"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, January 08, 2010

Road Warriors head to Villanova

With the proverbial wind at their backs, Buzz Williams' crew heads into Villanova on Saturday with revenge on their mind. The Wildcats have topped MU in heartbreaking fashion in each of the last two meetings between the BIG EAST rivals, a fact certainly not lost in the Warriors' locker room.

Tipoff is set for 1pm Marquette Standard Time at the Pavilion in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The game will be broadcast on Full Court and ESPN360.

As for the Wildcats, Jay Wright's club is deeper than ever and off to a fast start. The 6th ranked Wildcats are now 13-1 having topped MU and DePaul last week.

To get ready for the game we went back to a popular format, Know Your Opponent. Today we've invited Chris Lane from I Bleed Blue and White to share his thoughts about the Wildcats as they prepare for MU. Chris is the lead writer for I Bleed Blue and White, one of the best blogs you'll find on any BIG EAST program.

What are the Pennsylvania laws against kidnapping Scottie Reynolds and keeping him hostage during the game? How much jail time are we talking about?

Considering our police are giving the business to 7-year olds for lemonade stands, we're probably talking the death-penalty for a kidnapping. Then again, if you attempted to actually take Jesus out of his dorm by force, you'd receive a stoning of biblical proportions from the 'Nova students.

But by all means, go ahead and try.

Villanova received good news when freshman big man Mouphtaou Yarou returned to action this week. How might his return change the Wildcats' approach on Saturday?

It's really too early to tell. He's been working out solo since he was sidelined, so he's definitely not out of shape, but he's also not ready to make a big impact because of the time he lost. These games are really his first games for all intents and purposes.

One thing it does add though, is front-court depth. Antonio Pena has stepped up this year, but it's tough to be the lone guy down low (as we saw vs. you last week). Our smaller guys have tried to help, but Yarou's presence should provide that help that we need to survive what should be a brutal conference.

Antonio Pena might be the BIG EAST's most improved player....are the Wildcats becoming a more balanced team than we've seen in years past? What has been the biggest reason for Pena's emergence this year?

He studied under some pretty good tweeners in Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark. He learned about the toughness aspect of our team's approach. He's always had the body and skill, but not the mental makeup. We're finally starting to see him emerge as not only a better player, but a team leader.

I can't lie, the balance is great. As much as I loved the 4-guard lineup that was deployed in 2005, it would much better last year when you could argue the strength of our team late in the year was our frontcourt. I'd love for that trend to continue, even though we'll always be known as Guard-U.

During the Wright Era, the Wildcats typically have been an undersized bunch but so far this season his squad is one of the best rebounding teams in the BIG EAST. Is Wright recruiting and developing better baseline talent, or has the 'small ball' scheme evolved?

Taylor King had one of the better quotes I've heard, which went something like, "At Duke, defense and rebounding wasn't important. If you don't play it here, you're not gonna play. So I'm gonna do that stuff." At that's the mentality our team takes on. If you aren't busting your ass, diving on the floor, and hitting the glass hard, you are going to find yourself on the bench.

Isaiah Armwood is a great example of another guy who has bought into that. He doesn't have much of an offensive game right now, but he's active and he tries to work harder than the other 9 guys on the court. And he's been rewarded with minutes. That type of attitude is really what defines our team, and allows us to win consistently despite being out-sized much of the time.

Looking at the Wildcats year to year it is interesting to note that last year's bunch was 15th in the nation in defensive efficiency but this year you are 89th. Why have the Wildcats have taken a step back defensively this season?

No Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, and Dante Cunningham. And A LOT of new players. Six new bodies have seen action this season, and really two of them (Wayns and Cheek) have been up to speed defensively. Also, Reggie Redding, our best defender, was out for the 1st half. That really hurt as we didn't have a stopper.

I think as the year goes on and the freshman learn about playing college ball, we'll be better. But it is a little frightening when to win, you have to score 90 points (happened a few times this year). I'll take a 60-52 win every day over a 90-88 win. And I'm sure most of my BIG EAST brethren would agree with me.

Prediction time...

I'm not going to lie, I'm scared. You've shaken off the close-game bug. You are sore over our last 2 meetings, AND the whooping we laid on your at our place last year. I like Buzz as a coach, and Lazar Hayward scares the shit out of me. Plus, our student body is still on winter break. And coming off a snoozefest against DePaul, this screams trap.

But I think we edge you out 78-72 in the end.

Chris, thanks so much for your time and expertise -- we greatly appreciate it. Good luck the rest of the way (after tomorrow, of course).

Links of Note

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What happened to Cubian? 6 for 6 threes against GTown, then ZERO points?