Villanova Roundtable: Can Wildcats eat Explorers?

Guns out, tongues out - Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova is still undefeated in regular season play and Big 5 contests. They've moved into the AP Top 10. You know the drill, let's break down the madness.

Hey homies.

It's another week of the roundtable so let's digg right in. No. 10 Villanova takes on the La Salle Explorers on Sunday, Arch hasn't had the hottest start to the season and more to discuss.

Chris Lane, Editor and Writer, VUHoops.com (@ChrisJJLane)

Brian Ewart, Editor and Writer, VUHoops.com (@Brian_Ewart)

Mike Angelina, Editor PhilaHoops.com/NovaNationHoops.com(@MikeAngelina)

Tyler R. Tynes, Villanova Men's Basketball Beat Blogger, BigEastCoastBias.com (@TylerRickyTynes)

If you could pick a player to give the ball to with under 10 seconds left to play, who would it be and why? And how has that player performed this season?

Lane: It's a unique question for Villanova. Ryan Arcidiacono has hit the shot(s) of the season, and we wouldn't be undefeated without him. But I think I'm putting the ball in Darrun Hilliard's hands, and letting him drive and either going up and finishing at the rim, or kicking to James Bell for a jumper, or down low to JayVaughn Pinkston if Hilliard is doubled. Oddly enough, keeping the ball out of Arch's hands is probably a popular answer on VU Hoops.

Angelina: Jay Wright has been just about perfect this season so I have no reason to go against any of his decisions. That being the case, I'd give it to Ryan Arcidiacono still. The fact is he is the team's point guard and the player to whom everyone looks. He's proven he can handle any moment, and he can create his own shots, and once he does he can make it from anywhere on the court. He's played below standards for the season's first nine games, but he's been everything you could want in a sophomore point guard in the tough moments.

Ewart: Darrun Hilliard. He needs to start hitting his free throws, but he is the Wildcats' best shooter (statistically) inside the arc, and he's second only to Dylan Ennis in 3-point percentage at the moment. With 10-seconds left, while I'd love to draw a foul, I'd rather just go ahead and try to score from the field, and statistically, the odds are in favor of Hilliard doing that.

Jay Wright would probably draw up the play for Arcidiacono, however, and since he has hit that shot a few times, I'm not going to criticize that decision at all.

Tynes: Though I haven't liked his play at all this season, I'd give the ball to Arcidiacono, but not for the shot. Yes, he has hit a few big shots down the line to help Villanova gain it's national attention, specifically this season, but I don't want him taking the shot. Chances are the shot is a low IQ one, I'd prefer if he shoots it as the last option for Jay Wright, I'd prefer either a high screen and roll or a dribble drive causing a double team and then a kick out to a high percentage shooter.

That seems like a better option than Arch chucking one from 20 feet with a hand in his face. If Wright were to draw it up for Arch to shoot it however, I'm not going to complain because the team hasn't lost yet.

The Wildcats are outscoring their Big 5 opponents by 26.5 points in the last two wins against SJU and Penn, what are your expectations for the matchup with La Salle?

Lane: It feels like the classic trap game. La Salle is way below preseason expectations (making all of the Philly media look terrible in the process), but they have talent. I think the pace and final of the Penn game is the most likely. It will be a good game, and tightly contested at points, but Villanova will pull away and win by double-digits at the end.

Angelina: I think it will play out much like the SJU game. The natural adrenaline and competition of a Big 5 game will pump La Salle up a bit to the point where they can hang with the Wildcats earlier, but eventually the better team, Villanova, is just going to pull away.

Ewart: La Salle is a better defensive team than St. Joes, so I don't expect Villanova to beat them up as easily as they handled St. Joes and Penn. The Explorers lost something that they had last season, and even after two straight wins over Hartford and Stony Brook, it's missing. The Big 5 is pretty down this season, so this should be a double-digit win for the Wildcats, but maybe not the 30-point margin of victory that they had against St. Joes.

Tynes: Because of La Salle's defensive abilities, especially in the post against the Wildcats, I don't believe it will be a high scoring victory for Villanova. I'd expect the game to go like the game with Penn went, both teams not hitting many shots early, close at the half, and then Villanova pulls away and wins by a low double-digit margin.

How disappointed are you with Arch's season through 9 games, if at all?

Lane: The disappointing part is that he still has that gunner's mentality. In the preseason, Jay Wright talked about him becoming more of a facilitator, and less of a scorer. While Arch's turnovers are down and his assists are up, his shot selection can drive any Villanova fan mad. I think progression is essentially net-zero at this point. If he can reel in the chucking, he has the chance to be the unsung engine of this team.

Angelina: Ultimately, I'm not disappointed at all because when looking at everything, it's just a poor shot percentage that would even qualify as an aspect with which to be "disappointed". But he's running the offense tremendously, finding guys through whichever defensive looks are presented to him, he's playing well defensively and he is getting a nice share of rebounds (for a point guard). On top of all that, he is taking care of the ball, only committing ten turnovers on the season-for a point guard, that number is fantastic. And as Jay Wright has been saying, he's not taking bad shots, the ball is just not falling as often as it should. I'd expect his three-point shooting to naturally even out and end up somewhere above 30%.

Ewart: I expected some of it. Arch had his limitations last season, but his upside was massive. He reminded me a bit of Scottie Reynolds - he's not the fastest guy on the court, or the best passer, or the best shooter, but he just had an instinct that put him in the right places to make an impact. This season, with a supporting cast that is doing a lot more, I think he has faded a bit into the background.

His FG% is actually up a notch from last season, his turnovers are down and his assist numbers are about the same. Where things are different is the fact that he's using only 15.7% of the teams' possessions, down from 20.9% last season - in other words, he isn't jacking up shots until he makes one. If it means anything to you, his ORtg is actually better overall this season than it was last season as well, so while Arch hasn't dazzled like he did as a Freshman, he may actually be playing better basketball.

Tynes: Technically Arch is playing better basketball (look at Brian's stats) but the thing is he's still jacking up low IQ shots and isn't making the best decisions with his own offense. He is leading the offense well, dropping his turnover numbers since last season and taking up less of the offense's possessions, but I'm personally not a fan of his game this early in the season. 25 percent from deep, heaving six attempts per game and only making one, that's not helpful from the point guard position when it comes to producing offense.

As a floor general, he hasn't been bad at all. His turnover percentage through nine games is half what it was all last season per 40 minutes (10.0 in 2013-14/20.2 in 2012-13) and per 40 minutes he's assisted on a field goal 18.9 percent of the time. But, at this point, I'd prefer Tony Chennault or Dylan Ennis to start over Arch. Maybe that will light a fire in him and play better from the bench to earn his starting job back. Just a thought.

If you could estimate, how long does Villanova stay undefeated?

Lane: It all comes down to December 28th at the Carrier Dome. That's going to be a fantastic college basketball game. With the Cats' history at the Dome, and their play this season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them walk in there and come out with a victory. The Villanova backcourt is better as a whole than Syracuse's, but when the Orange are playing well, that is a true home-court advantage. Even if 'Nova does win that game, the NYE game at Hinkle isn't the ideal turnaround game. It's tough for me to predict Villanova heading into 2014 undefeated - so I won't.

Angelina: Villanova will be undefeated until their Dec. 28 date at the Carrier Dome against No. 2 Syracuse.

Ewart: December 28th. If they are still undefeated on the 29th, then they can probably get through most of January before guys start getting tired.

Tynes: December 28th v. Syracuse and if they get though that challenge, then maybe January 27th v. Georgetown.

What team, if any, could potentially challenge the Wildcats for top spot in the Big East at this point in the season.

Lane: For all the rave about 'Nova right now, they're far from the above-and-beyond best team in the Big East that many would have you believe they are. Creighton, when they're shooting is on, are really good. Marquette, Georgetown, and yes St. John's are loaded with talent. Providence is our wolfs bane. I think the title race is between 'Nova, Creighton, Georgetown and Marquette, and it will likely come down to how those teams handle the 'lesser' Big East matchups.

Angelina: I like the way Georgetown has played this season. I was particularly impressed with their win against VCU, a tough defensive team. They were able to put up 84 points on them, and have been shooting the ball very well this season, they have the team and personnel needed for this league, as usual. But I think their victory against the Rams certainly shows they can challenge Villanova. Creighton, having Doug McDermott, is going to be able to have a shot in every game they play as well, and they'd be a big challenge to face for any team, the Wildcats included. Furthermore, Marquette has lost to two top-ten teams in the nation, and so they are probably a better Big East team than their OOC schedule suggests.

Ewart: Georgetown. I know Creighton came into the season expected to be better than everyone else in this conference and that results to-date put them as number-2 after Villanova, but I'm not picking them here. I think that Georgetown has the ability to play with anyone and if they can play consistent basketball in January and February, they can get to the top of the Big East standings. The key is playing consistently - they can't be dropping games to DePaul and Seton Hall like they did against Northeastern - they have to take care of business.

Tynes: I want to pick Georgetown or Creighton, but they haven't played consistently enough for me to confidently pick them. Either team could beat the Wildcats this season but I can't confidently pick them now. I'll pick Providence right now. Though they haven't had the strongest season and went to overtime with a tough Boston College team, Providence has allowed the least amount of points than anyone in the Big East this season, only Kentucky has scored more than 70 points against them. So even without Brandon Austin, Rodney Bullock and Kris Dunn, they team still looks strong defensively behind seniors Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts.

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