Big East Preview: #8 Villanova
Posted by Zach on October 20, 2008
8. Villanova Wildcats- Coach: Jay Wright (8th season)
PG- Scottie Reynolds (JR): Everyone who watches ESPN on a regular basis has heard of Scottie Reynolds. It’s hard to say the star point guard doesn’t deserve the hype, though. As a freshman he won Big East Rookie of the Year and finished on the Big East All-2nd team as a sophomore while increasing his scoring average. Reynolds can contend for the conference player of the year this season if his development as a dynamic point guard and scorer both continue, because then Villanova wins basketball games. He already has over 1,000 points in two years at Villanova. It’s possible Wright will use Corey Fisher as more of a point guard this year to free Reynolds up for more scoring opportunities on the wing, either through his excellent jumper or ability to drive the ball.
SG- Dwayne Anderson (SR): Dwayne is a complete player who energized the Wildcats during their mid-season slump last year through rebounding and defense. Anderson has a respectable jumper, but makes his mark for Nova through energy and an unmatched effort on defense. The Wildcats turned around their season last year with Anderson’s game-winning shot against Seton Hall and should have his starting spot entrenched from his effort at the end of 07-08. One area for Anderson to improve on are free throws (63%). He’s the unquestioned leader of this team as a senior.
SF- Corey Stokes (SO): Not one player on the Villanova roster made more strides last year than Stokes. He began the year looking like your typical lost freshman: liability on defense, inconsistent jump shot and turnovers galore. Then something clicked and Stokes went on to become the Wildcats second most valuable player down the stretch behind Reynolds, culminating in a 20-point performance against Siena in Tampa. Stokes made strides not only with his three-point shot, which has seemingly limitless range, but also on defense. The hyped sophomore from St. Benedict’s Prep will look to build on the second half of last year for 08-09.
PF- Antonio Pena (SO): Believe it or not, Pena is older than fellow senior postman Dante Cunningham. Following two years at a prep school, one year red shirted, and a freshman season that saw strides in development, Pena is ready to contribute for coach Wright on a consistent basis. With no true center on the roster, Pena needs to become a fearsome tandem on the boards with Cunningham. When Pena received the starting nod last year, his scoring and rebounding numbers rose, reasons why I feel Wright will have him pegged into the initial starting five, with Shane Clark on his heels if Wright wants to go small (and we all know he’s not scared of going small).
PF- Dante Cunningham (SR): As the lone player to start every game for Wright last season, Cunningham emerged as a fixture in the post. Formerly more of a complimentary force that hadn’t emerged from his shell, Cunningham finally used his talent to turn into a double-digit scorer and forceful rebounding presence. He has molded into a confident post player that demands the basketball and has grown into the team’s unsung leader. His scoring has increased every year since he arrived at Villanova; Wright is hoping for a boost from 10.4 PPG to around 14 PPG this season. Look for him to see plenty of minutes and continue his efficient play.
Bench: Sophomore Corey Fisher went through the typical freshman ups-and-downs with his jump shot last season. This year, with his comfort level rising, Wright will use Fisher effectively off the bench as a sparkplug who can drain a huge three to quell an opposing run. Fisher showed his potential with a big performance in the upset over Clemson in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Reggie Redding is used sparingly but often finds himself on the court at the end of games because of his intelligence on defense. Shane Clark went through a dismal junior campaign in which he disappeared from games and often didn’t even see the court. Wright hopes his head is on straight for this season because he can contribute offensively. Casiem Drummond is the only true center on the roster. He showed enormous potential before injuring his ankle early last season. He could break out for Villanova and give them much needed height and scoring down low.
Bottom Line: Villanova has reached the NCAA Tournament the last four seasons. They backed up their controversial selection last year with a Sweet Sixteen berth. With five starters back, including the outstanding Reynolds, how can I possibly have them eighth in their own conference? Well, the Big East is insanely good. This Villanova team did struggle for a good portion of last season and they’ll be better this year. Look for Villanova to run their March streak to five and see great strides from Fisher, Stokes and Drummond.
Key Non-Conference Games: 12/9 @ Texas, 12/11 vs. St Joe’s, 12/14 @ La Salle, 12/29 vs. Temple
Key Conference Games: 1/28 vs. Pittsburgh, 2/4 @ Providence, 2/7 vs. Syracuse, 2/10 vs. Marquette
Most Valuable Player: Scottie Reynolds
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (One and done)