet 16. Then with the victory over Wichita State and the No. 1 team in the country, it seems as if the Patriots are a legitimate contender to win the whole thing.

Now all we need to do is find someone who can name a player on the team.