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BIG EAST: 2006-07

College Preview Big East Message Board

By Eric Silver

August 30th, 2006

 

Big East Basketball Preview: Villanova

 

I decided to take a different approach for the preview of the Villanova Wildcats.  Why?  Primarily just to change things up a bit, both for readers and for me.  Consequently, Iíve chosen a "Question & Answer" format in which I ask questions specific to the teamís upcoming season and then offer answers. Here we go.

 

Q:  How much of an impact will the losses of Randy Foye, Allan Ray, and Kyle Lowry have on the teamís prospects for 2006-2007?

 

A:  Silly question. Thereís no way a program can lose two first-round NBA draft choices and a third player who could easily have been drafted as well, and not be affected.  In some ways the Wildcats will have a completely different look, but more importantly this is not a Top 10 team like it was last year.  Now, if Lowry had remained at Villanova, the Wildcats would be one of the favorites to win the conference title.

 

Q:  In what way will there be a "new look"?

 

A:   Fans arenít going to see a four-guard lineup this year.  In fact, they might not even see much of a three-guard lineup. Given the personnel on this team, Coach Jay Wright will likely use a more traditional two-guard, three-forward lineup most of the time.

 

Q:  How do you feel about that?

 

A:  A bit sad, actually.  Nova was the most exciting, the most entertaining team in the country to watch last year when it used its four-guard lineup.

 

Q:  Senior forward Curtis Sumpter returns from a second torn ACL this season.  How much of a difference will he make?

 

A:  If heís at even 80%, heíll be one of the top 10-12 players in the conference.  If heís at 90%, heíll be one of the top five.  If heís at 100%, he could easily be the Big East Player of the Year.  He can play inside or outside.  He can post up, take his man off the dribble and drive to the hole, hit the medium-range jumper, and knock down the three-pointer.  Heís also a very good rebounder, and if he hasnít lost any lateral quickness, heís a tough defender as well.

 

Q: What is his status at this point?

 

A:  Itís difficult to say because one of the concerns is how well the knee will hold up over the course of the season.  Letís just say that the adage "no news is good news" is the mantra for Wildcat fans as the season approaches.

 

Q: Who else will make a significant impact this year?

 

A:  Mike Nardi now has the opportunity to emerge from the rather lengthy shadows of Foye, Ray, and Lowry. Until now, during his entire career at Nova heís been a complementary player, and heís filled that role perfectly. Now heíll be the guy in the backcourt opposing teams focus on stopping.

 

Q:  Is he good enough to handle the increased responsibility?

 

A:  Thatís a good question. Heís had the luxury of playing alongside two terrific guards for three years and a third superb guard for two years.  He certainly benefited from opponents concentrating on his higher-profile teammates.  However, heís a talented player in his own right.  Heís a very good perimeter shooter as his 43% shooting percentage from behind the arc last year illustrates.  However, he has difficulty creating his own shot, and his strength is not breaking down his man one on one.  He should once again average in double figures, but heíll probably get his points more from kickouts in the inside-outside game than he will from the drive-and-kick game heís been used to.

 

Q:  Will Nardi play point or off guard?

 

A:  Incoming freshman Scottie Reynolds is generally listed as a point guard, so fans may think Nardi will play the 2 guard.  However, Nardi came to the Wildcats as a point guard and played the point as a freshman. Given that heís a senior who has experience running a college team, I expect him to play point with Reynolds at the 2, but one could also look at both of them as simply guards who can, and will, play either role.  Last year, for example, it was almost impossible to determine who was playing point for the Wildcats as the guards were versatile enough to play both roles. The same will hold true for Nardi and Reynolds.

 

Q:  Reynolds is Wrightís prized recruit this year? How good is he?

 

A:  Overall, heís very good. Heís certainly one of the top newcomers coming into the league, and the conference has about two dozen freshmen who made at least one Top 100 listing.  I wouldnít be surprised if Reynolds competes for conference Freshman of the Year.  The Wildcats are fortunate he reopened his recruitment after having committed to Oklahoma.

 

Q: Whatís his game like?

 

A:  He has a reputation of being a lights-out shooter with excellent range, so, along with Nardi, heíll force defenses to spread out, opening up scoring opportunities underneath for Sumpter and the other forwards. However, though heís extremely quick, he supposedly doesnít drive to the hoop very often.  Thatís a part of his game heíll need to improve.

 

Q: Who else will start for the Wildcats?

 

A: Will Sheridan started last year and filled his role perfectly.  Heíll definitely be in the starting lineup again, though this year heíll be counted on to score, not just set picks for the guards, rebound, and play defense.

 

Q: Can he fill that expanded role?

 

A:  Absolutely.  He showed last year in a game against UConn (13 points) that he can score, and in the conference tournament, he hit for 17 against Rutgers.  It might take him awhile to adopt a more aggressive mind set, and he certainly will not be the primary option on offense, but he could easily end up averaging 10-12 ppg.

 

Q:  Who will be the fifth starter?

 

A:  The favorites are 6'7" Shane Clark and 6'9" Dante Cunningham.  Both showed flashes of what theyíre capable of near the end of the season.  Both averaged only 2.2 ppg, and their offensive games are different, but either one could step in and start.  Cunningham is a better rebounder as well as a better interior defender.  Plus, he averaged nearly 19.1 mpg last season.  Clark will likely be the first frontcourt player off the bench, and he could get 20-25 mpg.

 

Q:  Whoís the first backcourt player off the bench?

 

A:  Thatís impossible to answer at this point.  It will either be Dwayne Anderson or Bilal Benn, both sophomores, or freshman Reggie Redding.  None of them is a point guard, so Nardi or Reynolds will play point when the other is on the bench.  There are some minutes to be had at off guard, and at least one of the three players has to separate from the other two and prove he can be a reliable back-up.

 

Q:  Will any of the freshmen up front have an impact?

 

A: Each  of them brings something different to the team.  The one I think is most likely to make it into an eight-man rotation is Antonio Pena.  The other incoming big men are a year or two away from being major contributors.  Also, Wright has a history of going only six or seven deep.  It wouldnít surprise me if he brings all the new froncourt players along slowly and rotates Sumpter, Sheridan, Cunningham, and Clark through the three forward positions.

 

Q:  Whatís the outlook for the season?

 

A:  If everything breaks right - if Sumpter plays at 90% or higher, if Nardi can fulfill a primary, rather than a supporting role, if Sheridan can become an inside scoring threat, if Reynolds can make the adjustment to high-major D-1 ball, if one or two of the underclassmen can become reliable players off the bench - if all that happens, the Wildcats could finish third or fourth in the conference. However, rarely does everything work out the way fans hope. Seldom does everything "break right."  The Wildcats will certainly be competitive.  Iíd pick them for sixth place as their overall the talent level on a few other teams is a bit higher.

 

- Predicted Finish: 6 of 16

 

#1 Pittsburgh

#2 Georgetown

#3 Syracuse

#4 Louisville #5 Marquette #6 Villanova #7 Connecticut #8 St. John's

#9 DePaul

#10 Providence #11 Rutgers #12 Notre Dame #13 Cincinnati #14 Seton Hall #15 WVU #16 S. Florida

 

 

 

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