#33 Villanova Men's Basketball Preview

Villanova Wildcats

Overall Rank: #33
Conference Rank: #8 Big East
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2010-11: 21-12, 9-9
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jay Wright (224-111 at Villanova, 346-196 overall)

Villanova has had to replace some quality players throughout the years and every time another player steps up into his place. Just about everybody on the team needs to play a bigger role this season, but it is Maalik Wayns who is shouldering most of the expectations. The 6-2 junior started 28 games last season, but he had a lot of help handling the ball in the backcourt. Now this is his team and he will need to emerge as a leader. Wayns did average 13.8 points and 4.5 assists during his sophomore campaign, so he can certainly get the job done. However, it may not be as easy this time around if other players do not successfully step into larger roles.

Who’s Out:
Wayns was often left open as the opposition was worried about Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Fisher led the team in scoring and assists and certainly took the pressure off of Wayns, who was usually just a secondary ball handler who did some scoring. Speaking of scoring, the shooting ability of Stokes will be greatly missed. Stokes knocked down 3.1 three-pointers per game and connected on 43.2 percent of his attempts. That shooting ability really opened up the offense and when Stokes was hot, the Wildcats could put up a ton of points in a hurry. The frontcourt has some losses as well. Antonio Pena started all 33 games last year, averaging 9.8 points and 7.1 rebounds. He was not the lone big man last year, but Pena has been the only big man with four very talented guards around him. This team was getting bigger, but the graduation of Pena and the transfer of Isaiah Armwood, who started eight games last year, does leave the big men quite inexperienced.

Who’s In:
While the returning players step into larger roles, the freshmen will be asked to at least provide quality minutes off of the bench. Coach Jay Wright will not go too deep if he does not have to, so there is room for the three new perimeter players to play their way in or out of minutes. Ty Johnson is the one player who may not have the luxury of working his way into the rotation. The point guard will be the backup for Wayns right away. However, he is the best the newcomer of the group and he could play off the ball at times as well if necessary. Johnson, who is coming off of a foot injury, could play the role that Wayns did last year as the secondary ball handler playing beside Fisher. Darrun Hillaird and Achraf Yacoubou will be backups on the wings to start the season, but could play their way into a starting role. The frontcourt has some slightly more experienced newcomers. JayVaughn Pinkston redshirted last season after being suspended following an off-campus incident. He is a tough 260 pound forward who should be able to replace Pena’s production on the glass. Markus Kennedy spent a couple years at prep schools and is another big body that this team usually lacks.

Who to Watch:
Dominic Cheek and James Bell are brimming with potential, but the guards have yet to live up to it. That is partly because of the talent in front of them, but it remains to be seen if they are ready to play up to their potential. Now is the time because both will be thrown into starting roles. Cheek is a big 6-6 guard, but has spent most of his collegiate career thus far shooting from long range…and not very well. With more of a scoring load put on his shoulders, Cheek should develop into a more dynamic scorer, but he still needs to shoot better. Bell’s lack of production as a freshman was largely due to a couple leg injuries suffered prior to the season. If he can stay healthy, Bell should be a solid scorer who could push double digits in the scoring column.

Final Projection:
Mouphtaou Yarou is the returning starter in the frontcourt. He is fine interior scoring, averaging 8.4 points per game last season, but Pena made things easier for Yarou. The 6-10 junior will anchor the frontcourt, but finding somebody who can play by his side is the big issue. Maurice Sutton played some minutes last year backing up Yarou and will likely do the same again this year. Villanova is not the type of team that really wants to start the 6-10 Yarou and the 6-11 Sutton. They want more speed and Sutton will likely remain in a backup role while a quicker newcomer steps into the four spot. Either way, this team does have more options than usual in the frontcourt, but like the rest of the squad, it will depend on whether or not those players are ready for their new roles.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Maalik Wayns, Junior, Guard, 13.8 points per game
James Bell, Sophomore, Guard, 2.4 points per game
Dominic Cheek, Junior, Guard, 5.6 points per game
JayVaughn Pinkston, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Mouphtaou Yarou, Junior, Center, 8.4 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#14 Mouphtaou Yarou
#53 Maalik Wayns

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#62 Tyrone Johnson
#112 Achraf Yacoubou

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