Villanova Basketball Preview: #2
Overall Rank: #2
Conference Rank: #1 Big East Conference
2008-09: 30-8, 13-5
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jay Wright (178-90 at Villanova, 300-175 overall)
Since Coach Jay Wright arrived at Villanova, the Wildcats have been turning into a consistent force in the Big East. There are some big losses in the frontcourt, but few teams can match the talent and depth on the perimeter. The Final Four was nice last year, but this is a team that can reach for even loftier goals.
Key Losses: F Dwayne Anderson, F Shane Clark, F Dante Cunningham, C Frank Tchuisi
There is a reason most recruiting services rank Villanova’s 2009 class as one of the best in the nation. Point guard Maalik Wayns hardly gets mentioned since he will struggle to find playing time in a crowded backcourt. Wing Dominic Cheek is in a similar position, despite being a Top 40 prospect nationally. The real need is in the paint and that is where Mouphtaou Yarou steps in. The 6-10, 250 pound freshman is physically ready to play in the Big East and will be a beast on the glass. Isaiah Armwood and redshirt freshman center Maurice Sutton need to be ready to play some minutes off the bench.
This is easily one of the most dynamic and talented backcourts in the nation. The return of Scottie Reynolds, who averaged 15.2 points and 3.4 assists last year, is a big boost to the Wildcats. Reynolds could just as easily be off in the NBA, but instead he will be knocking down threes and attacking the basket one more year in Philadelphia. Reggie Redding was a part-time starter last year and his versatility is his greatest strength. Although he will miss the first semester due to a suspension, Redding will be back in December to grab some rebounds, dish out some passes and even block a shot or two. In the meantime the Corey’s will take over. Corey Fisher is a point guard with a scoring mentality. The turnover numbers were a little high, but he should be able to fix that now that he is an upperclassman. Corey Stokes is nearly as effective of a scorer as the other Corey, but he does most of his damage from beyond the arc.
The loss of Dante Cunningham is huge. He led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots a year ago and most of the players who would step into the frontcourt are gone as well. The only returning player who saw any significant playing time is Antonio Pena. The 6-8 junior started 20 games last year, but now he will be asked to do much more than average 17.6 minutes, 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. The Wildcats expect Pena to be steady and play about 25 minutes per game. If he has a bad year, the frontcourt will be very inexperienced.
Who to Watch:
But there is another option besides Pena or a freshman to man one of the forward positions. Two years ago Taylor King was averaging 5.5 points per game for Duke as a freshman. King showed flashes of his potential with the Blue Devils and had reached double digits in the scoring column six times, but he is stronger now and fits very well in this system. His ability to hit the outside shot and his strength to defend opposing power forwards should give him the early lead on the starting job.
But do not be surprised if Yarou starts eating away at King’s minutes. This is a team that returns a lot of talent, but there will be five freshmen who are more than capable of making an impact. Coach Wright also has the possibility of playing small once Redding is back. It was not long ago that the Wildcats ran a four guard offense. As long as Pena, or Yarou, are comfortable being the only big man, Stokes could play the four spot and this team could run up and down the floor all day.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Corey Fisher, Junior, Guard, 10.8 points per game
Scottie Reynolds, Senior, Guard, 15.2 points per game
Corey Stokes, Junior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Mouphtaou Yarou, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Antonio Pena, Junior, Forward, 5.1 points per game
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