Sunday, March 20, 2011Posted: 12:43 p.m.
By Reuben FrankCSNPhilly.com
They played in a Final Four, they played in two Sweet 16s, they reached the NCAA tournament all four years they wore Villanova jerseys, and they averaged nearly 25 wins per year.
Terrific accomplishments for this Villanova senior class. One of the more successful groups in Wildcat history.
Determining the legacy of these Villanova seniors specifically guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher is more complicated than just listing their achievements.
Because, fair or unfair, they will be remembered as the seniors who lost their last six games, who blew three double-digit leads to unranked teams down the stretch, who lost 11 of their last 16 games overall, who in less than two months somehow went from a dangerous, nationally Top-10 ranked team to a mystifying group that couldnt beat anybody.
Statistically, Fisher and Stokes finished their careers Friday afternoon as two of the finest players in Widcat history.
That cant be argued.
Fisher played in 137 games, scoring 1,672 points and dishing 487 assists. He finished 13th in school history in scoring and sixth in assists. Stokes played in 133 games, scoring 1,315 points and shooting 39 percent from three-point range fourth-best in Nova history.
What neither was able to do was what their former teammate Scottie Reynolds did twice: Lead this team deep into the NCAA tournament.
When Reynolds left the Main Line last season after establishing himself as one of the all-time Villanova greats, Fisher and Stokes were expected to carry on the Wildcat tradition of smart, athletic guards who dont just put up great numbers but also carry their teams to greatness.
So even though the numbers are there, and Fisher and Stokes are unquestionably two of the most talented players to pass through Villanova during the programs proud 91-year history, a large chunk of their legacy will have to take into consideration the stunning events of the past two months.
Villanova is the first team in NCAA tournament history to lose its last six games.
And when basketball fans look back at the 2010-11 team, its going to be impossible to ignore that.
Its going to be impossible to ignore that a 13-point lead with 4:07 at Rutgers turned into a loss. That a 16-point second-half lead against a nine-win South Florida team turned into a loss. That a 10-point lead over George Mason on Friday and a six-point lead with 1:57 left turned into yet another devastating loss.
Fair? Unfair? Doesnt matter. It just is.
Now, this isnt to blame Fisher and Stokes for all thats happened over the past two months. This collapse is everybodys fault. Every coach and player in the program shares the blame.
But when we talk about the great Villanova guards Nova went to the Elite Eight when Randy Foye and Allan Ray were seniors. Doug Wests senior year, Elite Eight. Reynolds carried them to the Final Four two years ago. Go back to Chris Fords senior year and an Elite Eight in 1972. This has always been a guard-oriented program, and those guards will always be judged by how far they go when theyre asked to lead the program.
When Villanova coach Jay Wright is asked about the legacy Fisher and Stokes leave at Villanova he understandably looks beyond wins and losses, deeper than Final Fours and Big East titles.
He looks at the way his two seniors have handled themselves, the way theyve grown, the way theyve dealt with adversity.
And on the inside of the Villanova program, their legacy will be much different than it inevitably will be on the outside.
We want to be the best we can at the end of the year given the circumstances, injuries, tough breaks, tough calls that's what a season is, how you endure that, Wright said. So going into the season, if you would have asked me if we would have been better than 21-11, I would have said yes, I would have thought we would have been.
Having gone through what we have, the best I can do is evaluate how our guys have handled it. I think basketball-wise we could have done some better things. We could have been a better defensive team. I think we could have executed better offensively. But given everything we've been through, our schedule in the Big East, everything, I am extremely proud of these three seniors.
The fact that everybody has stuck together ... that's what Im excited about them. And thats going to be their legacy in my mind.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org
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