Villanova played in one of the best games of the NCAA Tournament last year when they defeated Pittsburgh with a Scottie Reynolds floater in the closing seconds. The Wildcats played in their first FInal Four since Rollie Massimino (UVM class of ’56) upset mighty Georgetown in ’85. Although Villanova was defeated handily by North Carolina, I believe they were the team that proved they belong on the big stage throughout the season.
With slick Jay Wright back at the helm after a mini flirtation with the Philadelphia 76ers and a dynamite Recruiting class, the Wildcats are primed for another run deep into March, hopefully April. But can Villanova survive the rough and tumble Big East? In last season’s Final Four edition, Sports Illustrated spoke at length of the physicality of College Basketball. NBA GM’s said, “College is way more physical then the NBA, the NBA cleans up hand checks and contact around the rim quickly, not College.” Villanova was the cornerstone of the piece, a piece which left us with the image of all the body pads these Wildcats discarded during the celebration on making it to the Final Four. Physical indeed.
And when talking Physical Basketball, the list starts with the Big East. No conference is stronger or more rugged. The questions will remain to see if Villanova can go through a serious pounding night in and night out from November to March. That question will linger all season long.
To counter the bumps, bruises, and injuries that may occur along the way, one must have depth. Nova has put together a deep team this season. 5 key returnees lead a Top-5 Freshman class. Scottie Reynolds declared for the Draft, but returned to school when it was not clear where he would be taken. Corey Stokes, Reggie Redding, and Corey Fisher bring back guard depth. Villanova has a long line to handle the ball and it shows with the talent they have in the backcourt. Fighting for minutes will be one of the top High School players in Philly, Maalik Wayns.
The frontcourt is where North Carolina exposed the Wildcats last year. Antonio Pena returns. And Isaiah Armwood and Dominic Cleek give Nova some athletic forwards that can leap, rebound, and get out on the break.
I have always admired the way that Villanova plays, a very attacking style with lots of guard play. When you hear guard play, you often think a lot of jump shots and threes, but Villanova plays with aggressive guards. Guards that attack the rim, make the open shot, and make the extra pass. I see great things for this team. Expect Villanova to be in the Final Four.