Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The State of Villanova Basketball

When Villanova appears in the NCAA Tournament bracket on Sunday, they will be the first team to ever enter the tournament on a five game losing streak.  The Wildcats have lost 7 of their last 9 games and the last "good" game Villanova has played was February 5th against West Virginia, when they won 66-50.  Injuries have played a role with this team's struggles, with Maalik Wayns, Corey Stokes, and Corey Fisher all nursing some some sort of nagging injury.  You can also add Mouphtaou Yarou to that list after suffering a bruised right shoulder and bruised ribs on Wednesday against South Florida.  Yarou will be reevaluated on Friday, so only time will tell if he will be available for the first round of the NCAA tournament.

It is crazy to think that some people are now talking about Villanova being on the bubble, but watching this team play provides evidence to back up that claim.  Villanova currently doesn't pass the eye test, but the Wildcats have too many quality wins (Syracuse, West Virginia, Marquette, Cincinnati, UCLA, and Temple) to be omitted from the field of 68.  It is certainly true that Villanova is not the same team as they were a month ago, but the committee will not overlook them on Sunday.

Corey Fisher has struggled so much in this recent skid that Maalik Wayns has overtook him in terms of leadership of the offense.  I honestly feel more comfortable with Wayns running the offense versus Fisher because of the way Maalik is shooting the ball.  When hot, Fisher is one of the best players in the country, but his inconsistency has doomed this team.  Corey Stokes had to sit out four games due to a turf toe and then missed the game against Pitt with a left hamstring injury.  In the games he has played, Stokes has done a great job of spacing the floor and knocking down his shots, but he seems to disappear late in games.

Stokes and Wayns may be the only two players that have been positively contributing consistently in the past month.  Antonio Pena has struggled with his jump shot and has done a poor job on defense and rebounding.  Mouphtaou Yarou has done a little better rebounding, but is having a lot of trouble finishing around the hoop. Isaiah Armwood is playing a lot of minutes, but is simply not an offensive threat which creates problems for Villanova on offense.  Maurice Sutton has had trouble staying on the floor, as he fouls more than he rebounds.  Dominic Cheek has been in a three month shooting slump and has seen his minutes dwindle late in the season, while Freshman James Bell has been streaky at best.

In the end, I think a lot goes on to Jay Wright and Corey Fisher. After superstar Scottie Reynolds' departure last season, somebody needed to step up as a leader for Villanova.  Many believed Corey Fisher would take over that role, but he has struggled in that role this year.  Jay Wright has had trouble relying on Fisher because of his inability to stay out of foul trouble and to limit his turnovers.  Jay Wright has been trying new things to try and jumpstart this team, but nothing has worked so far.  It is time to see if Jay Wright can pull some magic out of his suit, as the entire Villanova team is basically in a slump.

I believe that Villanova could still make a run into the Sweet 16, but I still doubt the team.  The best scenario right now for the Wildcats is an 11 seed playing next Friday, allowing some of their players to rest up an extra day as they prepare for the NCAA tournament.  Villanova will be in the tournament, but will probably be the lowest ranked team of the Big East teams to earn a bid.  There have been better days at Villanova, but hope does remain on this lovely campus just north of Philadelphia.

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