Next on the basketball ledger Villanova, who will visit Tampa on Wednesday. Brian Ewart at VUHoops.com was nice enough to answer some questions from VoodooFive. Sadly I forgot to ask him about the legendary Nova forward Chuck Kornegay.
1. In the earlier contest, USF blew open what was a close game at halftime, winning 74-57. What can Nova take from that game to do better against the Bulls this time?
Villanova was absolutely abused on the boards in that game and especially for a team like Villanova, where the shots aren't always falling in, rebounding is very important. JayVaughn Pinkston has come on a lot since then, but Villanova will need to get more out of Mouph Yarou, as well as reserves Markus Kennedy and Mo Sutton than they did in the prior contest.
Maalik Wayns led the Wildcats in rebounding in the previous match-up, which is about all you need to know. The big guys need to get more physical.
2. It seems like however goes Maalik Wayns, so goes the Wildcats. In conference play, the 'Cats are 3-2 when he scores 20, but only 1-6 when he falls short of 20 points. Does the team rely on him too much, and what players would need to step up if he can't get to the 20 point mark?
Earlier in the season, I would have told you that they absolutely were relying on Wayns too much, but he really has been one of the best scoring options for the 'Cats in conference play. He might not be available this week, however, and if he is, he may be limited.
Without Wayns, it will fall to JayVaughn Pinkston to shoulder a heavier load as the next-best "go-to" player in conference play and James Bell will also need to step-up and make some shots. I wouldn't think that Ty Johnson would have a big impact on the scoreboard, but he will also need to play well to get his teammates opportunities.
3. Nova is third in the Big East in offensive rebounding, but last in the conference in field goal percentage. Is this a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, or is something else going on?
To a certain extent it's related. At least once in every game you will see Pinkston miss three layups in a row, grabbing his own rebound each time before finally scoring. Villanova has generally been a good rebounding team this year, however, especially with three guards who rebound well on the court.
4. The 'Cats only lose one player to graduation after this season, and give freshmen like JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard solid minutes. Are fans looking at this year as a learning experience, and how will the current team dovetail with recruiting?
Actually, none of the Wildcats will be out of eligibility after this season. Walk-on Dallas Ouano is unlikely to return (but you never know) and Mo Sutton will graduate, but neither has used up their full four-years of NCAA eligibility.
That said, this season has definitely turned into a learning experience for the Wildcats. Pinkston came on late in the season and has really established himself, but other freshmen like Ty Johnson will need to play bigger roles in the future, and being thrown into the fire this year will hopefully help them get ready for that.
Villanova adds at least two players for next season - another guard in Ryan Arcidiacono and a center in Daniel Ochefu - both are very talented players who will contribute some in 2012-13 and probably step into bigger roles in 2013-14. I believe Ochefu has a very good chance to start as a sophomore, while Arcidiacono may see plenty of time next season, since the Wildcats will still be in need of an accurate shooter.
5. How do you see this game going?
I think Villanova will play better than they did in the last meeting. Wright isn't likely to bench any starters from his starting line-up like he did in the first game -- except for Wayns, who may still be recovering from a left knee injury. Pinkston is playing with a lot more confidence at this point than he was in early January, however, and will continue to be a mismatch for whomever is trying to guard him.
Whether or not the 'Cats can win is a tougher question. USF has played very well this year and it will be very difficult for them to go down to Tampa for this game, especially if Wayns is not available or limited.