: I thought maybe this was the year, maybe finally some team in Philadelphia would win some kind of a championship. So as any Philly faithful would do, I pinned my hopes to the seemingly strong shoulders of the Villanova Wildcats.

As I watched in amazement, shot after shot bounced off the rim, loose balls went to Florida, and foul after foul piled up on Kyle Lowry, Allan Ray, and Kyle Lowry. As the clock ticked down to a minute and a half, and the team was down 10, a part of me still thought another miracle ending was coming. After all, this has been the NCAA Tournament for the ages, miraculous comebacks, last second shots, and Cinderella's glass slippers have been as abundant as the water covering the earth.

But it wasn't meant to be for the Big East co-champs. The basket had a lid on it, and the team shot just 24 percent from the field. Finally the vaunted four-guard attack that has caused so many match up problems for most teams this season, caught up with coach Jay Wright's squad. And just as the other three number one seeds had dropped to the wayside of this topsy turvy tourney, so too did Nova.

Allan Ray, Randy Foye, and Jason Fraser will never again don the navy and white Wildcat colors, and they will never play in front of a raucous crowd at the Pavilion. The seniors played their final game for Nova and in the end, the loss of Curtis Sumpter to an ACL injury for the second consecutive season proved too much for the team to overcome.

Imagine if the team had Sumpter all season long, would they have lost at all? Granted they would not have had the four-guard lineup as often as they have since Sumpter's injury against Florida last season in the tournament. How different could things have been had he been healthy? That loss in the Sweet 16 to North Carolina last season might not have ended the way it did. Maybe they would have had enough to beat Florida again this year.

The fact of the matter is they didn't have him and it is a shame because he is a great player. His absence along with the health of Fraser and Mike Nardi finally caught up to the team.

It seems as though somewhere between Philadelphia and Minneapolis, Ray lost his shooting touch. It's a shame too, to go from almost losing his eye to the Final Four and maybe a national championship would have made a great story for years to come.

While the Wildcats lost to a team on the rise with likes of Joakim Noah patrolling the paint, the lack of a legitimate inside threat cost the team dearly. The coming season seems bright for Wright's squad, as Sumpter should return from his injury and Lowry and Nardi will man the backcourt. Will Sheridan and Shane Clark should help the team stay at the top of the Big East, but it doesn't seem as though they can repeat this season's successes.

If you have any comments or opinions about this column, email Nick Browne at nicholasbrowne@comcast.net

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