Day 1 of the 2011 NCAA Tournament has come and gone, but things really start for 'Nova Nation and the Villanova Wildcats today at 2:10 p.m. ET when they take on the George Mason Patriots in Cleveland, Ohio in the NCAA opener for both teams. George Mason comes into the contest with a 26-6 record after Jim Larranaga's team blew through the CAA to post a 16-2 record.
Villanova on the other hand, is limping into the tournament after posting 5 consecutive losses to end the regular season. Their record stands at 21-11, and although they've been playing terrible basketball in recent weeks (with the exception of the 1st half against USF), there is reason for optimism.
Jay Wright reports that by tip-off on Friday, there will be no more health issues for the Villanova team, with Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes recovering from tendinitis and hamstring injuries, respectively. Mouphtaou Yarou will also be good to go after a horrific fall in the Big East Tournament.
This will mark the first time in well over a month that the Wildcats can say they are healthy, and it couldn't come at a better time. But will it be enough to get past George Mason?
More after The Jump.
Location: Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
Time: 2:10 p.m. ET
TV: TNT with Gus Johnson & Len Elmore on the call
Vegas Line: Villanova has moved from a 2-point underdog to a 1-point favorite on most books. The over/under is 135.
Matchup To Watch: Corey Fisher vs. Cam Long
All eyes are going to be on the two star guards for each team. Both had very good seasons, but Fisher struggled mightily down the stretch for 'Nova as he dealt with tendinitis in his right knee. Fisher is reportedly 100% healthy for this game, so we'll see what kind of attitude he brings. He's most dangerous when creating his own shot and getting into the lane, something that got away from him while he was hurt.
Cam Long is a very good shooter, plain and simple. While that's not his entire game, it's the majority of it. Earlier in the season Villanova was one of the best perimeter defense teams in the country. Not so more recently. Fisher and company will have to close out Long and force him to dribble to find a shot.
The Nova Blog's Take
It can't end like this can it? Call us spoiled, but we're accustomed to Sweet 16's on The Main Line these days - and while Ohio State would present our toughest test of the year if we get past George Mason, we at least want the opportunity.
Other than last year, Jay Wright's teams usually perform exceptionally well in the tournament, most times exceeding the expectations set for them. This year appears to be know different. Most of everybody doesn't see the 'Cats making it out of Round 1.
Time to lay some Big East hurt on an unsuspecting foe. Show these guys the wars you've been through all year and take it to them.
Villanova can win this game - we'll see if the seniors step up and lead them to victory and a shot at the #1 team in the nation.