Team Preview: 2014 Villanova Wildcats
By: Ben Lewis
2012-2013 Record: 20-14
Coach: Jay Wright
Strongside: After a roller-coaster season that eventually saw Villanova get bounced by the eventual NCAA champion Louisville Cardinals, Coach Jay Wright and management took to shoring up all the issues the Wildcats faced. Now we’re well under way in 2014, and the Wildcats are establishing a fresh identity. They have big-time shot makers, are incredibly well coached and disciplined and are fearless. How else do you scrape out two overtime wins over Butler and Iowa and narrowly escape with a win over the Jayhawks?
Let’s take a glimpse at that early season victory over Kansas. Villanova outplayed the more talented Jayhawks team and led 57-46 with around seven minutes to go before Kansas and Andrew Wiggins started pouring on the offense. As their lead evaporated, no panic set in and Coach Wright drew up a play for guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who was 0-5 from the field on the night.
Stupid idea, right?
Not with the confidence Wright has in his players to remain poised. Arcidiacono buried a three-pointer from the corner and Villanova earned the upset.
The backcourt is inevitably the strength of this offense, as guards JayVaughn Pinkston (16.1 ppg), James Bell (14.4 ppg) and Darrun Hilliard (14.1 ppg) account for over 50 percent of the team’s offensive output. Hilliard is turning into a prolific three-point shooter, currently shooting at a 41.2 percent clip.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats have been sensational. Rebounding was an issue in their 20-14 campaign last season, and it has been very well addressed. They lead the Big East Conference with 42.5 boards per game and also lead the way in steals with 119.
Weakside: As well as they have started this season, with a solid 6-1 record against top-100 RPI teams, the Wildcats are not a serious championship contender. They lack a star power forward headed to the NBA, an incredible freshman talent or a ferocious big man. They have a win against Kansas, sure, but Syracuse manhandled them 78-62. Can they hang with the best of the best come tournament time?
All Told: The Wildcats were not the preseason favorite to win the Big East title, yet here we are, halfway through a season, and they are 14-1. Head coach Jay Wright has the pieces in place: depth on the bench; disciplined, intelligent players; and an efficient system. When you have a coach with 13 years of experience at your side, you can make noise in any tournament.