One of the hot topics in the comment sections lately has been Villanova's Strength Of Schedule (SOS) as we get rolling in conference play. I've got two thoughts on the subject. First off, thank goodness we have much smarter people than myself in our forums who do a great job articulating all sides of the subject matter. If you haven't checked out the comments yet, you absolutely should.
Secondly, I hate SOS. When I look at a statistic, I like it to be easily understood and universally defined. When I went to look up Villanova's SOS, I found 4 different rankings on 3 different sites (Yes, one site actually has two different SOS rankings). This isn't to say that I don't think it's important. 20 wins against top competition is clearly more valuable than against the bottom feeders of D-1. Nova made a widely applauded move in scheduling a home and home with Virginia this season (we'll get you next season Wahoo's!), that in my opinion is a blue print for the kind of scheduling we need to continue.
So with all of this "who should we play?" talk going around, it got me thinking about who I'd want to see us play next year. There are a lot of teams and coaches out there I'd want a shot at, there are some guaranteed bumps to our SOS, and there are also a few great story-line games out there that fans would like to see. So with all that said, I put it to you Nova Nation: What if you could pick a non-conference opponent for next season? Here are a few of my top picks:
Villanova All Time Record: 1-6
Record with Jay Wright: 0-1
Last Meeting: Kentucky wins 58-67 (3/16/07)
Who doesn't like a good Cat Fight? Nova hasn't matched up with their fellow Wildcats since they met in the NCAA Tourney during Tubby Smith's final season. So many things I like about this match-up. First, it doesn't matter where we play it. We'd either have home court advantage or head to the location where Villanova played its greatest game ever. Second, I don't think I'm alone in wanting to hand John Calipari a loss. Villanova is 0-2 against Kentucky's out-spoken coach, with both losses coming when he coached Memphis in the early 2000's. And Lastly, Kentucky is a media darling that is consistently highly ranked and would easily give a bump to Nova's SOS.
Villanova All Time Record: 2-1
Record with Jay Wright: 1-0
Last Meeting: Nova wins 81-73 (11/29/02)
It's been well over a decade since Nova faced off against Tom Izzo and Sparty, and frankly it's far overdue. The best part of this match-up is that there's already a spot locked in for it on the schedule. No offense to Nebraska, but this is the kind of marquee match-up that fans want to see in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Izzo always puts a competitive squad on the floor, and I'd love to see him and Jay go toe to toe.
Villanova All Time Record: 4-7
Record with Jay Wright: 1-1
Last Meeting: Nova wins 77-54 (3/26/09)
The last time Nova saw the Dukies, they were dominating them in the NCAA tournament en route to the Final Four. Duke has played a bit better lately (see last year's national championship), and right now the teams would put together a pretty entertaining game. Duke is always a great team to play. You hate their players, you love their coach, and you loathe their fans. To be fair, Duke has won all 5 of their championships since Nova got it's 1, but that's all the more reason to want to beat them.
Villanova All Time Record: 32-33
Record with Jay Wright: 6-13
Last Meeting: Pitt wins 64-73 in OT (3/2/13)
I get it, why would we schedule Pitt? They weren't a big rival, they're not as good now, and the only reason most of us remember them is because Scottie hit "The Shot" over them to send Villanova to the Final Four in 2009. Well that's the last time we beat them. Since that victory, Pitt has won 6 straight games against the Wildcats. That's the most consecutive games Villanova has lost in an active losing streak to ANY team they've every played. It's time for that streak to come to an end. **Note** While you can't schedule NCAA games, I'd love to end our 3 game slide in the tourney against North Carolina too!
Villanova All Time Record: 7-1
Record with Jay Wright: 0-0
Last Meeting: Nova wins 73-61 (12/11/99)
Nova hasn't played against the biggest school in the state during Jay Wright's tenure, but given his tendency to schedule games against old assistants and players, it's coming. Penn State's head coach is Pat Chambers, Jay's Associate Head Coach on the 2009 Final Four team. On top of that, almost every coach on Chambers Staff is connected to Villanova. Associate Head Coach Keith Urgo spent 4 years on Wright's Staff, while Assistant Head Coaches Dwayne Anderson and Ross Condon are both former players for Jay. Their director of Basketball Operations, David Caporaletti, used to work for Rollie Massimino. Even their Director of Player Development, Ryan Devlin, recruited future Nova standout Mouptaou Yarou to attend High School at Montrose Christian School. Is that enough connections to schedule the school's first match-up in over 15 years?
I could go on and on with options, but I think this is a good start. So who would you want to see on the schedule? Who did I leave out? Who do you want to STOP playing? Be sure to vote and leave you comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!