Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #12 VillanovaPosted by Dan Lyons on October 17th, 2012
Once among the most consistent programs in the Big East, Villanova seems to be stuck in a rut. After an incredibly disappointing 2011-12, which led to the first NCAA Tournament miss for the Wildcats since 2003-04 and a year without any postseason berth since Steve Lappas’ 1997-98 team. To top things off, Jay Wright lost his two top scorers from last season, and will have to choose between a transfer and a true freshman to run the point for the Wildcats this year. The Wildcats hope to be one of the Big East’s most surprising teams, but it will have to have everything click right if the Wildcats expect a top-half finish in the conference.
2011-12 Record: 13-19, 5-13
2011-12 Postseason: None
After a scrimmage with Carleton University, Villanova opens the regular season with Division II District of Columbia, as a part of the 2K Sports Classic. The Wildcats host Marshall two nights later before departing to New York for the 2K Classic’s main event. In the semifinals, Villanova takes on Purdue, followed by the winner of Alabama and Oregon State. Later in the non-conference slate, Villanova travels down to Nashville for a tough road game against Vanderbilt before returning to Philadelphia for Big 5 games against Temple, Penn, and St. Joe’s. In the Big East, Villanova has home-and-home series with Syracuse, USF, Providence, and Pittsburgh.
Two new players should battle it out for the starting point guard spot, as both true freshman Ryan Arcidiacono and junior Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault look to contribute right away. Chennault received a hardship waiver from the NCAA and is eligible to play this year after averaging nine points and three assists as the starting point guard for the Demon Deacons. The Wildcats also add 6’10″ freshman Daniel Ochefu, who should add some much needed beef inside for the oft-undersized squad, as well as Croatian guard Mislav Brzoja, who is a strong perimeter shooter.
Jay Wright loses his two top scorers in guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek. While replacing 30 points per game is always difficult, both Wayns and Cheek were somewhat turnover prone (3.0 and 1.6 per game, respectively), and were known to force bad shots. The hope is that while the loss of talent will be tough to overcome, the Wildcats may end up having better offensive chemistry this season. Villanova also loses sophomore Markus Kennedy (14.8 MPG, 3.0 PPG), who transferred to SMU.
Who to Watch
For the first time in a long while, Villanova may be a forward/center-oriented team. The Wildcats’ two returning scorers are senior center Mouphtaou Yarou (11.3 PPG) and sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston (9.6 PPG). Yarou is an effective scorer around the basket and one of the best rebounders in the conference (8.2 RPG). Pinkston is a rangy, versatile scorer who has a solid three-point shot and should be able to do damage in the mid-range. If the Villanova guards can effectively feed Yarou and Pinkston, both have the ability to be among the best players in the conference.
This will likely be another tough year for Villanova. After losing Wayns and Cheek to the allure of the NBA, the Wildcats will be frontcourt-oriented for the first time in years, and will be relying on a new group of guards to set up the offense. If the team clicks and Yarou and Pinkston prove to be top-end Big East performers, Nova could be one of the conference’s more surprising teams. However, if the guards struggle to put them in position to score, it may be another long season for the Wildcats.