So what can we take out of the game yesterday for Villanova? Here are the four major aspects that popped out at me during the game.
1. Villanova really misses Corey Stokes: Dominic Cheek has been put into the role that Corey Stokes was in for the past few years, and he's done an awful job at filling his shoes. Cheek shot 4-13 from the field, with only 1 of 7 from downtown. Cheek needs to hit his jump shots, but there's something to say about shot selection. There's no doubt in my mind that Cheek can score at this level, but he is not making good basketball plays. There were a few instances where he shot a contested three pointer with over 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Those are inexcusable shots, as they rarely go in and puts pressure on the team to gather offensive rebounds. I'd like to see more off the ball screens given to Cheek, much the way Ray Allen is treated in the pros. Let Cheek run around the court and get open. If he has a half-step on a defender, Cheek can be deadly with his ability drive and shoot.
2. Stagnant offense: No matter who has been running the point, Villanova seems to just stand there offensively for twenty seconds. The lack of offensive plays hinders consistent scoring. In transition, Villanova is very efficient, but the half-court game is embarrassing. This has been going on ever since Scottie Reynolds left nova a couple years ago. Fisher, Wayns and now Johnson, need to do a better job of recognizing defenses and moving the ball around. This all stems from head coach Jay Wright though, as he needs to build a better offense.
3. Transition Defense: Syracuse scored a lot of points in transition last night, as Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters combined for 4 of the Orange's 6 turnovers. Even off missed jumpshots by Villanova, Syracuse was already on the run and executed their transition offense perfectly. Villanova big men Yarou, Kennedy, Pinkston, and Bell at times were too worried about offensive rebounds and were beat down the court on plays where they had literally no chance of getting a board. Sometimes the best decision is to let the rebound go and get back on defense, because Villanova surprisingly played a decent half-court defense last night.
4. Mental Toughness: Villanova is young, so this will come with time; however, Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek were not leading their teams in any regards. The top three players on this team are still Juniors, but last night Jayvaughn Pinkston was the most impactful player. Wayns, Cheek, and Yarou have been through the grind of the Big East and have been on very good basketball teams. The three upperclassmen need to do a better job of being consistent and reliable. Yarou did not convert a post move into a basket last night, from what I can remember. Wayns played awful and Cheek couldn't hit anything. The veterans need to carry the weight as the freshman just aren't polished enough yet.
All I can say right now about this team: It's going to be a long season.