Alright that was a little much I know. But the roundtable is back and with it a new topic for our writers and myself to discuss. Villanova has been undefeated in the first two weeks of college basketball and will face Towson on Sunday. With all the hubbub about great basketball teams, how good has Villanova really been? Time for some early season speculation.
Introducing this week's writers:
Lane: James Bell for me. The biggest thing missing from Bell's game was his ability to get involved early, and he did that in spades in the win vs. Lafayette, scoring the team's first 13 points of the game. He appears to have added to his offensive arsenal (which previously consisted of three's and alley-oops), and showed a nice mid-range jumper too. Pinkston was vintage Pinkston, and that's not a bad thing.
Ewart: I'll take Bell. We kind of expect Pinkston to play at a high level at this point, but Bell has been really getting it done early on. It might still be too early to tell after two games, but so far, he has looked like the kind of player who is ready to take his shots early in the game, and with a few exceptions he hasn't been that kind of player before.
Verlin: I have to say James Bell because I don't think people were focusing on him as much as they were Pinkston, who was named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Second Team. Though it's only been two games, he's averaging nearly 10 ppg higher this year (18.0 ppg) than last year (8.6 ppg), and his rebound number (8.5) is nearly double last years' as well. While it'll be difficult for him to keep these numbers up of the course of the season, if he can be a 14 and six kind of guy then that makes Villanova very dangerous offensively.
Tynes: With Ryan Arcidiacono not doing much of anything in the first two games, Bell has done great filling in his role and honestly so has Darrun Hilliard. The most impressive of both games was the first nine minutes against Lafayette where he scored 13 points and flexed his mid range game. He entered the post game press conference arguing with Pinkston about how he could have had a double-double. That's the stuff you like to see.
In terms of the "City 6", after watching a few games around the city, is Villanova in the right spot to be the best team in the city?
Lane: I think so, and I was surprised most were picking La Salle as the best team in the city during the preseason. La Salle didn't look great against a (sneaky good) Manhattan Jaspers team on opening night, and then they struggled with Quinnipiac after that. Don't read into Lafayette's insane shooting as bad D by Villanova - they made some crazy contested shots. The 'Nova D looks pretty good and versatile.
Ewart: I do think that Villanova is looking strong early this season and SJU is the only other 2-0 team this early, but I'm not ready to proclaim the 'Cats as the city's best after Lafayette and Mount St. Mary's. They are setting up to be a good team this season, and once they start playing games against tougher competition; we'll see how they adjust. Winning those Big 5 games will be a powerful barometer for where they are headed.
Verlin: It's either them or Saint Joseph's, who has the best overall win in the city by beating America East preseason favorite Vermont on the road 74-64 to open up the year. La Salle certainly could be the best team, but a season-opening loss to Manhattan knocks them down a peg until they prove otherwise. Those three clearly have a leg up on anybody else at this point. Even if Villanova beats Towson and Saint Joseph's loses to Creighton, that still won't settle the answer...but games on Dec. 7 (against Saint Joseph's) and Dec. 15 (against La Salle) should help.
Tynes: I have to agree with Chris in saying that people picking La Salle as the best team in the city during preseason was preposterous as we've seen through their first few games. To me, Villanova is the best team in the city of Philadelphia and I don't really see that changing. Yes, they did play two weaker teams in Lafayette and Mount St. Mary's but only one other team (SJU) is perfect so far. If the argument is about Villanova's first two games being soft, than La Salle should be undefeated as well.
What's impressed you most after seeing Villanova's first two games this season?
Lane: Our ability to shoot the three. Seriously, the leadership. Bell looks like a changed man. Hilliard and Pinkston took over in the second half when the game got tricky. The chemistry is back on the court after those couple of rough seasons. I like the makeup of the squad.
Ewart: Jay Wright's suits.
Verlin: Well, we've already covered James Bell, who's certainly been a pleasant surprise early on. Beyond that, i'm not so sure much has been incredibly impressive thus far. The 16-point win against Lafayette was expected, and the Leopards certainly put quite a scare into the Wildcats; beating Mt. St. Mary's by 31 doesn't really say much, either. It's nice that they're winning without much from Ryan Arcidiacono (6.0 ppg, 3.0 apg), but certainly the sophomore is going to need to step things up for Villanova to be competitive against the top teams in the Big East. Finally, freshman forward Josh Hart has certainly looked good early, though again it remains to be seen how he'll handle playing against, say, a Marcus Damas or Jerrelle Benimon.
Tynes: I've been surprised by how well the team has played through early injuries. As minor as some may be, excluding Dylan Ennis, Hilliard, Pinkston and Bell have all looked phenomenal without their stud guard to lead them. Just as important, Josh Hart has been the most surprising player on the Wildcats roster. The freshman collected a double-double in the ‘Cats second game of the season and has hopefully become a fixture in the rotation for the near future.
4) What's the percentage that Villanova stays perfect until they hit the Bahamas?
Lane: 95 percent. Lafayette was a tough opening night game, and I thought we passed the test well enough despite not being able to hit anything from deep. Each game has it's trickiness, and Towson should be pretty good this year, but I think the deciding factor (better talent) on opening night repeats itself through the next couple of weeks.
Ewart: Lets go ahead and say 100 percent. The 'Cats haven't really compiled a challenging slate for their first four games before heading down to Atlantis. Things get tougher this weekend with Towson and then Delaware afterward, but a good Villanova team should be able to win both of those games.
Verlin: They should beat Towson, but certainly the Tigers--with former Big East Players in Jerrelle Benimon (Georgetown) and Mike Burwell (South Florida)--are going to come into the Pavilion with a big chip on their shoulder and a lot of momentum after knocking off Temple on Thursday night. Expect that one to be similar to the Lafayette contest, and don't expect it to be easy for Jay Wright's squad. Beating a Devon Saddler-less Delaware at home next Friday should be a much easier win, so overall I'll say 85%.
Tynes: I'll say 92 percent. The biggest test to me will be Towson on Sunday due to some suspensions that will leave Delaware without one of their better guards. As long as Villanova plays well and hopefully hits somewhere around 35-37% of their perimeter shots, things shouldn't get too ugly.
5) Through the first few weeks of College Basketball, who's been the most impressive player in the Big East? Will he be by season's end?
Lane: McDermott, and it's not even close. He's completely lived up to the hype. I've tried to keep in mind that Creighton has played St. Mary's School for the Blind in their first two games, but he's been ruthlessly efficient in his scoring. Anxious to see him against a real defense.
Ewart: (Disclaimer: Brian has been overseas recently and doesn't fill qualified to answer the last question, we thank him for giving his insight and hope he has a safe trip back.)
Verlin: Creighton has this kid named Doug McDermott, maybe you've heard of him? He's a 6-8 forward who's averaging 28.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg through the Blue Jays' first two games. There are plenty of players off to hot starts--Pinkston, Seton Hall's Sterling Gibbs, Butler's Khyle Marshall--but until things settle down and we have enough of a sample size to go on, I'm going with McDermott. And I doubt it changes.
Tynes: It'll be McDermott for me. Although, I don't know how he'll adjust at the NBA level. He has the makings to be something great like Gordon Hayward when he came from Butler or the makings of replicating Jimmer Fredette, which I'm sure no Creighton fan wants for their star player. He has been uber efficient scoring the ball from everywhere which is great to see, but the real determination of his skill will be seen when he plays teams like Marquette or Georgetown when the Big East action starts.