2009-2010 Villanova Wildcats Season Preview
By Ryno of Predictem.com
Last Season’s Record: 30-8 overall, 13-5 Big East, NCAA Tournament Final Four
Head Coach: Jay Wright
Key Losses: Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Corey Fisher 6-1 Jr.
SG: Scottie Reynolds 6-2 Sr.
SF: Corey Stokes 6-5 Jr.
PF: Antonio Pena 6-8 Jr.
C: Mouphtaou Yarou 6-10 Fr.
Key Reserves: Isaiah Armwood 6-7 Fr. SF, Dominic Cheek 6-6 Fr. SG, Taylor King 6-6 So. SF, Reggie Redding 6-5 Sr. SG, Maurice Sutton 6-11 Fr. C, Maalik Wayns 6-1 Fr. PG
Villanova had been flirting with elite status over the past few years, but Jay Wright finally got the Wildcats to the Final Four last season, before falling to eventual national champion North Carolina. Nova peaked at the perfect time, as this is the season the fans have been waiting for. Wright brings in an incredible recruiting class to go along with some talented returning scorers. And finally Nova has a little bit of depth in the frontcourt. On top of all the talent coming together on this roster, the Big East will be much weaker this season than it was last season. Villanova enters this season as the Big East favorite, as well as one of the favorites to get back to the Final Four. Wright has had some terrific teams over the past few years, including a No. 1 ranking with Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry and Mike Nardi, but this team could be even better.
Who’s In/Who’s Out
If it weren’t for the loss of Dante Cunningham, this could be the No. 1 team in the country. But Cunningham, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last season (16.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg), graduated and is a key loss for the Wildcats. They also lose Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark, two players who combined to start 46 games last season. But losing those two isn’t nearly as big of a deal as losing Cunningham. Depth is the strongest aspect of this team, so losing Clark and Anderson won’t affect them much. But Cunningham was the star big man for the ‘Cats, and the frontcourt is always the weakest part of this team, but there is some depth there this year. An incredible four-man recruiting class includes Mouphtaou Yarou, Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns and Isaiah Armwood. Yarou is the powerful post threat that this team has been lacking. The 6-foot-11, 250-pound bruiser will help them immensely on the boards and the defensive end. Cheek is an athlete and a shooter. He can light it up from beyond the arc, but he can be a streaky shooter. He also has the ability to drive to the basket and finish above the rim. Wayns is a scoring point guard who can also catch fire from 3-point land but he can also be effective just setting up the offense and handling the ball. Armwood is a long athlete who excels on defense and will do most of his offensive work around the basket. The newcomers don’t end with the recruiting class. Maurice Sutton is a 6-foot-11 center who redshirted last season as a freshman. He could start at center, but he will likely come off the bench and back up Yarou. Taylor King is a 6-foot-6 forward who transferred from Duke and sat out last season. King can play either forward spot for the ‘Cats, but his role is to knock down 3-pointers on the perimeter.
Nova has one of the best backcourts in college basketball. Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds are tough to guard for any opposing backcourt. Both Fisher and Reynolds are scoring point guards with terrific quickness and strength. Both players can shoot from outside or drive to the basket. Having two great ball-handlers on the court together makes them difficult to apply pressure against. The addition of Wayns adds another similar guard to Fisher and Reynolds. With Wayns in the mix, there will almost certainly always be two terrific ball-handlers with great scoring mentalities on the court at all times. There are a lot of terrific 3-point shooters on this team, but none quite as good as Corey Stokes, who shot 41.8 percent from beyond the arc last season. If Stokes can learn to use his size and score from inside the arc as well as he can from outside the arc, he could be one of the better players in the Big East. Reggie Redding came up big late in games down the stretch and he will be important to help teach the young guards, but Redding will be ineligible for the first semester. While he is out, Cheek will get a chance to play more. Cheek is similar to Stokes in his height and shooting ability, but Cheeks is much slimmer and more athletic than Stokes. With so many quality guards on this roster, Wright has already stated that he will often use a four-guard lineup, just like he did with Foye, Ray, Lowry and Nardi.
Cunningham is a huge loss for Nova because he was, more or less, the team’s frontcourt. But luckily, Sutton, King, Armwood and Yarou all enter the fray at the perfect time. Along with Antonio Pena, the five of them will make up the frontcourt. King and Armwood are small forwards, but both players will see some time at power forward. Pena is the most experienced of these players and he will likely be the starting power forward. He averaged 5.1 points and 4.2 rebound per game last season. Sutton and Yarou have the size to play center or power forward. Both players will often be the only big man on the floor in four-guard lineups.
The strengths for this team are depth and guards. More specifically, their biggest strength is depth at the guard positions. There are so many capable scorers on this team that they will be extremely difficult to defend. And now they even have some options down low. This team also has incredible outside shooting, which will prevent them from ever being out of a game. Reynolds, Fisher, Wayns, Cheek, Stokes and King are some of the best 3-point shooters in the Big East. When four of those players are on the floor at the same time, watch out.
There are a lot of young players on this team, so it could take a while before those players develop into reliable college basketball players. The guards are so quick that they will be able to play good defense against most backcourts, but it’s unknown yet how good the ‘Cats will be at defending down low. Yarou, Sutton and Armwood all have good size and length, but none of them played a college basketball game yet.
Betting Odds and Projections
Villanova is listed on most college hoops betting sites with 18-1 odds to win the national championship. That’s very good value for a team with a realistic shot at winning the title. Nova has as good of a chance as any team not named Kansas to win the national title, especially since the ‘Cats made the Final Four last season. There is little doubt that Nova will win the Big East and stay in the top 10 all season long. At the very least, the guards on this team will make them exciting to watch.