Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Recap About Nothing

Last Sunday was the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with the highly anticipated Seinfeld reunion. Very funny stuff. I love Larry David, but it was great to see Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer back together in Jerry's apartment and the coffee shop. "Having said that", I decided to pay tribute to "the show about nothing" by including some memorable Seinfeld quotes in the recap for the LaSalle game.

"See, the thing of it is, there's a lot of ugly people out there walking around but they don't know they're ugly because nobody actually tells them."
You might look at the final score, see Villanova won by 18, and think it was an easy win. However, it was an ugly game full of turnovers and poor shooting. Jay Wright even admitted after the game, "There's a good chance we won't be sending that one to Springfield."

"Yeah, well, Joe Pepitone or not, I own the inside of that plate! So I throw one inside, a little chin music... put him right on his pants, because I got to intimidate when I'm on the mound. Well, the next pitch, he's right back in the same place! So.... I had to plunk him."
LaSalle owned the inside of this game. They out-rebounded the Cats 46-27, including 26 offensive rebounds. Two Explorers had double-doubles: Aaric Murray (15 points and 14 rebounds, 9 offensive) and Jerrell Williams (15 points and 16 rebounds, 12 offensive). Villanova has a small team already, but with Yarou still out and King on the bench most of the game due to foul trouble, they had extra difficulty dealing with LaSalle's size inside.

"Did he just steal the raisins?"
One of the brightest spots of Nova's game were their 18 steals. The pressure defense forced 27 LaSalle tunovers. Corey Fisher led the way with 6 steals, and Taylor King had 4 steals in only 10 minutes of play (fouled out).

"I have to dribble. If I give it to you, you just shoot. You're a chucker."
"Oh, I'm a chucker?"

"That's right, everytime you get the ball you shoot."

"I can't believe you called me a chucker. No way I'm a chucker. I do not chuck, never chucked, never have chucked, never will chuck, no chuck!"

Just about everybody could have been accused of being a chucker in this game. The team made only 6 of 24 shots from 3-point range. The biggest chucker was Scottie Reynolds, who went 5-13 from the field and 2-8 from three for 14 points. Honorable mention: Corey Stokes was just 2-8 from the field and 1-6 from downtown.

"Nobody drives like me. Nobody. I'm doing things in this car, you have no idea they're going on."
Nobody drives to the basket like Fisher Price, who got the line 9 more times in this game to score 13 points, but Dominic Cheek had some pretty drives to the hoop too. He seemed to settle for too many outside jumpers earlier in the season, but he took the ball inside against LaSalle, attempting more 2-pointers than 3-pointers for the first time this season, and it paid off for a career-high 10 points.

"Do you know what happens to a butter-based frosting after six decades in a poorly-ventilated English basement?"
"Uhh, I guess I hadn't..."

"Well, I have a feeling what you are about to go through is punishment enough."

Antonio Pena must have been in Jay Wright's doghouse for some reason because he was held out of the starting lineup for the first time this season. That seemed to be punishment enough, as Pena came in quickly and continued to dominate with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and a block.

"She had man hands!"
Maurice Sutton has man hands... and arms... and legs. The near 7-footer had 5 blocks, and affected even more shots. It's nice to have a true shot-blocker down low, something Nova has been lacking for the past few years. I have to hand it to Mo; he has stepped up with Yarou out and has given Villanova a lot more than I ever expected.

It was an ugly win, but having said that, Nova looks pretty, pretty, pretty... pretty good.

Happy Festivus!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Tweets

I searched across the far-reaches of the interweb and Twitterland to find out what everybody in the Nova basketball community is thankful for this Thanksgiving.*

Klow7: @ChrisWallaceGM Thanks for trading me to a real NBA team.

randyfoye: Thankful that I'm not a part of that 13-game losing streak in Minnesota.

Dante33: @Batum, @TOutlaw, Thanks for the extra playing time due to your injuries.

TimThomas: @sportsguy33 Thanks for the kind words and support from your columns.

Scottie1: @KSampson Thank you for leaving Oklahoma, and @JTIII Thanks for not having any scholarships available.

MouphY: @FTchuisi Thanks for helping me acclimate to the United States.

BringThePena: Thanks to Strength Coach Lon Record for helping to make me a beast this year.

FisherPrice: Thanks to all the NYC streetballers who taught me my moves.

DomCheek: @BobHurley Thanks for helping me get to Villanova.

Stokes24: Thanks to my bro for making these songs.

MoSutton: Thanks to my family for giving me good basketball genes and a 6'11 frame.

iArm34: Thank God that shot went in...

JColenda: Thank you student section for going wild anytime I touch the ball.

5Wayns: @jameernelson, @Klow7 Thanks for showing me how to play like a Philly guard.

WootenForNova: Thanks to the Penn defense for allowing me to score my first points.

The_Real_Redding: Thanks to coach, my teammates, and all of Nova Nation for supporting me.

JayWright: @RollieMassThank you for teaching me everything I know.

*By searching across the interweb, I meant completely make this up myself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nova: Champions of Puerto Rico

Villanova beat Ole Miss 79-67 to win the Puerto Rico Tip-off. Let's just get straight to the awards...

The '08-09 Dante Cunningham Award for Most Improved Player
Antonio Pena continues to impress me more and more each game. He was a beast against Ole Miss with 17 points and 16 rebounds, and won the Tournament MVP award averaging 13.3 points and 11.7 rebounds. This is similar to the massive improvement Dante made in his senior season, but the scary thing about Antonio is he's just a junior*.

*Although at 23 years old, Pena is already older than most seniors in the country.

The Mickey Rourke Award for Bounce-Back Performance
Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes both had huge bounce-back games. Reynolds took over the game offensively in the second half, scoring a season-high 21 points (6-16, 2-4, 7-10). Stokes had 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal. He hit two 3-pointers and also drove the ball inside, drawing fouls, which he should look to do more often because he is shooting over 92% from the line.

The God Shammgod Award for Coolest Name
Wow, do the Rebels have some sweet names on their team. Murphy Holloway... instant inductee into the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars. Terrico White... just terrific. Logan Nutt... and he's not even the winner. That honor goes to Eniel Polynice... thank you Mr. and Mrs. Polynice.

The Devin Hester De-Pantsing Award for Embarrassing Moment

Yes, Taylor King actually did airball a free throw. His 3-point shooting (0-4) was off also, but he brings a lot more to the game than just shooting. He had 9 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, an assist, and he could have had a double-double if he made that free throw. He also showed off his hops with a nice one-handed slam.

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Award for Excessive Violence

Not that he was playing violently, but Corey Fisher's impact was severely limited because of foul trouble. Having a third point guard like Maalik Wayns really helps when Scottie or Fish get into foul trouble.

The Rick Pitino White Suit Award for Worst-Dressed Coach
Did you see those jeans Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was wearing? The Salvation Army has rejected better pants than those.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nova Flys by Dayton

Villanova looked to be on their way to an easy victory over a good Dayton team, until the Flyers came storming back late in the second half. Nova led by 8 at the half and by as many as 18 points in the second half before Dayton cut it to a 2 point game with 2:23 left. Then Corey Fisher stepped up to ice the game from the free throw line for a 71-65 win. Now for the rest of the recap I'll be highlighting some famous "Flyers".

Superman: Corey Fisher saved the day with his clutch free throw shooting, sinking 10 of 12 to finish with 18 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals. Scottie Reynolds had been the "Superman" of the team for the past three years, but he has struggled so far in his senior season. He went just 3-12 from the field and 0-3 from behind the arc to score 8 points, although he did dish out 5 assists. I don't know if there's been a complete changing of the guard yet, but Corey Fisher has been the MVP of the early season, leading the team in points (15.3) and assists (4.5).

The Wright Bothers: Jay Wright's team is gaining valuable experience with these close games early in the season, first fighting back to win against George Mason, and now withstanding Dayton's comeback to hold on for the win. Obviously you'd prefer to win more convincingly, but these tough games will help the team prepare for Big East play. No relation to Jay, but Dayton's Chris Wright looked impressive with some high-flying dunks and scored 15 points.

Stealth Bombers: It seemed like Luke Fabrizius was invisible the way he kept getting wide-open threes. He made 5 from long-range to lead the Flyers with 16 points. Corey Stokes, aka the Bayonne Bomber, is normally Nova's top sharpshooter, but he had his second-straight off-night shooting the ball. Stokes went 1-9 from the field (1-3 from 3-pt), although those rims in Puerto Rico looked really tight, which may be affecting his shot.

Griffin: Antonio Pena has been playing like Blake Griffin this year. He had 13 and 7 with a block, and is basically averaging a double-double on the season with 11 points and 9.8 rebounds. He even sank two clutch free throws at the end of the game. He had big shoes to fill, but Pena is proving to be a capable replacement of Dante Cunningham.

Vulture: Maurice Sutton earned the start, and he has been vulturing the paint in Yarou's absence. Sutton isn't going to score a ton, but at 6'11 he can run the floor, rebound (8) and block shots (2). Jay must have liked what he saw from the young center as well, playing him for 30 minutes.

Balloon Boy: Alright, I can't figure out how to relate these psychos to anyone on Nova, but I'll use this space to mention how good Taylor King was. He got hot early, making 4 threes for 14 points, but he has impressed me the most with his rebounding, grabbing a team-high 9.

Sully Sullenberger: Sully became an American hero for landing a plane in the Hudson River, and Isaiah Armwood will be a Villanova hero for his game winning shot against George Mason. He scored 4 points off the bench.

Puff the Magic Dragon: Reggie Redding... I kid, I kid. Sorry Reggie, we still love ya.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thunder in Paradise: Nova Narrowly Avoids Upset

He shouldn't even have been on the floor at the time, but an unlikely hero, Isaiah Armwood, came into the game with Villanova down by two with under thirty seconds left to hit the game-winning 3-pointer, his first three points of the season. Wait, hold on... I think the refs just called another foul. It was a brutally officiated game on both ends of the floor. The only reason Armwood was in the game was because Corey Stokes, Taylor King, Antonio Pena, AND Maurice Sutton ALL fouled out. George Mason also had two players foul out and another three had four fouls. It seemed like anytime two opposing players went near each other, the refs called a foul. George Mason led for most of the game, and it looked like the former Cinderella would pull another major upset. I've talked a lot about Villanova's depth this year, and in the end it paid off, as they needed every inch of it to win.

Villanova was already shorthanded before the game even started. Starting center Mouphtaou Yarou had to leave the team from Puerto Rico because of a viral infection. Taylor King started in his place, but at 6'6, he doesn't exactly bring the same kind of post presence. Because of Yarou's absence and the whistle-happy referees, Jay Wright was forced to play Maurice Sutton major minutes, who can do some nice things, but isn't ready to play 17 minutes a game yet.

One player managed to benefit from the barrage of foul calls. Corey Fisher got to the line 18 times and sank 14 of them, which helped make up for his poor 1-12 shooting effort from the field. To his credit, he kept driving to the basket, attacking George Mason defenders. Although he missed a lot of shots, I liked the fact that he was aggressive and drove to the basket, rather than just settling for jumpers. Fisher had 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Scottie Reynolds led the team with 18 points, but he treated the ball like a hot potato, turning it over 8 times. Scottie seems to have poor games like this every so often (vs. Texas last year comes to mind), but I expect him to take much better care of the ball in the next game.

Antonio Pena picked up another double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds), but fouled out in 27 minutes. He struggled with fouls last season, but I'll excuse this game because of the erratic officiating.

Corey Stokes took a big step backwards this game. After leading the team in scoring through the first two games, he had just one point before fouling out in 22 minutes. Although, he did grab 5 rebounds, an area of his game that he seems to have improved in.

In his first start, Taylor King looked good while on the court (8 points, 4 rebounds). The only problem was he only played 17 minutes and fouled out.

Maalik Wayns played great off the bench again: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal.

Considering all the foul trouble the team got into, it was surprising that Dominic Cheek only played 11 minutes. He was held scoreless, and missed two free throws late in the game that could have been costly.

Yes, Villanova won, and yes, the officials may have made the game a little closer than it should have been, but this is clearly not a top five team right now. They could be by end of the season, and personally I think they will be right there among the nation's elite when everything's said and done. However, this team is still so young and inexperienced. Everybody saw the strong backcourt returning from last year's Final Four team and the amazing recruiting class and assumed it would translate into instant success. Jay's young Wildcat squad isn't quite there yet, and he knows that better than anyone. But just like his teams of the past, this one will continue to get better as the season progresses, and when tournament time comes rolling around, Jay Wright will have his team ready and playing its best basketball of the season.

With all that said, I wouldn't be surprised if the team used this near loss as a wake-up call and proceeded to win the Puerto Rico Tip-off by blowing out their next two opponents. Next up, tomorrow at 3:00 PM, are the #21 Dayton Flyers, who knocked off #19 Georgia Tech earlier today.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Malcolm Grant Gets Revenge Against Nova

The Nova Southeast Knights that is. The former Wildcat had 17 points and 4 assists in a 108-58 Miami win last night. It's good to see him playing well... I don't know where he would have fit in with this already stacked backcourt.

Nova Soaks Penn 103-65

Drop 100+ points - Check
Six players score in double figures - Check
Shoot over 58% from the field and 52% from three - Check
Walk-on scores a basket - Check
Make Penn look like 5th graders playing against 8th graders - Check
Dominate a game from start to finish and play like you deserve a top-5 ranking- Check and Check

Corey Fisher - Continued to look like the best player on the floor. He ran the point with ease scoring 13 points and dishing out 8 assists.

Maalik Wayns - Led the team in scoring with 16 points, and he showed his range by hitting three 3-pointers. He's easily been the most impressive freshmen through the first two games.

Scottie Reynolds - Got back on track with a very solid game: 14 points, 5 assists. Most of his scoring came in a spurt in the middle of the second half.

Taylor King - Plays like a madman... I love it. He grabbed three rebounds in less than a minute after entering the game, then drained a three. He also made the Dwayne Anderson signature dive from behind steal. 14 points and 7 rebounds in the game... you can can see he's already turning into a crowd favorite.

Corey Stokes - "Only" made two 3-pointers for 14 points.

Antonio Pena - Got a legit double-double this time (12 points, 10 rebounds). He also had 2 blocks and and just 2 personal fouls. He's looked great, but the competition has been lacking. The true test will come in Puerto Rico.

Mouph Yarou - Fouled out in just 17 minutes, finishing with 4 points, 5 rebounds, and a block. He will probably continue to struggle with foul trouble early in the season as he adjusts to the college game.

Dominic Cheek - Had 7 points off the bench. He hit a pretty fade-away jumper with the shot clock winding down towards the end of the game.

Mo Sutton - Had 7 points, 5 rebounds, and a block in just 14 minutes. He flashed some nice post moves as well.

Russel Wooten - Scored the first two points of his career, thanks to an assist* from Armwood.

Isaiah Armwood - Got a little more playing time in this game (13 minutes), but failed to score.
* He shot an airball, which Wooten caught and put in for a lay up.

Jason Colenda - Picked up a steal, but let down the student section enormously when he missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What We've Got

With game one in the books, we have a clearer picture of what we've got with this team. The first two words that come to mind after watching the win over Farliegh Dickinson are youth and depth. All five freshmen played in the game, with Mouph Yarou, Dom Cheek, and Maalik Wayns logging major minutes. The youth showed early as the Wildcats had a rough time in the first half, trailing at times and leading by only one at halftime. However, Nova's depth overpowered FDU in the second half en route to the 84-61 blowout everyone was expecting. With a team that goes ten-deep (and eleven-deep when Redding returns) Jay Wright tinkered with several different lineups, including one with all three point guards playing together, a bigger lineup with one point guard and four players 6'5+ in height, and an all-freshman lineup. It's clear at this point that even Jay isn't entirely sure what he has with this team yet, and the lineups will continue to shuffle with frequency until he figures it out. Another thing to keep in mind is that preseason ranks mean nothing. Yes, Villanova is ranked very high in the polls and they have a lot of expectations, but Notre Dame was ranked in the preseason top ten last year and failed to even make the NCAA Tournament.

Without further adieu let's take a look at a player-by-player assessment of the first game...

The Starting Five
PG - Corey Fisher - Picked up right where he left off last season, and looked like the best player on the floor with a balanced game of 13 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds.
SG - Scottie Reynolds - Struggled mightily shooting the ball (2-10 fg, 0-4 3pt) and got himself into foul trouble. This is not the way he wanted to begin his senior campaign.
SF - Corey Stokes - Caught fire from downtown (5-10 3pt) in the second half to finish with a game-high 20 points.
PF - Antonio Pena - Had a near double-double (9 pts, 10 reb), dished out 3 assists, and picked up only one personal foul in 32 minutes. Pena's strong play might have been the most encouraging outcome of the game.
C - Mouphtaou Yarou - Looked like a man out there... wait, bad choice of words. 6 points, 3 rebounds and a block aren't the most overwhelming stats, but he showed a nice touch from the midrange. He's obviously still very raw, but with his size and athleticism his future looks promising.

First Subs
Taylor King - We knew he could shoot the ball, but King really impressed me with his rebounding (7) and tenacity. He actually reminded me of Dwayne Anderson, which is a pleasant surprise.
Dominic Cheek - He's certainly not shy to shoot. After missing the first shot of his college career, he came right back and made the next to lead the freshmen in scoring with 8.
Casiem Drummond - Looked like he lost a lot of weight this year-- what's that? Oh, right. That was Maalik Wayns sporting the #5 jersey. Wayns has that "Kyle Lowry-like" ability to drive to the basket. He had 6 points and a couple of assists.

Second Subs
Maurice Sutton - Looked better than I expected. He had a block and a monstrous put-back slam.
Isaiah Armwood - Was the odd man out of the rotation, only playing one minute.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Look Into the Crystal Ball

With the season officially tipping off this Friday I thought I'd take a look into my crystal ball to set some odds and predictions for the 2009-10 Villanova basketball season.

Odds Villanova finishes first in Big East: 1.5/1
Odds Villanova wins Big East Tournament: 2/1
Odds Villanova returns to the Final Four: 5/1
Odds Villanova wins the National Championship: 12/1
Over/under clips of Scottie's game winning shot vs. Pitt shown during telecasts: 20.5

Over/under mentions of Redding's marijuana suspension during telecasts: 10.5
Over/under amount of times Mouphtaou Yarou's name is mispronounced during telecasts: 250.5
Over/under games until Jay Wright gets called for a technical foul: 5.5
Over/under number of different starting lineups used this season: 6.5
Odds leading average rebounder: Yarou 1.5/1, Pena 1.5/1, Redding 4/1, Sutton 7/1, Stokes 8/1, King 10/1
Over/under Scottie's season high points scored in a game: 39.5
Odds most 3-pointers made on team: Stokes 1/1, Reynolds 1.5/1, King 2/1, Sutton 10,000/1
Over/under Jason Colenda total points scored this season: 6.5
Odds leading freshmen scorer: Yarou 1/1, Wayns 1.5/1, Cheek 3/1, Armwood 10/1
Odds a UConn player gets arrested this year: 1/1
Over/under IQ of average St. Joe's fans: 65
Odds next Big East coach to be involved in a scandal: Rick Pitino 2/1, Bob Huggins 3/1, Jim Calhoun 5/1, Jay Wright 200/1
Over/under number of seasons Isiah Thomas lasts at FIU: 0.5
Over/under amount of money Jay Wright will spend on suits this season: $25,000

Now onto the schedule...
11/13 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson: Win (1-0)
11/16 vs. Penn: Win (2-0)
11/19 vs. George Mason (Puerto Rico Classic): Win (3-0)
11/20 vs. Dayton/Georgia Tech (PRC): Win (4-0) The first real test of the season. Both teams are in the preseason Top 25.
11/22 vs. Indiana/Mississippi/Kansas St./BU (PRC): Win (5-0) Indiana is still recovering from the Sampson debacle. Ole Miss and KSU should be solid, but I think Nova takes home the early season hardware.
11/28 vs. La Salle: Win (5-0)
12/2 vs. Drexel: Win (6-0)
12/6 vs. Maryland: Loss (6-1) The game is in DC. Greivis Vasquez is a stud. I think it's a close game, but the Terps hand Nova their first L.
12/9 @ St. Joe's: Win (7-1) The Hawk remains dead.
12/13 @ Temple: Win (8-1) Nova sweeps the Big 5 for another city title.
12/19 @ Fordham: Win (9-1)
12/23 vs. Delaware: Win (10-1)
1/2 @ Marquette: Win (11-1, 1-0) Marquette lost Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, and Jerel McNeal... long season ahead for the Golden Eagles.
1/6 vs. DePaul: Win (12-1, 2-0)
1/9 vs. Marquette: Win (13-1, 3-0)
1/11 @ Louisville: Loss (13-2, 3-1) Nova beats them at home, but at Freedom Hall I'll give Pitino's crew the edge.
1/17 vs. Georgetown: Win (14-2, 4-1) I think Georgetown will be a lot better than people expect, which is why they will split the season series later in February.
1/20 @ Rutgers: Win (15-2, 5-1)
1/23 @ St. John's: Win (16-2, 6-1)
1/27 vs. Notre Dame: Win (17-2, 7-1) Harangody will continue to put up monster stats (and look like a monster), but the team will continue to lose.
2/2 vs. Seton Hall: Win (18-2, 8-1)
2/6 @ Georgetown: Loss (18-3, 8-2)
2/8 @ West Virginia: Loss (18-4, 8-3) The showdown between the preseason consensus top two teams in the Big East. Nova always struggles in Morgantown...
2/13 vs. Providence: Win (19-4, 9-3)
2/15 vs. UConn: Win (20-4, 10-3) I'm not sure what to expect from this team. I think Kemba Walker will be great, Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson are back, but they lost Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien up front.
2/21 @ Pitt: Win (21-4, 11-3) Rebuilding year for the Panthers. BTW, San Antonio had the steal of the draft when DeJuan Blair fell to them in the second round.
2/24 vs. USF: Win (22-4, 12-3)
2/27 @ Syracuse: Win (23-4, 13-3) LE MOYNE! HA! The Orange will struggle to replace Johnny Flynn, Paul Harris, and... wait, did Eric Devendorf actually think he was going to make the NBA?
3/2 @ Cincinnati: Loss (23-5, 13-4) Deonta Vaughn, Yancy Gates, Cashmere Wright, and Lance Stephenson... The Bearcats are loaded with talent this year.
3/6 vs. West Virginia: Win (24-5, 14-4)

A 14-4 record should be good for a first or second place finish in the Big East and a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I hesitate to be so confident in a Wildcat team that will have to rely on several freshmen, but the rest of the Big East is relatively weak this year, plus Nova's backcourt may be one of the deepest and most talented in the country. This should be a fun team to watch... can't wait for the season to begin.