Villanova held its annual Men’s Basketball media day on Wednesday, November 2nd at the Pavilion.
This year’s Wildcats team has a vastly different look than it did last season. Gone are last year’s seniors Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Antonio Pena (as well as Isaiah Armwood who decided to transfer). Red-shirt freshman JayVaughn Pinkston, and true freshman Ach Yacoubou, Darrun Hilliard, Markus Kennedy, Ty Johnson now join a group of sophomores and juniors. The only senior on the team is walk-on guard Dallas Ouano. How quickly this young team can gel will go along way in determining how successful their season is. Perhaps that is why their schedule opens with three home games against less than stellar competition (Monmouth, La Salle, and Delaware).
The players and coaches alike echoed many of the same sentiments about the upcoming season: this is a much larger team than the guard driven teams of the past, they are poised to be a better defensive squad, and they can run the floor with anyone.
If the Wildcats are to succeed this season, many things will have to happen. The team will have to implement, and run, some set offensive plays. This is not the four guard team of the past who can produce their own shots at will. They have many talented players and will have to tailor plays that work to the their strengths.
They will have to bring their shooters off of screens, make multiple crisp passes in a single possession, drive to the basket to collapse opposing defenses, and most importantly of all, feed the post early and often.
Mouph Yarou is a force to be reckoned with and Villanova would be wise to get him the ball early and establish the post. This will open things up from the perimeter as well as the mid range jump shots.
Dom Cheek and James Bell are going to have to step up and knock down their open three point looks. The only Wildcat to shoot over 40% from three-point range last season was Stokes, and the next best player was Fisher at just under 33%. Bell and Cheek both shot in the low 30% range. If Villanova can’t knock down more open looks in 2011-12, teams will not respect their perimeter game and will be able to cheat in on the post-area, double teaming Yarou, Kennedy, Pinkston, and Maurice Sutton.
Free-throw shooting has always been strong at Villanova but tailed off last season with only Stokes (89%) and Wayns (82%) shooting over 80%. The guards should all be shooting at least 80% from the charity stripe and if Yarou, Sutton, and the freshman big men can shoot in the low 70’s, it will go a long way.
Finally, the Wildcats will have to get back to playing tough Villanova defense. The team simply must get better at sticking with opposing perimeter shooters. Cheating towards the middle opens up the wings and Nova was burned repeatedly last season from beyond the arc when they were unable to recover quickly enough to the outside.
After playing together in Europe over the summer, the team will get its next test against an opposing team in an exhibition match at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, November 8th, before opening the regular season on the 11th against Monmouth at the Pavilion.
Also in attendance at media day was former 76ers head-coach Larry Brown, and former Villanova point guard (and current NBA player) Kyle Lowry.
You can view video interviews with Jay Wright, seven players, and three brief clips of the team practicing by CLICKING HERE.
You can view a complete photo slideshow below: