Looking at Villanova
After its worst season in Jay Wright’s highly successful 11-year tenure, Villanova returns to the court with much to prove after a 13-19 campaign that included a 5-13 Big East mark in 2012-13.
That’s far from what Cats fans are accustomed to under Wright, who saw his string of seven straight NCAA tournament appearances snapped last year. What could go wrong did go wrong for Villanova last season. Not expected to be a real league contender anyway, the Cats struggled with their play and were hurt some by injuries.
Can they bounce back? Yes. But this season will be about taking a step toward respectability. Don’t expect any miracles, but do expect Villanova to improve.
The loss of Maalik Wayns will hurt, but not as much as some outsiders may think. Wayns was Nova’s superstar, and rightly so, but perhaps he tried to do too much and maybe the young players took too much of a backseat to the talented point guard that hindered their development. That’s no one’s fault, but maybe his absence will allow players like JayVaughn Pinkston, Ty Johnson and Darrun Hilliard to flourish as sophomores.
Mouphtaou Yarou is an excellent rebounder and that’s what Cats fans should continue to expect from the 6-foot-10 Benin native who grabbed a team-best 8.2 boards last season.
Philly native and Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault will provide stability at the point, and incoming freshman Ryan Arcidiacono, the Neshaminy High product who missed his senior season due to a back injury, will be a factor once he shakes off a year of noncompetitive rust and adjusts to the college game.
What can go wrong?
Much of the Cats’ success – or failure – this season hinges on a pair of new faces: Chennault and Arcidiacono. A tough, Philly guard, Chennault is the type of poised, experienced player Villanova will need to steady another youthful group. Arcidiacono is a lights-out shooter who should help Villanova improve on one of its biggest deficiencies from last season, as the Wildcats ranked 284th in the country in 3-point shooting (31.5 percent).
If either, or both, of those players struggle for long stretches, it will be tough for Villanova to do much better than last season.
What can go right?
Pinkston will continue to progress. Forced to miss what should have been his first season in 2010-11 due to disciplinary reasons, it took the 6-7 Brooklyn native some time to get reacquainted with the game at this level. Once he did, though, he showed why he was so highly regarded coming out of Bishop Loughlin. He finished averaging a very respectable 9.6 points and 5.2 boards.
At the very least, those numbers should go up this season. At best, he could position himself to follow the footsteps of recent Wildcats like Wayns, Kyle Lowry and Randy Foye who went from Nova to the NBA.
The aforementioned sophomores – Johnson, Hilliard, along with Achraf Yacoubou – will find their comfort zones as key contributors off the bench.
What will happen
The Wildcats are in an excellent spot. Picked to finish 12th in the Big East, no one is expecting much – at least no one outside of the Villanova program.
The lowered expectations will give the team a chance to gel without the normal pressure faced by Wright’s teams. They will ride Chennault’s leadership to a winning season overall and a berth in the NIT that will set the Cats up for another NCAA run beginning next season.
More Villanova coverage:
-Read the Villanova season preview by staff writers Tim Morgan and Mike Angelina HERE.
-Follow all of Philahoops’ Wildcats coverage on the Villanova page HERE.