Georgetown vs. Villanova: The Opposite of a Rival’s Mind

Checked out the Georgetown/Villanova game on Sunday and stepped into a classic match up of evenly skilled rivals. Nova is deeper in the back court with what seems like a bunch of quick slick guards who are fearless. Scottie Reynolds is an amazing player and might go down as one of the best players in Philadelpha collegiate history. He fights! Georgetown relies on Monroe to do what he does and Freeman and Clark to be steady in support. This piece was more about the two stars and how they represent the very disparate philosophies of their very talented head coaches, John Thompson III and Jay Wright.

As I entered the Wachovia Center parking lot, Exhibit A banged strongly in my mind. Everything slowed down as the smooth track bounced to the beat of my footsteps…creating a sense of rhythmic knowing this would be a great game. I instantly realized the scene was much different than on Sixers days. The energy was clean. Villanova blue was everywhere. This was a college scene. Underclassmen as well as graduates from way back were here to see if Scottie Reynolds and his mates could best the thorn in their Big East side, the Georgetown Hoyas. The big bad Hoyas are led by super sophomore, Greg Monroe who looks to be can’t miss. Coming into the game, I figured Monroe would rock out of his frame mainly because the Wildcats had no answer for his size and southpaw skill set. He’s calm. Not many players his age learn to conserve energy to be spent later in critical moments, but Monroe is masterful at doing so despite Georgetown’s reputation for getting after everything on both ends.The 4th ranked Villanova Wildcats defeated the 11th ranked  Georgetown Hoyas 82-77 in a closely played contest despite Nova being up 46-31 at halftime. Great game which obviously was a sellout. Reynolds led the Cats with 27, while the Hoyas we paced with Monroe’s 29 and 16 rips.

Make no mistake about it, this is Scottie Reynolds home. He made play after play and went straight for the high hoop whenever he saw even the slightest opportunity. He shot daggers, he made passes…you could tell he and his coach have a connection that was developed through hard work, dedication, criticism and encouragement.

It’s almost as if he’s the only player on the floor. Chants of his name are heard randomly during Villanova runs, lulls, timeouts…whenever. Some fans shout it as if they forgot just so you know. There’s a reason for this. The senior star is one of the best players in America and it’s not simply about skill…it’s also about fire. One thing I noticed after the game, is how Monroe shook his head with this blank stare of almost admiration when Coach Thompson was asked about Reynolds’ affect on the game. He said the words Thompson spoke…in his mind and Monroe appeared to be reliving the contest for minutes in the presser until it was time for questions to be asked of him personally.

Remember this scene for later…during Big East tournament battles and also during March Madness when Scottie once again is introducing his clutch to future Christmas eyed, youthful minds of future soul rock soul lore. He will inspire one young to be like him late before they get out of bed early simply because his example is nothing new.

He’s an upperclassman and is used to the Big East grind. In fact, Georgetown is not just another game…

Michael Tillery: Obviously these regular season games are not more important than NCAA tournament games, but being a senior, how do these games stack up, especially a Georgetown or the other top tier schools in the league?

Scottie Reynolds: Always playing against Georgetown. Growing up in the area I knew about the losing streak. I hear it every time I play in the summer with them. Me, Chris Wright and Monroe are all on the same summer league team. I know what people say about the 5 games (losing streak). Of course the tournament games are more important, but the Big East sometimes is a little bit tougher. Night in and night out, you know who you are playing and the coaches who are going to prepare for you. You have to be ready mentally and physically take care of yourself.

Jay Wright will make sure that happens. He’s a great coach who is just as personable on the floor as he is off. His pressers are loose and there is laughter with a definite cool ass Pop like feel. He has a very bright future. The fifteen year coach (8 at Nova) is 300-176 (178-91 Villanova) in his career but it seems everything has taken off since just before Scottie came on the scene. Since 2004-05 campaign, VU is 126-45 (.737) with five straight 10 win seasons. Scottie is truly the extension of his basketball mind who teaches when he doesn’t have to…

MT: Coach, what do you want your young players (Scottie has the freshman record of 9 turnovers at the Wachovia Center) to learn from Scottie in Big East play?

Coach Wright: What we talk about with Scottie is they see him make these shots, but the seem him come in and do extra every day. In practice, he’s an assassin every day. We try to relate to these guys that he has no fear of failure because he knows he’s put all the work in. When he fails, we go over that with him. Like the end of the Marquette game (a 74-72 Nova victory. Reynolds has 23 and hits game winner), he turned the ball over and could have cost us the game, but he made up the play on the defensive end. He never worries about that one play. We use him as an example a lot with our young guys and Reggie (Redding, 11 points) is the same way. We do that to show the young guys they aren’t perfect, but they aren’t afraid to fail.

I actually think the game was won when Georgetown was coming back like gangbusters. Senior Reggie Redding hit a big three that let the Hoyas know this was not their game to win…not on that day.

MT: Reggie, your coach spoke of you earlier in terms of perceived leadership. What happened on that big three after Georgetown made a game of it?

Reggie Redding: That play we work on in practice. Reversing the ball…I had to make the play. I hit a big shot but, Scottie deserves a lot of the credit because he made the pass. Scottie is usually the guy who makes that big shot, but today I hit one.

Even his teammates know how special Scottie Reynolds is. If this game is a precursor to what the postseason will mimic, look out. He wants this and you know it’s not individual. He wants it for his school.

MT: Speak on how exciting it is to be at this stage of your career in the Big East.

Scottie Reynolds: This is why we came to Villanova. This is why we came to play in the Big East. We know it’s not going to be that easy. We want that challenge. That brings the best out of you individually and if we can combine that collectively as a team in terms of consistently putting together 40 minutes of basketball, then we have a chance to be a really good team. Win or lose, we have to go back to work the next day. We have to look at film…the positive and the negative…and apply it to how we play basketball to get ready for Rutgers on Wednesday (in Piscataway).

On the other end there’s this Monroe talent combined with the intimidating Georgetown Hoya presence…but his game is different. It’s all N’awlins. I remember working a Wizards/Cavs game earlier this season and while walking around the Verizon center, I spotted Monroe with this chill stroll just happy to dig the scene just like any other fan. He was chill when I spoke to him off the record right seconds before I ran smack dab into Wolf Blitzer. Wolf and I definitely shared a laugh, but I knew then that Greg’s personality doesn’t change on the floor. He’s the opposite of Reynolds but just the same a straight killer. Before you know it, Monroe will drop a monster double double comparative of Alonzo Patrick Dik wake up in the Mourning and say “Wow!” when you check out the box score proportions. He’s also a deft passer in traffic and his ball IQ belies his age. noVery deceptive rebounder because he’s basically a small forward still learning the post. Last year it seemed he smiled a lot on the floor and this year he’s more reticent and reserved in his in game personality. His game is streamlined with full force action and the rest of the country better take a look at how to slow down his flow…early.

We all know the legacy of Thompson coaching and it appears John the III’d walks with this in mind every minute of his life. He’s stern like his Pop. He’s all business as well. He just does not mince words and just like Reynolds is to Monroe. He’s the opposite of Jay Wright. Funny but it seems the coaches are coaching their opposite personalities with Monroe and Reynolds. Thompson is 116-51 in six seasons at Georgetown (184-93 in nine years overall). This is not the typical deep and loaded Georgetown team of the past, but they are definitely not short of talent and their success begins and ends with the talented and strong hand of their young coach. Check the barometer for the Hoyas will fill it up from behind the line when they have to, or slow down and pick their spots and score by making cuts if you’re catching winks.

MT: Could you talk about Greg’s performance?

Coach Thompson: I thought he played well. From the very beginning, his energy level became contagious for the rest of our guys. The passion he played with today was really good.

It’s very difficult to win on the road in this league even when you have had success against a team like Georgetown has. I think the Hoyas let one get away…

MT: What do you need from your team to do to get a win in a game like this on the road?

Coach Thompson: I thought that our energy was great today. The kids fought to the very end. We are playing against a team this good…with a player that good…and you dig a hole for yourself it could be easy to check out and say it’s not our night, but no one felt that. Right up until the final horn sounded…what do I need to get outta my team? I don’t know, the ball didn’t bounce our way early. It would be easy to sit here and say let’s get better starts but you may not end up where you are in the end. I’m not sure what we need to get out of the guys.

Resolve. Definitely seems like this team has it. That gift will bode well later on down the line when things get a lot more interesting inside the league and out in March. I had to speak to the young man of GTown baritone voice to see where his head was at after losing to a heated Big East rival…

MT: Greg you are becoming a fine player, what do you need to work on to get better?

Greg Monroe: Everything. I’m always looking for ways go better.

Greg Monroe.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Both teams have very good coaches who obviously dictate their style of play around what they expect out of themselves and their star players. Jay Wright is the cool with the rock. John Thompson III is the rock with the cool. No wonder the game was so close and looking forward, this looks to be a magical year in the Big East once again.

1985 is not a memory. I searched the place for anyone to give me a sliver of Rollie and Big John building a fire we all have been warmed to. The sons of the game have arrived and even their offspring are here to sing the virtues of what is to come next.

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