Fun facts: In the past two seasons the Villanova Wildcats have finished 9-11 in the second half of Big East play, haven't won a Big East Tournament game, and their only NCAA Tournament win was a three-point overtime victory against a No. 15 seed. (Okay, not "fun" facts if you are a Villanova fan.) Jay Wright has not been able to sustain a level of success despite having a ton of talent and may struggle to do so this season with a young roster.
In losing starters Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Antonio Pena, the Wildcats faces a transition period with no seniors on the roster. That means junior point guard Maalik Wayns will carry the responsibility of becoming the team leader and sole ball handler, a job he shared last year with Fisher.
Dominic Cheek and James Bell likely step into the starting lineup, replacing Stokes and Isaiah Armwood on the wing. Both players are bigger guards and will need to have breakout seasons for Villanova to exceed expectations. A major concern will be who can replace Stokes as the team's three-point threat since Wayns, Cheek, and Bell are not efficient shooters from the perimeter.
A trio of freshmen will hope to provide depth in the backcourt. Tyrone Johnson has good size for a point guard and a knack for attacking the basket. Archaf Yacoubou and Darrun Hilliard are both versatile, hard-nosed wings who can impact a game in numerous ways.
Mouphtaou Yarou brings an energetic, defensive presence to the middle. He made great strides during his sophomore campaign but still has a way to go with his development on the offensive end. Maurice Sutton is an athletic, lengthy big man but is rail thin which really limits his effectiveness and often gets him into foul trouble. Freshman Markus Kennedy is a big body inside but is also extremely comfortable with the ball in his hands, meaning he adds some needed versatility to the frontcourt.
Jayvaughn Pinkston was suspended for all of last season stemming from an off-the-court altercation but is eligible for the Wildcats. Like Kennedy, Pinkston is a beast inside at 6-7, 260 pounds but can also step out on the perimeter and knock down jump shots. He will likely step into the starting lineup right away, giving Wright a problem-causing duo with Yarou.
It has been proven that talent trumps experience. Half of this year's Villanova team is freshmen; skilled players but young and inexperienced. Wright will have to exorcise the demons of the past two seasons and do one heck of a coaching job. One thing is for sure, the Wildcats will not be overranked this preseason and must put together a complete effort before I can believe they are a real threat come tourney time.
Player to Watch: Maalik Wayns, PG
Having played behind and alongside Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher the past two seasons, Wayns now becomes the leader of this Wildcat team. He will be given the opportunity of being the catalyst offensively which also comes with the challenge of opposing teams keying in on stopping him. Wayns has NBA potential and is capable of successfully accepting that responsibility, but for him to prove that, he has to cut down on his turnovers and improve his shot selection.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/24 vs. UC-Riverside (76 Classic)
11/25 vs. Boston College/St. Louis (76 Classic)
11/26 vs. New Mexico/Santa Clara/Oklahoma/Washington State (76 Classic)