This is the third meeting this season between USF and Villanova, so for this edition of Bulls Recon, I asked Chris from The Nova Blog about the state of the Villanova program and what the future holds for the Wildcats. Hope you enjoy it. (I've also answered some of his questions about the Bulls over at his blog.)
1. What on earth happened to Nova this year? I know they had been sliding a little bit in recent years but the bottom totally fell out.
Chris: A few things. No senior leadership whatsoever. I think we all found out that is a much bigger deal than we thought it would be. And then the juniors who were expected to step up, did not. Maalik Wayns has had a fantastic year for the most part, but Dominic Cheek and Mouphtaou Yarou have not made any sort of leap that would have helped this season. Neither did James Bell for that matter.
Again though, we weren't too far away from having a better record. We lost A LOT of tight ones this year. Rutgers was honestly one of the few games they finished. They're very talented, they just don't know how to win it feels like.
2. Help me understand why there doesn't appear to be any heat on Jay Wright. Is it Final Four goodwill? To an outsider it looks like the program has been on a downward trend ever since that incident right before the 2010 tournament.
Chris: Not many coaches can say they've been to the Final 4 (and nobody expected them to make that run), so that definitely helps it. He's also recruited good students and graduates kids which is immensely important to the administration and he's great in the Villanova community, which is very tight-knit.
I think this was the season that the goodwill ends though. 'Nova has had the same problems for 3 seasons running now (inability to finish games) and the fanbase is fed up. Most will give him the benefit of the doubt this year with a lot of underclassmen playing big minutes and some injuries that occurred, but with the entire team returning next season and a couple of big-time recruits, it's win or go home time for Jay.
3. How does Villanova get back on track? Any strong recruits on the horizon?
Chris: Right now we've got two guys in next year - PG Ryan Arcidiacono and C Daniel Ochefu - both are Top 50 guys nationally and ON PAPER should be impact guys in their freshman seasons. Arc is hurt right now with a back injury and won't be active again til the summer. You have no idea how much that back injury scares the fanbase, but it carries on the tradition of Wildcats getting hurt before stepping foot on campus. We're used to it.
And just last week, Allerik Freeman ('13 SG) just named 'Nova and Kansas as his final two. He's the kind of homerun that will galvanize the fanbase even more.
Can you tell how excited I am for not this season?
4. What can you take from last night's win that gives you hope that Nova can win again tonight?
Chris: I think the fact that these guys finally showed some mental strength and belief in the 2nd half. All season long it's been jump out to an early lead and then let it wither. Last night was the exact opposite. They didn't play a bad first half (Rutgers was just on fire), and they came storming out of the locker room and never looked back. While their offense was great, the defense was even better, and that's what you need to win in the BET.
Also, Maalik Wayns had a little bit of Kemba Walker going last night. The guy was everywhere. He'll need to do that again and not let Anthony Collins get the best of him yet again.
Thanks again to Chris for pulling this off on short notice. Check back tomorrow for our Q&A with One Foot Down (we hope).