Big East Season Preview: Villanova Wildcats

USA TODAY Sports

Next up in the Big East Season Preview Series -- the Villanova Wildcats. The Wildcats are poised to make some noise in the Big East this season. Behind JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono, a conference title and a place as the best college club in Philly is up for grabs. New Nova' beat writer, Tyler R. Tynes, fills you in.

Head Coach: Jay Wright entering his 13th season at Nova'. His career overall record is 257-144, 1 regular season championship in 2006, 10 NCAA Tournament bids.

Last Season: 20-14, Lost in Big East Quarterfinals to Louisville, lost in NCAA round of 64 to North Carolina.

Key Returnees: Ryan Arcidiacono (11.9 ppg/3.5 apg/82.4 ft%) , JayVaughn Pinkston (13.3 ppg/5.0 rpg), Darrun Hilliard (11.4 ppg/2.8 rpg)

Departures: Maurice Sutton (3.2 ppg/2.7 rpg), Achraf Yacoubou (2.9 ppg/2.6 rpg), Mouphtaou Yarou (9.9 ppg/7.8 rpg)

Additions: Dylan Ennis (Redshirt Sophomore from Rice), Josh Hart (Freshman, Sidwell Friends H.S, D.C.), Kris Jenkins (Freshman, Gonzaga College H.S.) Darryl Reynolds (Freshman, Worcester Academy, Mass.)

Projected Starting Lineup: Ryan Arcidiacono- G, Darrun Hilliard- G, James Bell-G/F, JayVaughn Pinkston- F, Daniel Ochefu- C

Games To Watch: December 7th vs. Saint Joseph's, December 15th vs. La Salle, December 28th vs. Syracuse, January 25th vs. No. 17 Marquette, February 16th vs. Creighton, March 8th vs. Georgetown

As auburn leaves dance through temperate, overcast skies, excitement fills the air. The wind blows in another college basketball season and with it a stronger, more complete Villanova Wildcat basketball team ready to take Philadelphia and the City 6 conference by storm.

That, and Nicki Minaj loves Jay Wright.

What Went Wrong Last Season:

After leading the Wildcats to their ninth 20-win season this century last season, fans across the nation have something to look forward to in 2013-2014, an exciting roster full of expectations. However, last year was a mixed bag for for Wildcats fans everywhere. Though the 'Cats captured a few wins over top-five programs in the NCAA, their struggles were tangible playing behind a freshman point guard, dropping games to non-ranked Columbia and twice to conference-foe, Providence.

Jay Wright's team struggled in a multitude of ways. They shot a disappointing 41.5 percent from the floor (262nd in NCAA), lacked a smooth and consistent flow of offense only dishing the ball 12.3 times per game (196th in NCAA). Villanova couldn't find a way to score when they needed to, totaling 67.8 ppg (161st in NCAA). There was no hint of offensive efficiency.

After beating eventual NCAA Champion, Louisville, earlier in the season and winning big games over Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown and a strong St. John's team, Nova' seemed poised to make postseason noise. It would turn into a false reality. The Wildcats finished the back half of the season 9-10 and lacked consistency after a strong month of December.

Oh yeah, and Arcidiacono also does this from time to time.


Old Faces, Same Home:

Luckily, the same twenty-win team that lacked consistency is returning with some fresher faces to add a more emphatic punch to the roster. Though the Wildcats lost two big post presences, Sutton and Yarou, Ochefu should be ready to fill the shoes of the former seniors. This will cause Nova' to test the waters in the frontcourt for the first time in a long time and move Pinkston to the power forward spot beside Ochefu.

However, this does bode well for the backcourt. Arcidiacono is coming off a questionable second half of his opening campaign in college basketball, but playing against some of the better players in the country and seeing the postseason isn't a bad way to start a career. Nova' has been known for powerful guard play under Wright (Scottie Reynolds, Reggie Redding, Maalik Wayns, Corey Fisher, etc.), last year the starting guards scored 31.9 ppg.

Bell and Hilliard will most likely see starting time with Arcidiacono. Bell was a spark from the Wildcats' bench last season and returns as the best three-point shooter on a roster that shot 33.1 percent collectively in 2012-2013. Bell's 36.1 percent from behind the arc should improve the flow of the offense. Hilliard was third on the team in scoring and adds a bit of scoring for the backcourt that will need to score often to carry this offense.

Strong Bench, Strong Chances:

A major weakness for Villanova last season was their lack of a deep rotation that could keep them in games down the stretch at the end of the season. With the additions of Hart, Ennis (who's out for the beginning of the season with a fractured hand), Jenkins, Reynolds and returning senior Tony Chennault, Wright has a bunch of pieces to play with for the season opener against Lafayette on November 8th.

Oh, and this is why you should be excited that Ennis is back.


Dylan Ennis Dunk at Villanova's Hoops Mania (via NovaAthletics)

An interesting player to watch is Hart. After impressing a few fans and media personnel at the Mary Kline Classic in June, he appeared to match up well against other freshman players in the area like DeAndre Bembrey from Saint Joseph's. The 6-foot-5 freshman guard/forward provides a variety of match up problems due to his gangly frame and versatility on the floor. He'll fit in immediately with Wright's scheme.

Early Expectations:

Villanova was picked to finish 4th in the Big East Preseason poll behind Marquette, Georgetown and Creighton and that might be how it stays for the 'Cats. Nova' should have another twenty-win season and Arcidiacono should live up to his preseason All Big East Second Team selection.

In reality, the Wildcats will go as far in the postseason as Arcidiacono can take them. He will be the main focal point of the offense. But with strong play from the bench and a new focus on rebounding, where Villanova struggled only grabbing 36.3 per game (98th in NCAA), it'll look like a revitalized Wildcat squad.

The team is still young, having only three seniors on a thirteen-man roster, but they hold the keys to better vehicle than last season. They are a postseason squad. The only direction they can go is up, unless absolute disaster finds its way to Radnor, PA. Villanova basketball is back. No really, it's back.

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