Preview – Villanova Wildcats

November 4, 2009

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.VillanovaWildcats

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.  jay_wright

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.


Preview – Kentucky Wildcats

November 3, 2009

Ever since John Calipari took over the BEST job in College Basketball, a good friend of mine sends me little reminder texts of the Kentucky glory returning to the top.  Recently, he sent me a single picture of the mascot!  (Petro your the man).  I guess this is what happens when your favorite coach unites with your favorite team growing up.   Plus loads of talent doesn’t hurt. images

So minus the hype, where is the Kentucky basketball program?  They are definately a step up from the Billy Gillepsie experiment.  A solid returning core, along with a couple of high flying recruits have the Wildcats standing as the best team in the SEC and a Final Four contender.

The real trick for Coach Cal is to not leave or be involved in any incidents that end in NCAA sanctions.  His last 2 NCAA jobs have ended that way, the ’94 UMASS Final Four banner has been brought down and Memphis’ dream 2007-08 season isn’t in any of the record books.  Two historic seasons that, by NCAA standards, don’t exist.  I think that Kentucky is the setting where Coach Cal can prove he is a top notch recruiter and good college basketball man.  If he can’t, he is just another carpet-bagger, using the system, crushing the program, and then high-tailing it out of town.

Unlike at UMASS and even Memphis, Calipari has a brand name.  Kentucky.  At his previous jobs he had to take guys that the major programs stayed away from.  Reasons such as; questionable academic scores, sketchy professionalism vs. amateur status and so on.  *No Hype supports all of these players and wishes for an end to the NBA Age-Limit rule.* Programs like Kentucky do not need to do that.  Kentucky is right there with Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, etc.  They are the top tier, they can be selective in their recruits.  images-1

So if Calipari brings major sanctions again to yet another program.  He is just that, a sanction.  We will see.

As for the bounce of the ball.  Patrick Patterson was named to the Preseason All-American Team.  A big guy, I wonder how he will be able to adapt to the Dribble Drive Offense, but what a luxury to have a 5-Star player on your team.  The fabulous Freshmen trio of Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall are high-flying, some of the most exciting players in the country.

What Calipari does so well is not conform athletic, dynamic, powerful players.  The beauty of the Dribble Drive is that it allows the players to adjust on the fly, trust their instincts, and attack the rim.  Classic basketball.  Too many times do I find myself watching games at all levels where the players are robots, trained in a system.  “move, cut, jump, breathe, pass”  GLAXO1.SP.122807.EDR.JPG

I predict a SEC championship for the Wildcats and a berth in the Elite 8.