Amidst the chaos of the conference frenzy, one thing has been made clear for Villanova basketball fans: we must now relish the next two seasons. Fortunately, due to Big East restrictions,
and Syracuse won’t be shifting to the ACC for another couple of seasons. Additionally, with news out that Pittsburgh has been accepted into the Big 12, the Big East Conference, which sent 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, is in shambles. West Virginia
So for now, let’s forget about this whole conference mess and focus on the upcoming Big East season. The conference has a whole different look as many programs graduated big-time players, headed by
’s loss of Kemba Walker. Connecticut loses Austin Freeman and Chris Wright as well. Each team had its losses, but as usual, each team had a solid recruiting class. Georgetown brings in a stud in Andre Drummond, who many believe could be the first overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, if there is a season that is. Connecticut
Let’s shift our spotlight towards the Villanova Wildcats. Many of our readers are students or alumni of Villanova and are wondering what to expect after a quiet recruiting class. Let me just say this to start, I believe that the Wildcats will be a more fundamentally sound basketball team, led by its defense. I understand that the Corey brothers (Fisher and Stokes) are gone, as well as Antonio Pena, but the inconsistencies of those players hurt the team. There is no doubt that their contributions will be missed, as 3/5 of the starting lineup is gone; however, there is optimism.
I would argue that, last year, Maalik Wayns was the best player wearing Villanova across his chest, closely followed by Mouphtaou Yarou. In basketball, numbers lie more than ever, and with Fisher and Stokes taking most of the shots. Fisher and Stokes led the team in scoring, both averaging around the 15 mark. Wayns scored 13.8 per game last year, but the stat that I believe is misleading is the 39.9% field goal percentage. After his freshman season, in which Maalik looked out of control and flustered at many times, Wayns really took a stride forward. He took right under 11 shots a game, which I believe will increase to around 16 this season. Maalik has to focus on getting to the hole instead of settling for a jump shot. Wayns had a noticeable improvement from freshman year to sophomore year in terms of his jumper, but he is most effective going to the hoop, shown by his increased production and 5 free throws attempted per game.
My favorite player on the team is Mouphtaou Yarou and he continues to impress me. Yarou is fairly new to basketball and boy will the Big East have problems with him this year. I expect big things from the big man, as he becomes the #2 option. I believe that he is capable of averaging a 12-10 every night, but he must improve his positioning on rebounding. There is no doubt in my mind he has worked hard this off-season, so there is a good chance you’ll be hearing “Wayns to Yarou!” a lot this year.
The 2011 recruiting class has no headline name or star player, but it is a solid group of freshman. We can add Jayvaughn Pinkston to the list as well, who will probably the biggest difference maker among the group. Pinkston was suspended last season, but reinstated by Jay Wright. Pinkston adds some size, along with a smooth shooting stroke. He’s got a big frame, but he’s quick enough to make plays both off the dribble and in the post.
Tyrone Johnson, who stands at 6’3, is a pretty big point guard. He’s got long arms and has the makings to be a good lead guard, due to his passing and dribbling skills. Achraf Yacoubou is a 6’3 shooting guard, who is a tough player. He is a valuable rebounder out of the 2 spot, as well as a good scorer. He will benefit most playing with a good point guard who can feed him the ball slashing to the hoop.
Markus Kennedy is a big dude, no other way to say it. He’s 6’9, 270 lbs. and provides some much needed size for Villanova. He is a good offensive player and is a solid post presence. His big problems have been with conditioning; however, a year with Jay Wright will benefit him tremendously. Last but not least, we have 6’5 Darrun Hilliard. Darrun, who plays the wing, is definitely a downgrade from the perimeter compared to Corey Stokes, but he finds ways to contribute to the team. He’s a hard worker and has a “high basketball I.Q.”
These five newcomers will probably all be in the rotation, but expect Kennedy, Pinkston, and Johnson to play big-time minutes. The biggest question marks on the team are Dominic Cheek and James Bell. Can these two contribute heavily? Only time will tell, but I’d like to see both players make improvements offensively. Cheek had a terrible sophomore season, but with his athletic ability, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be an above-average player. He needs to be more confident in his shot and start knocking them down. James Bell impressed me in his freshman year, but he still is a raw offensive player. He must hit those open jumpers in order to be effective. Both players are solid defensively, but they’ll need to make adjustments offensively in order to stay in the rotation.
I think Villanova is a top 40 team in the league right now, but has the potential to be better. They certainly won’t contend for a title this year, but they will challenge the elite of the Big East.
With all that being said, here is my projected starting lineup:
Maalik Wayns, G
James Bell, G
Dominic Cheek, G
Jayvaughn Pinkston, F
Mouphtaou Yarou, C
Here’s the rest of the team, in order of projected minutes:
Tyrone Johnson, G
Markus Kennedy, C
Achraf Yacoubou, G
Maurice Sutton, C
Darrun Hilliard, G
Nick McMahon, G
* - Denotes Senior