Villanova: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by mlemaire on May 2nd, 2012

Our apologies for plagiarizing borrowing the ideas of our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite, but we liked their post-mortem team breakdowns so much that we decided to replicate them with our conference. So over the course of the next two weeks, we will break down each team’s season, starting from the bottom of the conference standings. Next up is Villanova.

What Went Wrong

Despite the fact that two teams technically finished behind the Wildcats in the conference standings, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Villanova was the Big East’s biggest disappointment this season (apologies to Pittsburgh, you will get your turn at the table of criticism later). Although they played a number of good teams close, the Wildcats routinely blew early leads, turned the ball over with regularity, didn’t shoot well from downtown, and didn’t force many turnovers either. Of course it didn’t help that key players Maalik Wayns, James Bell, and JayVaughn Pinkston all missed time due to injuries, but the team was struggling so badly on both ends of the floor that it might not have mattered either way. The team’s key trio of Wayns, Cheek, and center Mouphtaou Yarou all improved their numbers, but none of them took the step forward that would have kept Villanova in tournament contention. Also, the freshman class was so inconsistent we are surprised Jay Wright had any hair left by the end of the season.

Jay Wright Did Plenty Of Teaching During A Trying Season (AP Photo)

What Went Right

The number one bright spot for folks on the Main Line was the emergence of Pinkston in conference play. His production tapered off in the final few games of the season, but he scored double-digit points in 12 conference games and hauled in double-digit rebounds in five conference games. He is candidate no. 1 to fill the scoring void next season left behind by some of the early defectors, and he will be a consistent double-double threat assuming he stays healthy. Although they struggled mightily at times, freshmen Tyrone Johnson, Darrun Hilliard and Markus Kennedy all got valuable experience that will serve them well in their increased roles next season. Wildcats’ fans can also take solace in the fact that six of the team’s conference losses were by four points or less, something that should change once the young team learns how to win close games.


We thought about giving this award to Pinkston, but frankly, he wasn’t good enough over the course of the entire season to deserve it. So instead, we will begrudgingly give it to Wayns, despite the fact that some fans would argue that Wayns hurt the team just as much as he helped them. He took a lot of ill-advised shots, especially from the three-point line, and his assist-to-turnover ratio left a lot to be desired, but he was the engine that made the Wildcats’ inconsistent offense go. The team lost all three games that Wayns sat out with injury, and it was clear that his ability to get into the lane, finish at the rim, and handle the ball was missed. When he is at his best, Wayns was one of the most dynamic scorers in the entire conference and certainly one of the best offensive-minded guards in the Big East. He was strong enough to absorb contact at the rim, and his quickness and ball-handling allowed him to penetrate opposing defenses at will. He was terrific from the charity stripe (89.1%) and led the team in scoring (17.6 PPG) and assists (4.6 PPG). It just would have been nice to see him take better care of the ball and not force so many deep three-pointers.

Players Leaving

Wildcats' Fans Are Split On Whether Wayns' Departure Will Be A Good Thing Or A Bad Thing. (AP/S. Falk)

With zero seniors of note on their roster, everything was set up for an instant bounce-back for Wright’s club. Then Wayns made the controversial decision to declare for the NBA Draft and Cheek made an even more controversial decision to do the same earlier this month. Both players could have improved their stock tremendously with solid senior seasons, instead they will both be lucky to even get drafted. Wayns has the better shot thanks to his size and offensive skill set, but there are a lot of guards in the draft who play a similar style. Meanwhile, if Cheek hears his name called on draft day, that would truly be shocking. He has the athleticism and size to be a terrific all-around player, but he never put any of that together at Villanova, shooting below 40 percent from the field this past season, turning the ball over more than he assisted baskets, and inexplicably averaging just one steal per game despite his length on the perimeter. They will obviously both be missed by their teammates and fans, as they were the team’s two leading scorers, but there is enough backcourt depth to absorb their blow and not suffer terribly because of it.

Players Coming In

The Wildcats didn’t expect to have many free scholarships to hand out, so there class is a small one, but it is also a very talented one. Center Daniel Ochefu is considered one of the best high school centers in the country. His offensive game still needs a lot of polishing, but he should be able to contribute off the bench next season as a defensive presence and rebounder. Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono missed his entire senior prep season with a back injury, but he is slowly rounding back into form, and when he is healthy he is an accurate long-range shooter with great court vision and terrific size. Despite the duo’s talent, there were two in particular that seem to have gotten away. Local product Amile Jefferson would have been a great get for the Wildcats but he seems to be headed out of state, and fellow local boy Savon Goodman was once committed to ‘Nova, before backing out a few months ago. Goodman’s academic issues could mean he is headed to prep school anyway, but both of those players would have added crucial depth on the wing.  Now the Wildcats will hope to snag a transfer or two and look towards filling up the Class of 2013, which will be absolutely essential to Wright’s rebuilding efforts.

Overall Grade

D-. Yes, they didn’t finished all the way in the conference cellar, but they had far more talent on their roster than either Providence or DePaul, and so they get a lower grade because they didn’t even come close to meeting their rather modest expectations. They lost two games to fellow Big Five teams, and also lost out-of-conference tilts with Santa Clara and Saint Louis, which makes the season even more disappointing. Even without Wayns or Cheek, there is enough talent left over to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth, but they will need to tighten their play on both ends of the floor before they can even start dreaming about playing in March next season.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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