August 30th, 2006
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- Predicted Finish:
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