With Villanova tuning up for a big match-up Monday Night vs. the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, BECB takes a look back over the first three games of the season to grade the progress of the team through this young season.
Ryan Arcidiacono: The point guard from Langhorne, PA has shown some great leadership so far this year. "Arch," averaging 12 points, 2.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game, is contributing in just about every way you want to see out of a junior point guard. With a 2.2 A/TO ratio, he is taking care of the ball in the way to which Villanovans became accustomed last year. If he could be a little more accurate from the field, this grade would be much higher.
Dylan Ennis: The "fifth" starter of this group has been anything but the last option this year. Ennis has really found his groove and contributes well beyond his team leading 15 points per game. Ennis has been the most important player on this team. Ennis’s 3 boards per game are good for third on the team and his 43.8% average from 3PT-land leads all other Villanova players by at least 14%. While Ennis plays good on-ball defense, he has arguably the worst defensive statistics in the top 8 rotation with no blocks and only 0.3 steals per game.
Darrun Hilliard: Thank you for free throws. The only shooting statistic on Hilliard’s line which may not induce nausea is his 78% FT average. His 29.4% FG and 16.7% 3PT averages are just atrocious. Somehow despite the foregoing, D-Run is still getting 10 points a game, call that senior savvy. Want to know why he is still second on the team in minutes? Take one look at Hilliard’s defense. The team leader and point man on the ¾ court trap is averaging 3.3 steals per game and has been a tenacious and versatile defender.
JayVaughn Pinkston: JVP has been a reliable 4 and 5 for Villanova, but has not yet set out to assert himself in the way that Wildcat fans would typically hope. Pinkston, who is only fifth on the team in FGA has made only about 40% of those attempts, which is not what you would hope for from an undersized but talented PF against the likes of Lehigh, UM-ES, and Bucknell. Seeing JVP’s 8.7 PPG average and remembering that JVP averaged nearly 20 points a game during the nonconference slate last year may cause some to worry, but have faith. Pinkston continues to step into the 5 spot on defense and protect the block with his powerful and wide frame. The scoring will certainly come.
Daniel Ochefu: Stay out of the kitchen, because the ‘Chef is COOKIN! Daniel Ochefu has shown a flurry of offensive moves that he added to his repertoire in the off season. Averaging 10 PPG, 9.3 RPG and 1.3 BPG are the type of statline you certainly hope can continue through league and tournament play. I will say this now, if Jay Wright knows what he’s doing (and I believe he does) Ochefu’s role will continue to expand this season. Look for these stats to improve, particularly on offense. The one thing he has lacked, is the confidence in his own game to get the ball and look to score immediately. When that comes, look out. The biggest question is will his game look as solid against bigger and stronger major conference foes, which is a typical question for most unproven power conference big men at this stage of the season.
Josh Hart: This is not the start many hoped to see from Hart after his performance last year. While pretty consistent with his hustle, defense and rebounding, Hart can be a liability at times when the ball is placed in his hands. That said, I could watch him crash the offensive boards for put-backs all day. His timing on offensive rebounds is a thing of beauty. Josh Hart hustles his way to 4.3 boards and 2.7 steals per game. He needs to improve his decision making on offense and his shooting, where he shoots a paltry 16.7% behind the line.
Kris Jenkins: The combo-forward from Gonzaga HS, D.C. is probably the toughest grade to give, only because he still shows so much room for improvement. Jenkins' 9.7 PPG is good for 5th on the team, but for a guy his size, you would hope for more than 1.3 rebounds per game. Jenkins, whom, according to every color announcer so far this season, is "Villanova’s best, only pure, or most accurate three point shooter, is only averaging 29.4% from 3PT. Still, he’s hit a few big shots and that 29.4% could easily rise to 37%+ with a hot game or two. One also cannot ignore solid wing defense from Jenkins, averaging 2 steals per game.
Daryl Reynolds: Reynolds is a honey badger down low. He plays physical, invites contact, and has, on more than one occasion, seemed to get under the skin of opposing players. He’s the perfect rotational 5 for this system. Long and lanky, but strong enough to absorb contact, he can defend most players under the boards and he hustles and competes for the ball and for baskets. Reynolds contributes in every aspect of the game. Would I trust him for more than 10-14 minutes per game? No. Do I want a situation where he doesn’t get at least 6 minutes per game? No. Sure, he doesn’t get a lot of time, only seeing 10 minutes per game in the early season, but he gives it his all when he’s out there.
Phil Booth: Coming into the season, Phil Booth was the more game-ready of Villanova’s two freshman. It was also anticipated that he would need to be, given that Villanova’s regular back-up point guard from last year, Tony Chennault, was lost to graduation. Booth has looked the part of a freshman point guard. Showing some flashes of talent and quality shooting while making mistakes with the ball and over-aggressive defense. He will need to step up and be ready to handle the ball against VCU’s havoc defense tonight, without question. If he has to play more than 4-5 minutes, he’ll have to improve on his 3 TO performance against UM-ES in 24 minutes. It could be devastating to Villanova if he is not ready this evening.
Bench Mob: It looks like Mikal Bridges is headed for a red-shirt, so he’ll be included in the Bench Mob for now. Patrick Farrell is still looking for his first career FG after 3 years with the Bench Mob. Kevin Rafferty got his first bucket of his Division I career in only his second game, on an assist from Patrick Farrell no less. The Bench Mob looked like the walk-ons they are in garbage time against UM-ES, managing only one bucket in about 2 ½ minutes of time. Given Villanova’s poor shooting performances, one has to wonder if the bench mob could be doing more to inspire their scholarship-winning teammates into better shooting?
TEAM AS A WHOLE: Defense. Defense. Defense. Villanova’s defense has been light years ahead of its offense. Villanova’s best asset on offense is ball protection. Right now, Villanova has the 2nd best Steal to Turnover ratio in all of Division I. They are 6th in the country in steals per game (three spots behind Monday Night’s opponent VCU). This means one thing: more shots on offense. Which is good, because they need them thanks to a team FG% of 43.8%. Given that only 20 teams average more shots from 3 than Villanova, the Nova Nation might hope that the Wildcats shoot better than 26.8% from 3PT. Ultimately, the Wildcats are 3-0 and that’s a number you can’t argue with, but beating two Patriot League teams by an average of 9 points does little to instill confidence heading into the Legends Classic tonight against a hungry and aggressive VCU squad. If Villanova can’t find its shooting stroke it could turn out to be a long night. Either way, fans will get to enjoy a matchup of two of the best pressure defenses in the country with either Michigan or Oregon waiting in the wings Tuesday Night.