Monday, January 23, 2012

The Recent Emergence of the Villanova Wildcats

I have a confession to make. I've been a very poor member of the Nova Nation this college basketball season. I don't have any excuses to make. Villanova has just been having a bad year and I opted not to spend a lot of my time supporting them after we almost lost to La Salle. La Salle. We got taken to overtime by La Salle. The little I have watched generally consists of sloppy, unorganized offense and normal, sub-par Villanova defense. It's hard to watch.

Don't look now, but the Wildcats are on a bit of a hot streak (by this season's standards). Back-to-back wins against Seton Hall (now 15-4, 4-3) and Louisville (now 15-5, 3-4) have the Nationers feeling better about this season than we've felt since we got blown out by Saint Louis back in November.

Don't get me wrong, there have been bright spots before the past week. Losing by ten points to #10 Missouri was a nice surprise. As were losing by four at #13 Marquette and at Cincinnati. Although I will say that being happy about losing is not something I signed up for when I enrolled at Villanova.

This basketball season, in general, has made me question everything that Villanova stands for. We are a basketball school. Basketball is what we do. Basketball and Jesus, of course. It's just been a miserable season.

But in this little run they've put together (2-1, +7 point margin) they've shown potential. Maalik Wayns scored 39 points against Cincinnati, on a night when he also posted a phenomenal 51.9 JPoint. He followed that up with a not-as-efficient-from-the-field-but-much-more-effective-from-the-line 25 points (52.3 JPoint) in a win against Seton Hall and a ho-hum 28 points (43.6 JPoint) in a win against St. John's. The only way 'Nova can win is if Wayns - their best player and the guy who gets the most shots - takes smart shots.

But what about when he passes? Coming into this year, there was no question it was Maalik's team. But his backcourt mates were supposed to be headlined by Dom Cheek and James Bell - both returning from last season's team. His starting frontcourt was supposed to be filled with Mouph Yarou and JayVaughn Pinkston. Everyone else on the roster was either a freshman or Maurice Sutton.

Well we learned the other day that in order to be successful in the game of basketball, the players who take most of the shots need to be efficient. Over the past 3 games, Wayns, Bell, Cheek, Yarou, and Pinkston have combined for 90.7% of the team's field goal attempts and 92.1% of the field goals made. In each of the other three games, the rest of the team combined to make two field goals.

While I often criticize Jay Wright for his lack of coaching prowess, I'll give him that point - he knows how to utilize his best, most experienced players. And when they're combining for 91% of the shots, 92% of the makes, and a JPoint rating of 40.8, who's to stop them from continuing the trend of a 3-man rotation?

The 'Cats play ten more games before the Big East tournament. They are all winnable. That's really optimistic. I can't (for the sake of being positive) see us winning any less than four (Pitt, Providence, USF, Rutgers). I'd say we have a good shot at four more (Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Cincinnati). It'll be a freaking miracle if we beat UConn or Georgetown.

I will not gamble on this next sentence: the Villanova Wildcats will end with a Big East record somewhere between 8-10 and 11-7. Last year, that would have put them somewhere in the 6-12 seed for the Big East tournament (out of 16). The year before that 5-11. Before that, 6-10. Just so we have a rough idea. I'll go ahead and predict somewhere between the 6 seed and the 10 seed.

Any way the seeding ends up, 'Nova will likely get a bye in the first round and play one of the teams from the St. John's/Pitt "oh my God, we had to play in the first round of the tournament, should we even be in the Big East?" category. A winnable game. As the tournament progresses, the Wildcats would play better teams (I feel like at least once per post I include a line like this, where the note after goes something along the lines of, "Adurr").

The third day is a problem. Because I have no problem assuming that we'd get matched up with Syracuse and the shit kicked out of us. Tournament run, over. At-large bid, please? With a record somewhere between 19-13 and 18-16, it's a possibility. If the Big East tournament goes well, well then #heyyouneverknow.

All that I can tell you is I just turned on alerts for Villanova Men's Basketball on the ESPN ScoreCenter app on my iPhone and I will be supporting them until March.

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