Villanova is playing seven games at the Wells Fargo Center this season, starting Saturday against Delaware.
Why more games there this season than ever?
"It's a combination of available dates, Saturdays are better than Tuesdays, opponent and a mix of games between the Pavilion and there in terms of the quality and the timing," Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro said. "This year, we stretched it a little bit. We felt like we had a better number of Saturdays and felt like we could stretch the package and still have balance between the quality of the games on campus and at the Center."
And there is also another consideration.
"If we're doing the type of business that we've done there the last 4 or 5 years, we could easily triple our net [as opposed to on-campus games]," Nicastro said.
In addition to Delaware, the Wildcats will play Louisville, Maryland, Georgetown, West Virginia, Syracuse and St. John's in South Philly where sellouts have been routine in recent seasons. Five of the games are on Saturdays.
Since the Wells Fargo Center opened under one of its many names, Villanova has only played two City Series games there - both against Penn (in Steve Lappas' final season and Jay Wright's second season).
"That helps with our mix of Pavilion and Center games," Nicastro said. "People see [Big 5 games] as being attractive games so that helps anchor some of the Pavilion schedule for us."
There is, as you can imagine, a waiting list for Villanova season tickets. Nicastro said they sell about 4,500 season tickets for both venues with a very high renewal rate.
The Pavilion seats 6,500. After the 4,500 season tickets, 1,500 are set aside for the students. The other 500 are used internally - for opponents, the team, etc.
Villanova offers a minipackage for the Wells Fargo games. And even with more games there than ever, the tickets are still selling.
"We are tracking right about where we were this time last year," Nicastro said. "We haven't seen any erosion in the [mini]package purchases."
NOT GOING ANYWHERE
When I did an on-line chat last week, I got several queries about Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli and one about La Salle's John Giannini.
The questions were: "Is Martelli in trouble?" and "If La Salle does not improve this season, is Giannini gone?"
My answers were and are, "No and no."
In our instant gratification society where facts and context no longer matter much, I thought both questions silly, but, given the times, not surprising.
Neither coach needs any defense from me, but one could certainly construct one if so inclined.
I would say that Martelli is closing on 300 wins and his record over time - two Sweet 16 appearances, a Final Eight, two NIT championship games - sort of speaks for itself.
Have Martelli and his staff made some serious recruiting mistakes in recent seasons? Absolutely. And he has admitted it. And he has also admitted it by basically starting over with the youngest team in the modern history of the program.
I would say that Giannini is closing on 400 wins, with that national championship at Rowan.
I thought La Salle was set up for an upper-level Atlantic 10 finish last season. Then it came crashing down because of an unprecedented run of injuries. That can't be blamed on the coach.
This La Salle team has serious talent. It is competitive in every game, no matter the opponent. You don't have to be a basketball genius to see this is a pretty good team.
One could certainly argue the historical and recent records of each coach rationally. Beyond any of that, there is the pragmatic argument, which trumps everything. Martelli has a contract through 2015-16. Giannini just got what the university termed a "multiyear" contract extension last summer.
THE CONFERENCE STORY
A few conferences already have started league play. The Big East and Atlantic 10 will be starting shortly.
The Big East was 118-31 overall before last night's games, which sounds better than it is because of so many "guarantee" games at home. More indicative is that the league is 7-7 against the Top 25.
How good is the league? Well, I have been most impressed by Connecticut and Louisville. But it is really early.
The A-10 is No. 7 in the RPI and has five teams in the top 75. The league is a solid 16-15 against the ACC, Big Ten and SEC and a less-than-solid 10-25 against the Big East and Big 12.
I thought Temple was the best team when the season began. Did not really understand what went down in Orlando other than possibly players trying to adapt to different roles being a bit unsure of themselves. I knew the team was way better than that.
The Georgetown win helped with that belief. John Chaney told me in March that Ramone Moore was going to be a star. The old coach knows things.
LOCALS IN THE STATS
Just 33 players were averaging 20 points through Sunday. Drexel has one in Chris Fouch (22.4 points). He is 13th nationally in scoring and sixth in threes per game (3.6).
There are 30 players averaging double-digit rebounds. The Dragons have one in Samme Givens. His 11.4 rebounds per game are ninth.
Going into last night's game at Louisville, Drexel was second nationally in rebound margin (plus-13.4 boards per game) and second in three-point defense (23.3 percent).
St. Joe's freshman C.J. Aiken is 11th in blocks (3.1 per game). La Salle sophomore Aaric Murray (2.9) is 13th.
Villanova is seventh in free-throw accuracy (78.3 percent). Perhaps more important, after last season's foulathon, the Wildcats are committing just 14.8 fouls per game, ninth nationally.