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31 December 2008

'Cats open Big East at Marquette

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/31/2008 02:45:00 PM
#15 Villanova (12-1) at Marquette (11-2)
2:30 p.m., 1 January at the Bradley Center.


Line: TBD

Villanova opens the new year with the start of conference play against a talented Marquette team in Milwaukee on Thursday.

The Wildcats face one of the best backcourts in the conference, and will be hard-pressed to contain Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews. McNeal, in particular, is one of the best perimeter players in the nation, and will be a first-round NBA pick.

Villanova comes in as the ranked team (#15 in the AP), while Marquette just missed out on a top-25 ranking this week. Villanova, however, is not the clear-cut favorite: KenPom's model predicts a one-point Villanova loss, and a 46 percent chance of victory.

The game will be a much-needed test for a Villanova team that is 12-0 against weak teams and 0-1 against Texas. Marquette will be an excellent barometer for both the team's overall level of play and the Wildcats' perimeter defense.

Marquette is 11-2 and will present a tough out at home. Last year, Marquette's Tom Crean put on a coaching clinic as his Eagles defeated the 'Cats 85-75. This year, Crean is at Indiana, but Marquette is still well coached.

I Bleed Blue and White and VUHoops are early with their game previews. Check back later with VBTN and Nova News.

For Marquette, take a look at Cracked Sidewalks, one of the best college basketball blogs in the nation.

Predict tonight's final score in the comment section below. The winner will be honored in bold print in the game recap.

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30 December 2008

Fisher lifts 'Nova past Temple

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/30/2008 02:21:00 AM

Temple 45
Villanova 62
(box score)

Temple: 5-6 (0-0 A10, 0-1 B5)
#15 Villanova: 12-1 (0-0 BE, 4-0 B5)

Next game: at Marquette, 1 Jan. at the Bradley Center.

Villanova, back in the top 15 this week thanks to losses ahead of the Wildcats, opened flat and lifeless in the Pavilion tonight against Big 5 rival Temple.

The Wildcats were stagnant and ineffective on offense for most of the game, scoring just 24 points in the first 25 minutes. At the 14:34 mark in the second half, Temple was up by 8, a lead that represented fully 33 percent of the Wildcats' offensive output to that point. The game, while not yet over, looked like it was getting there fast.

Villanova was able to turn the game around quickly, however, once "reserve" point guard Corey Fisher began calling his own number. After a Scottie Reynolds three that pushed the 'Cats to within 5, Fisher accounted for the next 11 Villanova points, scoring 8.

Fisher wound up dropping 19 points in the game's final 14 minutes to tie his career high of 23 points in the game. Fisher's performance energized what had been a listless Villanova team, and proved that the prolific high-school scorer could put up points in college, too.

Fisher's performance aside, there is no question that Villanova got a tad lucky with this win. Villanova was totally confused on offense in the game's first 26 minutes, and likely would have remained that way had Fisher not heated up. The Wildcats got few open shots, and most of Fisher's 7 field goals were contested.

Meanwhile, Temple cooled off tremendously. Villanova should be commended for keeping Dionte Christmas, the Owls' leading scorer, off his game in the second half, but Temple was missing both open and guarded shots.

Temple went on an offensive drought for over 11 minutes in the second half, while Corey Fisher scored at will, and that was the game.

It was another ugly win for the Wildcats, who saw their leading scorers Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds held in check. Nevertheless, Fisher's explosion should finally earn him a spot back in the starting five, as this Web site has been calling for all season.

It seems that no matter how well a player performs in practice (Jay Wright admitted in the post-game press conference that Fisher was excelling at practices), he will not crack Wright's starting lineup until he lights up a game from off the bench. Fisher's benching for most of this year was absurd, and now we see why.

Give Fisher the confidence that he won't be benched or yanked for taking some shots, and you get the scorer who lit up OJ Mayo's team for 37 points two years ago.

Two weeks ago, this is what I wrote about Fisher, his playing time, and Jay Wright's propensity to sit him prematurely:

To me, Fisher is the key player for the Wildcats' fate this year. After losing Malcolm Grant, Villanova knew it would only have two ballhandling guards for the season. [...] Fisher needs to be out there, period. If he can't put in 30+ minutes against the Explorers, how can he be relied upon for Marquette and Louisville? My guess is that Fisher can be relied on. He was a major talent in high school, and shows flashes of brilliance at Villanova. In my opinion, Jay has Fisher on too short a leash. If Fisher cannot shoot, dish, and handle with the confidence that he won't be yanked at this first mistake, he will be tentative, and the worst thing a point guard can be is tentative. [...] Fisher was a huge shooter in high school, so there is no reason he cannot find that touch again. (Emphasis added.)

It's good to see Fisher getting the green light. After the game, Wright claimed that has always been the case:

I tell him [to take shots] all the time. I didn't tell him this time but I always tell him. He has had some good practices. He's a great kid and very coachable. I may be a little biased with that but he has had some great practices and what he did tonight is what we need him to do. We need him to be aggressive offensively. Sometimes he defers too much to the older guys and has too much respect. That's not a bad thing. We really needed him tonight.

In addition to his contradictory statements and circular talk, Wright's claim that Fisher already had the green light might be a bit hard to swallow for any Villanova fan who has witnessed Wright quickly yank Fisher out of the game after taking a single "bad shot." It has happened time and again, and most of those times I've winced in disagreement over the substitution.

It's nice to see Wright finally giving Fisher the vote of confidence, but where has it been for one-and-a-half years?

Congratulations to reader "Geesus" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

The Wildcats open league play at Marquette on January 1 at 2:30 p.m. Villanova time.

On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 34 min)

    Cunningham insists that he is now a long-range shooter, firing up perimeter shots left and right. While some of these go in, this is not the offense a team of jumpshooters needs from its only big option. Today, Cunningham was 6-15 from the field. He opened up with some nice jumpers, but predictably cooled off as the game went on, until he was a non-factor in the second half. Cunningham can't settle for jumpers or take off a half on offense if the 'Cats want to compete against the likes of Georgetown this year in league play. Cunningham finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds, a turnover, a block, and 2 steals. His line in the box score would have been excellent for a shooting guard, but Villanova needs its only true post player to actually make a difference in the post.
    Grade: C-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 31 min)

    Reynolds was cold tonight (2-9 from the field), but did find a way to hit two very big three-pointers to finish with 8 points. He only turned the ball over once, and dished out 3 assists while adding 1 steal. Reynolds looked improved in the second half when he was free to play the two guard while Fisher was handling the ball. Perhaps if Fisher hadn't carried the scoring load in the second half, Reynolds would have shouldered some. Overall, it was not Scottie's best effort, but it wasn't a disaster, either. Big East teams will have their hands full if and when Reynolds and Fisher can get their scoring games going simultaneously.
    Grade: C+

  • Corey Fisher (28 min)

    As detailed above in the game recap, Fisher exploded tonight for 23 points on a phenomenal 7-8 shooting performance. Fisher was a perfect 4-4 from the three, and shot 5-7 from the foul line. He penetrated to the hoop at will, and ran circles around the Owls on the break. He was an excellent defender on the perimeter, disrupting the Temple offense and coming up with two steals. He co-led the team in assists, with 3. Fisher, barely six feet tall, grabbed as many rebounds (4) in 28 minutes as the 6-8 Dante Cunningham did in 34. This is the Corey Fisher we were excited about when he committed to Villanova as one of the top point guards in the country. Hopefully, Jay Wright will look to build on this coming-out party and give Fisher the starting point guard spot for the rest of the season.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Stokes (S, 26 min)

    Stokes simply could not get it going tonight. He struggled greatly from the field, shooting 1-7, and missed all 3 of his three-point attempts. His shot selection was questionable. The 3 three-point attempts were fine, but there were several ill-advised mid-range shots Stokes attempted after trying and failing to create separation with the dribble. The 'Cats need Stokes to be a scorer, so he shouldn't stop shooting. What he should do, however, is work extra hard coming around screens, getting in position to receive an extra pass, so he can take an open jumper in rhythm. Stokes finished with 2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover, and 1 steal.
    Grade: D

  • Reggie Redding (28 min)

    Redding took 5 shots, missing 4, in an effort to jumpstart the Wildcats' flailing offense. It doesn't seem like Redding is able yet to create his own shot even at the A-10 level, so he should stick to his much more effective complementary roles. That said, he shouldn't be afraid to drill an open shot, especially from the three, where is not that bad a shooter. Redding, typically, did the little things well tonight, grabbing 6 rebounds and passing for 2 assists while committing 0 turnovers. He also did his part in limiting Christmas in the second period.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 20 min)

    Pena has been quiet lately on the offensive end, but that hasn't stopped him from contributing. He crashed the boards tonight, leading the team in rebounds with 9. Unfortunately, Pena also led the team in turnovers, with 4, and attempted just one shot from the field. He finished with 4 points on 1-1 shooting, but he needs to get more involved in the offense. As the Wildcats' only option in the paint aside from Cunningham, Pena should do whatever he can to score in the post. If that means being a follow-up specialist, or getting the ball facing the basket (where he seems to be more comfortable), so be it.
    Grade: C+

  • Shane Clark (20 min)

    Clark was perfect from the foul line (4-4), but otherwise did little, in my opinion, to earn so much playing time. Clark is a nice option on the perimeter to bring in for perhaps 10 minutes a game, but 20 might be overdoing it. Clark shot 1-3 from the field, making his only theee-point attempt, to score 7. He came up with only 2 rebounds, and notched 1 assist, 1 turnover, and 1 steal. Clark has the tools to be a solid role player for a few minutes of relief at the small forward, but lacks the strength to bang on the inside and the ballhandling to play the swingman on the perimeter against Big East teams.
    Grade: C-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 13 min)

    Anderson is the kind of player that brings am offensive spark from the bench, a breath of fresh air, and a jolt of energy. Unfortunately, Wright insists on starting the senior, which neutralizes all of that. Anderson is a solid athlete with a good basketball IQ, and I think he should be seeing more than 13 minutes per game. But he is unquestionably better off the bench. Against Temple, Anderson was ineffective. He scored 3 points (1-2 from the field and the foul line). He had 1 turnover and uncharacteristically no other impact on the box score.
    Grade: D

  • Incomplete grades: None.

  • Did not play: Frank Tchuisi (CD), Jason Colenda (CD), Maurice Sutton (CD - RS?), Russell Wooten (CD).

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29 December 2008

'Nova faces Temple in Big 5 finale

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/29/2008 03:50:00 PM
#15 Villanova (11-1) vs. Temple (5-5)
7 p.m., 29 December at the Pavilion.

TV: ESPNU or free online. [Fullscreen here].

Line: Villanova -9

Villanova looks to wrap up an undefeated Philadelphia Big 5 season and city series championship tonight with a home game against the Temple Owls.

Temple has been struggling a bit, and brings a 5-5 record to the Pavilion. Villanova is favored by 9, but the Owls are a dangerous team capable of beating tough opponents.

Temple has a 16-point win over Tennessee under its belt already, and played undefeated Clemson to a 4-point margin in South Carolina.

The Owls also feature one of the best players in the county, the scoring guard Dionte Christmas, who should keep his Wildcat defenders very busy.

All that said, this is a game Villanova should be able to win if the Wildcats execute well.

As always, take a look at the game previews from VBTN, IBBW, VUhoops, and Nova News.

Predict tonight's final score in the comment section below.

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24 December 2008

Jerold is the reason for the season

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/24/2008 02:49:00 AM

It's that time of year again.

People walk with a bit more pep in their step. Children lay awake at night dreaming of what surprises tomorrow might bring. Pete at Let's Go Nova makes the exact same joke he made two years ago this day.

That's right. December 24 marks the 47th anniversary of Villanova head coach Jerold Wright's birth. Let me speak for the rest of Nova Nation in wishing Jay a happy birthday.

Many readers here think I am too hard on Coach Wright, or have some sort of anti-Wright agenda. They only have to read the gushing post linked above to see that's not true.

Let me state for the record, I am happy Jay Wright is coaching at Villanova.

Since this site is about basketball -- not exactly a matter of life and death -- I am honest with my opinions. After all, it's only a game, and we get just as much (if not more) entertainment from dissecting the game's finer points as we do watching it.

It's true, I am often vocal in disagreement with Wright's gameplans, substitution patterns, and play-calling. Lots of 'Nova fans bemoan the Wildcats' "take-em" offense and utter lack of inbounds plays. I definitely think Wright is often slow to adjust tactics or change strategic course during the game. And concerns have bubbled over lately -- not just from me -- about the growing frequency of transfers off the Main Line.

With that said, though, I believe Wright is a net positive on the program, and is taking Villanova basketball in the right direction. The Wildcats have enjoyed recent tournament success, and have a monster recruiting class on the way. Say what you will about Wright, but the man can recruit. He is also an excellent face for the program, bringing the kind of positivity and genuine enthusiasm only possible from a coach who loves his sport, his team, and his university.

For all that, I am thankful to have Jay Wright at the reins. While I admit I'd like to see some improvements in the areas mentioned above, you won't hear me saying "Fire Jay Wright" anytime soon.

Unless the 'Cats don't come up with an new inbounds play for the conference season. Just kidding.

Happy birthday, Jay, from all of us at Let's Go Nova.

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'Cats survive Navy scare

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/24/2008 02:13:00 AM
Well, it shouldn't have been this exciting, but Villanova escaped with a win over a Navy team audacious enough to make 14 (mostly open) three-pointers. The Wildcats eked out a 78-68 victory that was much closer than the final score indicates.

The game was not televised, and I was only able to follow along on the radio, so no player grades this time. Villanova's official PR machine was all over this one, though, with the box score, the recap, the post-game "notes," the post-game "quotes," and even a special 'Nova Notebook feature story.

A highlight video of the game from YouTube is embedded in the bottom part of this post.

Nova News also runs a nice recap with pictures.

Sometimes good teams have off nights, and hopefully this was one of them for the Wildcats. If Villanova plays with the same kind of lax defense and lack of urgency in the Big East, the 'Cats could well be NIT-bound.

Congratulations to reader "SleasFest," who most closely predicted the game's final score.

Next up for Villanova is coach Jay Wright's birthday on Dec. 24. He turns 47. After the holiday, The Wildcats have a home date with Temple on Dec. 29 in their Big 5 finale.

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22 December 2008

'Nova sets sail vs. Navy tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/22/2008 04:05:00 PM

#18 Villanova (10-1) vs. Navy (8-3)
7:30 p.m., 22 December at the Pavilion.

TV: None. Video available online via "Nova Nation All-Access" or (hopefully) free Channelsurfing (not working at gametime, see radio link below)

Audio: Here -- WMP for Windows or Mac required.

Line: OFF

Villanova returns from its longest layoff this season for a Christmas cupcake match against Navy at the Pavilion tonight.

The Wildcats remain at #18 in the AP poll this afternoon after having the week off.

Navy hails from the Patriot League and is sitting on a respectable 8-3 record. The Midshipmen are coming off a bad loss against an atrocious Canisius team, however, and should pose no threat to Villanova's holiday celebrations.

Take a look at the game previews from VBTN, IBBW, VUhoops, and Nova News.

I have yet to see a book set a line for this game yet, but I would set it at Villanova -23.

Predict tonight's final score in the comment section below. The closest guess will win a mention in the game recap.

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15 December 2008

Villanova bests La Salle

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/15/2008 01:36:00 AM
Villanova 70
La Salle 59
(box score)

#18 Villanova: 10-1 (0-0 BE, 0-0 B5)
La Salle: 4-4 (0-0 A10)

Next game: vs. Navy, 22 Dec. at the Pavilion.

Villanova moved to 2-1 on the week and 3-0 in the Philadelphia Big 5 with a win at La Salle. The Wildcats looked decent but not overpowering in the win, and it seems like the 3-spot drop in the latest AP rankings places Villanova correctly in the lower end of the top 20 at #18.

The Wildcats relied on hot outside shooting from its guards to neutralize the disadvantage of Dante Cunningham's foul trouble, which left Villanova's best big man on the bench for much of the contest.

Villanova jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first half, but played the Explorers to a virtual draw in the second period to win by just 11. A hall mark of a good top-15 team would have been to put away La Salle decisively, but that did not happen, and it perhaps means that Villanova has some work to do if it wants to rise in the rankings again.

See the player grades below (Starting with Scottie Reynolds) for special comments on the Villanova backcourt players.

Next up for the 'Cats is a Pavilion date with Navy, traditionally a cupcake game. Though Navy is at 8-2 on the season, KenPom rates the Wildcats' chances of victory at 97 percent.

On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Antonio Pena (S, 34 min)

    Pena received a huge number of minutes due to post-mate Dante Cunningham's foul issues. He shot poorly, scoring 5 on 1-6 shooting, but did dish out 6 assists. He pulled in 6 rebounds and had 1 block. He admirably did not turn the ball over once in his 36 minutes. Pena has a good basketball IQ and his shooting will come around soon enough.
    Grade: B-

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 30 min)

    Reynolds has been struggling on offense lately, but seemed to find a bit of a scoring groove on Sunday night. Scottie shot 5-12 from the field and 3-5 from behind the arc to score 13. His assist total was down, at 2, but he only committed 2 turnovers. Reynolds was 0-2 from the foul line, which is unacceptable both for the misses and for the low number of attempts. I disagree wholeheartedly with Coach Wright's decision to move Reynolds to the point in the starting lineup. After two and half seasons, it's clear (to me at least) that Reynolds is much more effective when he is able to work off the ball, and when he has another small guard to help him with presses and traps up and down the court. The point is not that Reynolds shouldn't play the point; in fact he is a good distributor. The real idea here is that Reynolds will have to shoulder much of the Wildcat scoring load and play lots of minutes per game, so why further exhaust him by making him the only ballhandler on offense? In addition, with Scottie starting at the 1 and Stokes at the 2, Stokes plays more like a 2.5 or a 3, leaving Reynolds forced to guard the opponents' quickest guard. The result is that Reynolds has to run ragged on defense and then is continually harassed on offense with press and trap breaking, running the offense, and getting himself looks. This is too much for even a good player like Scottie. With another one-guard in there (Fisher), it leaves Reynolds free to initiate the offense off the pass in the half-court. This allows him to immediately take a good shot or find a good pass, rather than making the first pass he can as he would if he were the point. In my opinion, Fisher needs to be out there with Reynolds most of the time, mistakes or not.
    Grade: B-

  • Corey Stokes (S, 29 min)

    Stokes led the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points on excellent 6-10 shooting, including 4-7 from the three. In my opinion, Stokes should be seeing many more minutes. Why he was benched for the second half of the St. Joe's game for the thoroughly ineffective Shane Clark is a mystery to me. Against the Explorers, Stokes put up excellent numbers with few mistakes. In addition to scoring 18, Stokes added 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist, and 0 turnovers. Playing Stokes for 29 minutes is a start, but 29 should be near the minimum for Stokes. The coaching staff needs to develop Stokes in two ways: 1. Get him more time! He is a scoring machine, and the Wildcats aren't exactly a high-powered offensive team without him. 2. Improve his ballhandling ability. Stokes simply cannot put it on the floor. The good news is that this is a teachable skill. Dribble drills, 1-on-2 ballhandling in practice, and an emphasis on the dribble-drive are all ways that the staff could develop the McDonald's All-American.
    Grade: A

  • Corey Fisher (26 min)

    To me, Fisher is the key player for the Wildcats' fate this year. After losing Malcolm Grant, Villanova knew it would only have two ballhandling guards for the season. If Fisher cannot play effectively, the Wildcats are doomed against any team with a pressure defense, or any team that likes to run. God help the 'Cats against Rick Pitino if they only have one option at the one-guard. That said, Fisher needs to be out there, period. If he can't put in 30+ minutes against the Explorers, how can he be relied upon for Marquette and Louisville? My guess is that Fisher can be relied on. He was a major talent in high school, and shows flashes of brilliance at Villanova. In my opinion, Jay has Fisher on too short a leash. If Fisher cannot shoot, dish, and handle with the confidence that he won't be yanked at this first mistake, he will be tentative, and the worst thing a point guard can be is tentative. Against La Salle, Fisher scored 8 on 4-9 shooting, but missed his only three-point attempt. Fisher was a huge shooter in high school, so there is no reason he cannot find that touch again, In fact, to effectively run the "take-em" offense Wright employs, Fisher needs to be respected at the perimeter. Kyle Lowry got away with taking very few three-point shots, but Kyle Lowry was Kyle Lowry. Lowry also was the team's best three-point shooter in terms of percentage in the few times he did shoot the three. Fisher is not blessed with Lowry's world-class speed and ridiculous athleticism, but he is fast and should be able to score on the perimeter and on penetration. Fisher passed for 6 assists against La Salle, and had only 1 turnover. He needs to get to the line more (0-0 Sunday), and try to make more plays off steals.
    Grade: B

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 24 min)

    Cunningham's foul trouble severely cramped his effectiveness, but he wasn't having the best of games before that, either. Cunningham shot 4-8 from the field to score 9 points. He made only 1 of his 4 free-throw attempts, however. He excelled on defense, notching 4 steals and 4 blocks against the overmatched Explorers. He added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers.
    Grade: B-

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 21 min)

    Anderson is back in the starting lineup, which I disagree with. Dwayne is the ultimate energy-boosting sixth man, so why not use him in that capacity? I am not advocating a reduction in Anderson's minutes; I just want to free Scottie Reynolds from handling the ball in the starting lineup. Anderson plays smart basketball but struggled a bit against La Salle. He shot 1-4 -- 0-2 from the three-- to score 2 points.
    Grade: C-

  • Reggie Redding (17 min)

    Redding played an efficient game, shooting 3-4 from the field and 1-1 from behind the arc. He added 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 turnover. Redding is at his best when he is playing smart basketball, in a supportive role, taking his open looks and making good decisions. He was able to do that tonight. The trouble for the 'Cats begins when Villanova has to rely on Redding to create his own offense.
    Grade: B+

  • Shane Clark (17 min)

    Clark played fairly well on Sunday. He led the team in rebounds, with 7, and shot 3-4 from the field. Best of all, he did not attempt any contested three-pointers, and committed no turnovers.
    Grade: B

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min).

  • Did not play: Jason Colenda (CD), Maurice Sutton (CD - RS?), Russell Wooten (CD).

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12 December 2008


posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/12/2008 01:21:00 AM

College recruiting guru Adam Zagoria is reporting that super-hyper-mega recruit Dominic Cheek will announce his choice to attend Villanova at his press conference Friday:

Dominic Cheek is expected to announce at a Friday press conference in Jersey City that he will play for Villanova and not Kansas, according to multiple sources close to the situation.

Update: Sports Illustrated is now also reporting that Cheek will choose Villanova.

Cheek, a 6-5 shooting guard, is one of the top overall players in his class, and is the capstone to what now can safely be called the Greatest Villanova Recruiting Class ever.

Cheek joins top-5 point guard Maalik Wayns, top-5 power forward Mouph Yarou, and top-15 forward Isiah Armwood in what will likely be the consensus best recruiting class in the nation.

Add in Duke transfer Taylor King -- himself an All-American and a redshirt sophomore -- and a likely redshirt freshman, the 6-10 Maurice Sutton, and six new players could all see significant playing time for Villanova next year.

As of right now, high school All-American guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes are set to return, as is star-recruit Corey Fisher. Antonio Pena is due back in Nova's front court. Villanova will lose seniors Frank Tchuisi, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham, and Dwayne Anderson next season. Guard Reggie Redding is also set to return.

The arrival of Cheek and next year's class transforms 'Nova from a bubble team to an instant national title contender. College basketball has been increasingly dominated by young 5-star-recruits, and Villanova will have plenty of them. Barring any transfers (which are, admittedly, a possibility given Jay Wright's recent track record), Villanova will not only have firepower but will also possess excellent depth, which is another mark of a team primed to make a serious tournament run.

Cheek will hold his press conference on Friday afternoon, at about 6 p.m. (Eastern).

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11 December 2008

Live blog of St. Joe's 2nd half

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/11/2008 08:44:00 PM
Well, I didn't expect this one to be a game, but St. Joe's is up at the half. This is pretty much a must-win for 'Nova, because with a loss here the Wildcats' OOC record will be atrocious come Tourney time.

If anyone's around I will be live bloggin'.

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Villanova hosts St. Joe's tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/11/2008 02:57:00 PM
#15 Villanova (8-1) vs. St. Joseph's (4-4)
8 p.m. at the Pavilion
Line: Villanova -11

For the first time in several years, Villanova will face former "Rivalry Week" foe St. Joseph's before the new year. Villanova is fresh off its first loss of the season, coming up short in a physical battle against #6 Texas in the Garden two days ago.

St. Joe's moved to 4-4 with a blowout win at Towson on Tuesday.

The Hawks annihilated Villanova last year by 22 points in one of the worst Villanova losses in recent memory. St. Joe's last year was a bubble team, but the Hawks have not looked tournament-worthy so far this year.

VUhoops has a preview for the game up. Villanova by the Numbers has not published its preview yet; you may want to check back later tonight. IBBW also has a preview up.

You may try to predict the game's final score in the comments section below.

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10 December 2008

Texas outclasses Villanova

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/10/2008 03:45:00 AM
Villanova was overmatched in a loss to #6 Texas, 67-58.

Villanova's official Web site has the recap and a notebook feature on the game.

We'll be posting our full recap with player grades Wednesday afternoon.

Until then, feel free to discuss the game in the comment thread below.

One more item: Reliable sources now confirm that hyper-recruit Dominic Cheek will make his college announcement 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Cheek is down to just two schools: Villanova and Kansas. If Villanova lands Cheek, the 'Cats will have the best recruiting class in the nation and will be a national title contender next year.

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09 December 2008

'Cats to defy conventional wisdom, actually mess with Texas

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/09/2008 01:56:00 AM

#15 Villanova (8-0) vs. #6 Texas (6-1)
9 p.m. at Madison Square Garden (New York)
Line: Villanova +2.5

Villanova heads to New York today for the Jimmy V Classic nightcap against Texas, a battle of top-15 teams in Madison Square Garden.

The game should be the first real test for undefeated Villanova. While the strongest opponent the 'Cats have faced is arguably a mediocre Rhode Island team, Texas is fresh off a win against then #12 UCLA. The Longhorns have also beaten Oregon and St. Joseph this season, and lost by 1 point to current #12 Notre Dame.

It will also be Villanova's first game outside the Philadelphia area. Texas has played four home games and three tournament games in Hawaii.

Villanova will be faced with containing the immense talent of the Longhorns, starting with national player of the year candidate A.J. Abrams. Abrams, a guard who should need no introduction, is averaging 18 points per game, and dropped 31 on the Bruins last week in a low-scoring game.

It will be the first time in Villanova's young season that the 'Cats do not have by far the most talented players on the court, so execution and strategy will play a much larger role than in previous contests this year.

Look for one Wildcat to be tasked with containing Abrams -- perhaps Reggie Redding -- while the frontcourt tries to stay out of foul trouble against the formidable twin-towers of Connor Atchley and Dexter Pittman.

The athletic swingman Damion James should also give the 'Cats fits on the wing, and it will be interesting to see if Corey Stokes or Shane Clark can stay with him defensively. James was injured against UCLA, but should be back in the starting lineup tonight. This would be a great game to have Dwayne Anderson at 100 percent; we will see how well Villanova's own athletic wing has recovered from his foot injury.

This is one of the biggest games of the year for the Wildcats, and the Villanova blogosphere is practically brimming with excitement. Villanova by the Numbers, I Bleed Blue and White, and VUhoops all run breathless previews. Also check Nova News later today to see if they weigh in with pre-game thoughts.

Should Villanova win this game and then avoid upsets against St. Joseph and La Salle later this week, the Wildcats will vault into the nationwide top 10 and possibly the top 5, depending on other games.

Let's Go Nova will be in attendance at the Garden tonight, so you might want to check the "live updates" sidebar on the right for any Twitter-assisted updates I can send from my mobile phone.

Finally, try to predict the game's final score in the comments section below.

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04 December 2008

Villanova to find mythical Cupcake City tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/04/2008 02:00:00 PM

#17 Villanova (7-0) vs. Houston Baptist (0-6)
7:30 p.m. at the Pavilion
TV: Channelsurfing or media player
(NOT WORKING as of 7:40 p.m....)
Audio: HBU radio
Line: OFF

Villanova returns to the Pavilion tonight for an easy on-campus tune-up before heading to New York next week for the Jimmy V Classic against Texas.

Houston Baptist is a small school in southwest Houston playing its first full year of division one basketball.

The Huskies are winless on the year, but have played an ambitious schedule so far, including games at Marquette and vs. Illinois St.

There is no line available for the game, but if I had to set one, I'd make it Villanova -36.

Take a look at VBTN for its excellent game preview. VUhoops also runs some interesting statistics for the match-up.

You may also predict tonight's final score in the comment section below, if you dare.

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02 December 2008

Live blog for Penn tonight

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/02/2008 05:56:00 PM
Join Let's Go Nova for our first live blog of the new season tonight at 8 p.m. as Villanova opens the Big 5 season against Penn.

Follow the action with us as you watch it on the CN8 network, or just keep track of the updates here. As always, your commentary is welcome, and the best comments will be published.

See you at 8 p.m.

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Villanova opens Big 5 at Penn

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/02/2008 02:08:00 PM
#17 Villanova (6-0) at Pennsylvania (1-4)
8 p.m., Tuesday, 2 December, at the Palestra
TV: CN8 or online
Line: Penn +13.5

Just one day after losing junior center Casiem Drummond to transfer, Villanova travels back to the Palestra to face UPenn in the Wildcats' Philadelphia Big 5 opener.

Penn's record is a deceptive 1-4. True, the Quakers have lost four of five games, but they did put in a respectable performance at #1 North Carolina, and dropped an away game to Drexel by just two points.

Villanova is the solid favorite, but Penn at the Palestra is never a cupcake, and this year will not be an exception.

The Wildcats come into the Palestra undefeated after winning a pair of games there to take the Philly Hoop Group Classic title last week.

Villanova looks to have just seven players available for its main rotation. Senior swingman Dwayne Anderson (foot) will dress but will likely not see the court tonight.

Many Villanova fans, this Web site included, have been calling for Jay Wright to take the red shirt off 6' 11'' freshman center Maurice Sutton, given the Wildcats' instantaneous lack of depth in the front court.

Though consensus top big man Mouph Yarou is coming in next year, Villanova can't afford to wait for the cavalry when the 'Cats have a perfectly good, albeit unpolished, 6' 11'' body on the bench right now.

With frontcourt anchor Dante Cunningham graduating this year, why wouldn't it make sense to get a year of experience for Sutton now, before three of the four Wildcat big men are freshmen next year?

Look for Sutton to possibly make an appearance tonight if Jay Wright agrees with the peanut gallery on this one.

Villanova by the Numbers runs its usually thorough preview, as does I Bleed Blue and White.

Nova News warns of the importance of stopping Quaker guard Tyler Bernardini.

Take your shot at predicting tonight's final score in the comment section below. The closest guess will win a mention in tomorrow's recap.

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01 December 2008


posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/01/2008 03:18:00 PM

Casiem Drummond, a junior and Villanova's only true center, has decided to pursue transfer opportunities, according to a press release from campus today.

Drummond had been suspended for at least one game this season for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. Though Drummond had a history of injury, his development under the basket looked like it had been progressing nicely.

Drummond's departure leaves Villanova with an even thinner rotation, and may affect the planned redshirt of freshman forward Maurice Sutton.

Losing Drummond is a major blow to Villanova's frontcourt, which now consists solely of Dante Cunningham and Antonio Pena. The Wildcats literally have no one off the bench to bring into the paint outside of Frank Tchuisi, who's been hopeless his entire career, and Shane Clark, who is more suited to wing play.

Villanova fans excited about the Wildcats' top-20 ranking may have to adjust expectations drastically for this season considering the complete and total lack of frontcourt depth a full month before Big East play.

"Casiem is interested in finding a place where he can earn significantly more playing time than he has received here," said Jay Wright. "Our staff is doing all it can to help him locate that opportunity. Cas' has made strides in his time with us and we appreciate all his efforts on behalf of our basketball family."

One has to take Wright's statement with a grain of salt, because it is unlikely that Drummond could not have earned significant playing time on the Main Line under ideal conditions. Indeed, Drummond started much of last season at center and the natural place for him this year would have been starting at the 5, moving Cunningham to his preferred spot at the 4.

Rumors have been swirling all over Villanova's campus that Drummond was asked to leave the team by Wright, and not the other way around, as claimed in the official story.

Casiem Drummond adds his name to a growing list of recent Villanova transfers, which includes guards Malcolm Grant and Bilal Benn, and forwards Andrew Ott and (pseudo-transfer) Kraidon Woods.

One has to wonder if something is wrong in the state of Villanova basketball, with four transfers and one broken committment in just over two years. Jay Wright likes to talk about how Villanova basketball is a family first and foremost, but it sure is a family that loses a lot of members.

It's possible that leaving was truly the best option for all five of these players, but losing nearly half of your scholarship players to transfer in a three-year period is not the sign of a stable program.

Villanova's recent success in the NCAA tournament and the top-25 rankings may obscure some of this ugliness, but it is there, under the surface, that Jay Wright loses a significant percentage of the student-athletes he pledged were to become lifelong members of his Villanova basketball family.

Drummond's transfer drops the current regular rotation for Villanova down to seven: Reynolds, Fisher, Pena, Cunningham, Stokes, Clark, and Redding. Dwayne Anderson will be eight when he returns from injury.

Villanova cannot afford to lose any more depth, especially with the brutal Big East schedule looming.

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Villanova wins Philly Classic

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
12/01/2008 01:42:00 AM

Rhode Island 65
Villanova 78
(box score)

#20 Villanova: 6-0 (0-0 BE, 0-0 B5)
Rhode Island: 5-2 (0-0 A10)

[Youtube highlights]

Next game: at Penn, 02 Dec. at the Palestra.

Villanova won the Philly Hoop Group Classic on Friday with a victory over Rhode Island at the Palestra. With the win, the Wildcats improved to 6-0 and found themselves atop the Classic's "Independence" bracket, which was the higher level of competition.

The win was ugly, with the team shooting just 25-62 off an anemic 11 assists, but it was a win over a decent team nonetheless.

Villanova should rise in the rankings when the polls come out tomorrow, perhaps edging towards the top 15.

Dwayne Anderson, the senior swingman who had been recuperating from a stress fracture in his foot, dressed on Friday for the first time in several games, but did not play. Center Casiem Drummond also did not see the court, though it is unclear whether that stemmed from injury or an ongoing disciplinary issue.

Congratulations to reader "Gregg" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Villanova opens Big 5 city series play tomorrow with an away game at Penn. Though Penn is 1-4, the Quakers have faced some very tough competition already this season and should be ready to play.

On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 37 min)

    Cunningham was named MVP of the tournament thanks to a pair of dominating games. Cunningham scored 19 on 7-8 shooting against the Rams, and pulled in 12 rebounds. He also led the team in blocks with 3 and did not commit a turnover. Villanova fans on cloud nine after Cunningham's fast start might want to temper expectations for the rough-and-tumble Big East, but so far, so good.
    Grade: A

  • Reggie Redding (31 min)

    Redding was called upon to stop Jason Baron, the Rams' deadliest shooter. While Baron did score 23, he only managed 7 points in the second half when Redding was shadowing him. Redding also grabbed 12 rebounds, a career high. His shooting was less spectacular, and he hit just 3-8 shots from the field and 1-4 attempts from the three to score 11 points. Redding was able to give the team 31 solid minutes to competently defend URI's dangerous wing attack. Jay Wright called Redding the "family MVP" for the game in his post-game comments.
    Grade: B

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 30 min)

    Reynolds committed a few quick fouls early. He needs to be careful about that because the 'Cats are extremely thin at point guard this year. He was fairly quiet this game, shooting just 3-9 and 1-4 from the three. He made 6-8 free throw attempts. He dished out just 3 assists and turned the ball over twice. Look for Reynolds to get more involved in scoring as needed over the course of the season.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 27 min)

    Pena was not as effective as he was in previous efforts, but still put up a solid 10 points and 6 rebounds. He had 1 block and 1 assist, and did not turn the ball over. His shooting was inefficient at 3-9, uncharacteristic for Pena. He was perfect from the line at 4-4.
    Grade: B-

  • Shane Clark (25 min)

    Clark got some extended playing time against URI, and did a little bit of everything. He scored 8 points on 4-8 shooting, but missed on all 3 of his three-point attempts. With better shooters like Corey Stokes, Reynolds, and Corey Fisher on the team, I don't think Clark should be looking to take those shots unless he is ridiculously open. Clark added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, and led the team in steals, with 2. He looked a tad slow moving laterally but otherwise seems well enough recovered from his knee injury.
    Grade: C+

  • Corey Fisher (S, 24 min)

    Fisher might be making a push for Villanova's most improved player. He is finding his way with the ball, sharing point duties with Reynolds. He has been effective in getting to the rim, and his 5-8 field goal shooting and 4-5 free throw shooting seem to reflect that. Fisher was just 0-1 from the three; personally I'd like to see him look for that shot more often. He had 1 assist, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers.
    Grade: B

  • Corey Stokes (S, 23 min)

    Stokes looks to be a streak shooter and Friday was not his night. He shot 1-5 from the field and missed both of his attempts from beyond the arc. He had 2 turnovers and 3 fouls, but no rebounds, steals, blocks, or assists. Stokes has been suffering from a sore thumb which should soon resolve itself. Look for Stokes to get back on track against Penn tomorrow in the same arena the Wildcats have played their last two games.
    Grade: D+

  • Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (2 min), Jason Colenda (1 min).

  • Did not play: Dwayne Anderson (foot), Casiem Drummond (?), Maurice Sutton (CD - RS?), Russell Wooten (CD).

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