New to Big East Coast Bias, a weekly Villanova and Big East based roundtable. This week's focus: Villanova's season opener v. Lafayette, preseason injuries and much more.
Starting at BECB, we'll be bringing in a group of writers every week to discuss the Villanova Wildcats and issues around the Big East every week. Each week will be a group of writers who cover the teams we speak about at great detail. So without further ado, let me introduce this week's roundtable guests.
Josh Verlin, Editor and Owner, CityOfBasketballLove.com, (@JMVerlin)
Brian Ewart, Editor and Writer, VUHoops.com, (@Brian_Ewart)
Chris Lane, Editor and Writer, VUHoops.com, (@ChrisJJLane)
Tyler R. Tynes, Villanova Hoops Beat Writer, BigEastCoastBias.com, (@RealTylerTynes)
Is Lafayette even going to make Villanova break a sweat in the season opener on Friday?
Verlin: I think they do. The Leopards have some talent on the roster, starting with 6-foot-7 swingman Seth Hinrichs. The Second Team All-Patriot League selection averaged 14.5 ppg and 4.9 rpg last season, and he's an absolute marksman from the perimeter, making 45.9 percent of his three-pointers in his first two seasons. Last year, Lafayette was the 19th-best three-point shooting team in the country, making 38.4 percent, and if they get hot early against Villanova things could get very interesting against a Wildcats squad that isn't currently at full health. Fran O'Hanlon, the 19th-year coach at Lafayette, is a 1970 graduate of Villanova, and you can bet his squad would love nothing more than to open it season by helping their coach get a win over his alma mater.
Ewart: Maybe, but Jay Wright will probably use a pretty deep rotation in this one to keep everyone fresh. The 'Cats have a lot of talent and should be able to overpower the Leopards, but they will have to be sharp.
Lane: I doubt it. Lafayette has improved since 'Nova beat them by 45 in 2010, but there's still a huge gap in talent. Arch may be limited (maybe he doesn't even play?), but Villanova has too many horses in the stable, and if the exhibition win over WCU was any indication, they've got a lot of chemistry.
Tynes: I don't see any reason why they can't, but it will take a flawless effort from Lafayette and a disappointing one from the Wildcats. It will also depend mainly on injuries, but since Coach Wright said that Ryan Arcidiacono and Kris Jenkins would be playing on Friday, I don't see much cause for alarm. Villanova proved in the preseason opener that they're more efficient on offense and Daniel Ochefu can greatly help the cause on the boards. Only one thing scares me about Lafayette and that's their high IQ offense and perimeter shooting, 19th in the NCAA last season.
Who's going to be the biggest surprise in Jay Wright's rotation this season?
Verlin: At 6-foot-11 and a solid 250 pounds, Daniel Ochefu is one of the top NBA prospects in the City 6 at this point only because of his size and potential. Last year, as a freshman, the Westtown (Pa.) graduate averaged 3.5 ppg and 4.1 rpg in 17.5 mpg in a mostly backup role to then-senior Mouphtaou Yarou. Now, the starting center job is all his, and while there are sure to be some bumps along the way, Ochefu is the starting center for the next three years and the expectations are high. He could average double-digit rebounds, and if he starts demanding the ball in the post, could have a breakout season.
Ewart: I'll go with Nick McMahon, who will go from bench mob to "guy who scores at-least-two points" this season. I'm also pretty high on Kris Jenkins, who will be one of the team's best shooters this season.
Lane: Josh Hart. Out of the freshman, Jenkins was expected to play because of his shooting and Reynolds was expected to play out of necessity, but Hart was joining a crowded group of guards/wings and we weren't sure if he would get much PT. He's been getting rave reviews so far for both his offense and defense, and I think Wright won't hesitate to go to him in a pinch.
Tynes: Of all the freshman, Hart has been getting the "rave reviews" from the Wildcats' coaching staff. After watching the kid play a few times this past summer, I was immediately impressed on how he used his length and versatility to disrupt passing lanes and shoot over taller defenders. Depending on how some of the injuries restrict other players, he should be one of the go-to players off the bench and has the potential to see a Big East All-Rookie Team if he plays his cards right.
What team or teams pose the biggest threat to Villanova or the rest of the "New" Big East?
Verlin: I'm going with Creighton. There's not much familiarity between the Wildcats and the Blue Jays, who boast one of the short-list Player of the Year candidates in senior Doug McDermott. Last year, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged 23.2 ppg and 7.7 rpg, and he enters his final year of college as a walk-on (he gave up his scholarship so Grant Gibbs could return for a sixth year) with 2,216 career points to his name. St. John's uber-talented backcourt of Rysheed Jordan and D'Angelo Harrison could prove to be a big problem, as could Marquette, the preseason Big East favorites with preseason First Team All-Conference forward Davante Gardner.
Ewart: Marquette, obviously, but Creighton and St. John's also intrigue me, with some star players this season.
Lane: St. John's and Providence. I think there top four of Marquette, Georgetown, Creighton and Villanova is very solid. The Johnnies and Friars have good coaches and a lot of talent, and they're trying to make the breakthrough. Providence has given Villanova fits the last few years.
: I'll go with St. John's here. Creighton doesn't seem to have much firepower in my opinion outside of Doug McDermott and Marquette is obviously going to be the frontrunner for the conference, but outside of that, the Red Storm have the tools to surprise everyone this season. Between a backcourt of Rysheed Jordan, the conference preseason rookie of the year, and D'Angelo Harrison combined with a front court of JaKarr Sampson
, Sir'Domenic Pointer and defensively sound big, Chris Obekpa
(who had four blocks per game last season), they have a pretty solid lineup mixed with a nice rotation (Orlando Sanchez
, Phil Greene IV
and God'sgift Achiuwa) it would be surprising if they didn't make the championship game.
Are the current injuries to McMahon, Jenkins and Arcidiacono a big concern or a small concern if at all?
Verlin: At this point, a small concern. Arcidiacono's bruised ribs seemed to only hold him out of the West Chester game because it was an exhibition, and as long as he avoids any direct shots to the ribs, it should go away fairly soon. Jenkins' ankle is a little more dangerous, as Villanova's frontcourt is certainly not as deep as its backcourt, but it shouldn't keep him out more than a game or two. Dylan Ennis' broken hand is probably the biggest cause for concern at this point considering he could be out through the Battle 4 Atlantis later this month, but they should have him back by the Big East in a worst-case scenario.
Ewart: Mostly a small concern. Wright seemed to indicate to our writer that Arch would have played in the exhibition if it were a regular season game and they really needed him to. None of the injuries seem like the kind that end a season. I'd be more worried about Dylan Ennis' broken hand, which will keep. The athletic Canadian guard from making his Nova debut for a while longer. A lot of people believe Ennis will be a factor for Villanova this season.
Lane: The Jenkins injury is the most concerning at the present. It sounds like Arch will be fine, and I'd prefer they not rush him back just to play on the Cupcake USA tour. If that rib injury lingers, it becomes a MAJOR concern. Jenkins' shooting will be needed, so that could be a big loss.
If the information from Wright this week is correct, the only injury that could be problematic could be Arcidiacono's if his ribs haven't fully healed yet or get re-injured against Lafayette. Jenkins is supposed to be healthy and even if he does sit out a game, his shooting can be filled with a combination of Darrun Hilliard
, James Bell
and JayVaughn Pinkston
after the impressive display against West Chester.
Can you foresee Villanova getting into the AP Top 25 before Thanksgiving?
Verlin: I don't think it'll happen, primarily because of the lack of premier opponents before that time. The Wildcats are eight spots out of the top 25 entering the season, and an early loss to Lafayette, Mt. St. Mary's, Towson or Delaware would take away many of their votes while the wins aren't going to cause any big jumps. The only way it happens is if Villanova wins all four games by big margins and hope that at least eight teams ahead of them lose to non-ranked teams (while none of the teams below them move up), which is probably below a 50-50 shot at this point.
Ewart: The only way I see that happening is if the Cats can travel to the Bahamas and win the Battle 4 Atlantis, including a win over Kansas.
Lane: Yes. Technically, they're 33rd right now and there are plenty of teams ahead of the who will pick up losses in the early-going. If Villanova can beat USC at the Atlantis Tournament and keep it close vs. Kansas, they should be breaking into the Top 25 around that time.
Tynes: Anything is possible and for 'Nova to get into the top 25, it's not too far off. Even though they'll be facing some pretty weak opponents early on (Lafayette, Towson, Delaware, Mount. St. Mary's) before they travel to the Bahamas for Battle 4 Atlantis, if they knock off USC by double-digits, we could see the Wildcats easily getting in on a five-game winning streak.
What do you think?