College Basketball Road Trip: Not every game is a gem
In the first three days on the FOX Sports College Basketball Road Trip, we saw two overtime games in Lexington and Manhattan, followed by a Virginia rout of Syracuse for its first outright ACC regular-season title in 33 years.
We met Bobby Knight in Rupp Arena, took selfies with Bruce Pearl and Steve Masiello in Draddy Gymnasium, chatted with Dick Vitale before he went on the air in Charlottesville, and then Jim Boeheim ripped out my heart and devoured it with his eyes after the game.
Needless to say, it was a very eventful beginning to our journey, and I’m not even including the stories from New York after my Friday night out in the city turned into watching the sunrise on the walk back to the hotel for an hour nap. I’ll save that one for another day.
But then we got to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon for Marquette and Villanova, where the most exciting part of the day was seeing Greg Anthony’s green pants.
That should tell you what a bore it was at the Wells Fargo Center. The game was never in question – Villanova took an early lead and cruised to a 17-point win – and the atmosphere lacked any real energy, especially in comparison to what we had seen over the past 72 hours, making it the early favorite for the Least Entertaining Game of the Trip award.
But as boring as it was, there were several key storylines from the game. Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard scored a career-high 26 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field, including a 5-for-8 afternoon from beyond the arc. The junior guard’s career day came less than 24 hours after he watched the Philadelphia 76ers retire Allen Iverson’s number in the same arena Saturday night. Hilliard grew up idolizing Iverson in nearby Bethlehem, Pa.; he told reporters he looked up to Iverson because he dominated the game while being the smallest player on the court.
"A.I. was the man," Hilliard said.
Hopefully, he was able to get his hands on one of the Allen Iverson rubber ducks that were given away to 76ers fans Saturday night. We found a couple leftovers in the back on our way out:
While Hilliard’s day was an unforgettable one, it was an even bigger day for the program. The victory was Villanova’s 26th in 2013-14, a school record for wins in the regular season. The Wildcats had hit the 25-win mark four times in their history, but never 26 until Sunday.
Villanova now controls its own destiny in the Big East with a one-game lead over Creighton and two games remaining on the schedule. Jay Wright’s team will travel to third-place Xavier on Thursday, then host Georgetown on Saturday in the season finale. A 28-3 finish would lock up the Big East regular-season trophy and potentially set up Villanova for a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Still, with all of that going for Villanova in its win over Marquette, we just couldn’t get interested in the game. A Buzz Williams technical foul before the half caught our attention for a brief moment, but then it was right back to people watching in the crowd and browsing the enormous collection of hideous Flyers and 76ers hats in the team store.
We weren’t the only ones who couldn’t get into the action, either. Our good friend "World Wide Wes" left his courtside seat for the exit shortly after halftime.
Wes really is everywhere.
The postgame scene was a little more exciting, as I found myself locked in what I believe was the Villanova band’s locker room, what I mistook for the room where the press conference was held. It wasn’t my finest moment, and I still might be in there if not for someone letting me out from the other side. Let’s label those doors a little better, OK?
Then we had to book it out of Philadelphia to get ahead of the winter storm and into Harrisburg, where we will spend Sunday night. Assuming we aren’t snowed in Monday morning, we will make our way to Pittsburgh for the Panthers’ game against N.C. State on Monday night. If there is a game that will upset Marquette-Villanova for Least Entertaining Game of the Trip, that one may be it.
If you don’t hear from us Monday, assume the worst happened and we’re on the side of the road burning media guides for fire and eating Skittles and sunflower seed shells out of the floorboard. The forecast is calling for a bad one.
Talk to you soon. (Hopefully.)